We all cannot wait to go have a Game Stew in Cosy Club or a Salmon Risotto in The Ivy. Things are likely to be different. So, with that in mind, how will things change? More so how do we, the clientele, adapt? Here are the things that must happen to save our world-famous restaurant culture.
Earn Your Chair
Do not take a table for a starter Tapas in busy times. On the same front, do not order tap water to drink. Restaurants expect an average from each cover. They need it to survive, if a table is used up and business lost and all they have is a bowl of curly fries between two and a water, that is screwing them up. Have a heart. Okay, if you are skint, truly skint (not sure why you are wasting money there and not a supermarket but hey) then have it that way, get tap water, but try to do it outside of rush hours, and be patient waiting as well. However, if you have the money, get a drink if you want aqua, get a bottle. You will miss them when they are gone and a vape shop or a bookies is there instead.
People Will Have Gone
Some will have quit, some redundant, some may have died. So, there will be new, less skilled and/or experienced staff. So, do not be a prick to them. Remember they may be doing a job forced into when being used to a few hours a week and mostly FOH. Now the bustle is upon them, and maybe the best friend they had to help them through it and give them a hug after the shift has died from Covid 19. Okay that is a dramatic example, but you will do well to go into every situation thinking that. If your waiting staff is a twerp, complain, but do it properly and do not embarrass yourself or them, maybe they just got dumped, by text, before your meal. Who knows, think back to the rudest you have ever been. Now who is the bastard? If you are going to retort with "we pay their wages" then, you were skipped over. Oxygen is not for you. Such simplistic idiocy needs reminding of one thing: They are bringing you food, and you want to piss them off?? Tastes funny doesn't it...Salty?
Things will be off. I was a Fresh Fish Buyer for a wholesaler supplying restaurants from mobile fish vans to Fortnum’s. When it was a bank holiday it took us a few days to recover. Most fresh produce of meats and fishes and dairy is on 24hr turnaround for ordering. So, imagine the effect three months will have had on procurement and logistics. Batteries will have died in refrigerated vehicles, BRC accreditation will need reapplying for, freezers will need surveying, TORRY tests will need to be done, and it will have an effect on your meal. If it is a chain, then the people in branch have no say or control. So do not spew at them, contact the head office. Find something else. The world has changed, so likely your favourite Sea Bass dish may be a tad underweight, get over it.
Pic 'n Mix
This is quite a simple one. If it is on the menu, order it, if it does not come with it, ask for it as a side portion and pay, do not make them prat around with pre-arranged meals, adding more expensive or extra things for no extra cost. Not only does it mess the price, it messes the stocks, the preplanning, and it takes extra time, all of which adds to client frustration. So, if they do it with white wine sauce but the beef comes with peppercorn and you 'have always found that compliments pork so well': go home and make it. You do not go to the cinema and ask them to fast forward to the bits you like or show a bit from the sequel. So, remember you are buying a predetermined service. If they state in menus that you can do this, fine, but even then, still be courteous to them and your co-diners
Ah yes, tipping. Always a fruitful one. Reservoir Dogs breakfast table. The endless question, should we tip or not? Answer: no, we should not but we have to. Tipping really began in twenties America during prohibition. Firms had to slash wages due to losing the highly profitable revenue alcohol sales bring and put the onus on customers to bolster waiting staff wages. This guilt trip worked and was never returned to normal. So, we should not tip. HOWEVER, until it returns to that level of guaranteed wages, we have to pay the piper. Play ball, as Mr Pink says. So if you are unsure, I am saying YES- TIP
That said, post-lockdown, do not increase your tip. Up to you but I never do. Chances are it will get shared and the person who served you gets minimal benefit. On the flip side, never decrease it. Regardless. okay, if violence or some malicious event occurs, be sensible, you know what I mean. I am saying, do not bugger the economy. For me it is ten percent, rounded up to the nearest pound. Tipping extra means you will always feel like you should, and under-tipping is douche-bag behaviour. So ALWAYS tip.
I was told by an experienced member of waiting staff is that it often can mean the difference between walking home and getting the bus. So the fact your Fish Pie had more Cod lumps than Haddock is really not just cause is it? These people are human, they will wonder what was so bad about them that you did not tip? A bit like being rejected, people always have platitudes or will say "It is that some people are miserable/arseholes". This is of course true, but it does not help balance the delicate-from-sheer-exhaustion psyche of the blistered waitress walking home through deserted CCTV-free Kensington streets because your main course came three minutes after your partner's. Have you ever run a kitchen? It is a mathematical nightmare. You want fresh quality food, but you are ordering Monkfish Stew while your partner orders a Mooing Steak, one takes 25 minutes and one takes 25 seconds and they STILL get it to you close together, but not close enough for you. Just f**king tip will you.
You see people complain for the most idiotic reason, and it is more infuriating when some sweet young girl apologises profusely and resolves said situation and you see some invoice-faced demon look knowingly at her husband as if to say "Yes, I quelled the uprising there" and you long for botulism.
If you must complain, do. Judge it though, a good rule is, if you were serving on Come Dine with Me, is it a thing you would accept someone complaining about, if not, and answer honestly, move on. Fries soft, it is food. Not enough sour cream...actually no that is evil, burn the place down.
Do not be shrinking though. I recall a story, although it was a supermarket, a friend of mine bought her kid a prepacked sandwich from one, pulled out the lettuce, but then saw it was not lettuce, rather it was a moth! She went back to the supermarket, will not name them because every little helps, and they apologised and gave her £7. SEVEN POUNDS!!! Not even a tenner! I would have been on the phone to the papers and head office. I have never eaten a prepacked sandwich since. Now THAT was an occasion for complaint. Okay kid did not eat it, but oh my word, think about that when you send your omelette back because there is shell on the plate.
Once more, a hair on the plate is another one. Really? It is just a single hair, you take it off the plate, move on. It is not a good thing, and maybe complain to the manager on the way out, but do not hold up other diners and cause a scene. If it is a pube, maybe. You go to a sweaty nightclub, a packed tube train breathing in grotty shared air and germs aplenty, you order a meal with sausages, and it is made from parts of the animal less desirable than hair. Count to ten. If you can use the hairs on the plate to help with that then maybe it is valid!
Quite simply, watch the reviews. Remember, one star means it is the worst possible experience it could have been. Was it REALLY that bad?
What you must remember is that people will listen to your review and it is not being dramatic to say you could be responsible for people losing jobs. Now if it is really bad.
For example, I went to a pub/diner in Bristol last year. mostly pizzas, walked out, it STANK of vomit, and you could see mops behind the bar. That is when a review is required, when it is a danger to health. People were eating in that environment; I could only think of Mr Creosote. I still did not review it though, as I figured I was not a diner and left it for those that were. That highlights another issue. Any negative review a uses phrases like "It could have been" or "If I had been elderly or disabled" or has the prefix "He/she said to me...." a lot, then the chances are, they are troublemakers or just mean spirited entitled snobs. If you have to leave a bad review because the pork belly had too much fat, then please try and give a positive one as well. Help them out I fear many online review posters do not know the power they hold.
In conclusion, do not be walked over, but do give a free pass where you can. We are one day going to be able to freely go and dine out when we want. We have learned now what a privilege and a delight that really is. So let it remain so, if we treat it like it should deserve us, then soon it may be gone. That could be the "new normal". They will not hear your complaints.