Good manners in the dining room don't end when we leave the party or our homes. The need to be kind and courteous is never more necessary than when we are out in diners and restaurants being served a meal. I was out this weekend enjoying a quick meal with my family and was truly left with my mouth hanging open right in the middle of my meal. I had to witness a waitress being berated and treated awfully by a customer. Detailed circumstances matter not in this situation (the customer seemed to be bit of a sourpuss in general).
Restaurants are busy, communication between waitstaff and the kitchen is not always perfect even in the best of establishments and here is a surprise for us all, servers and waitstaff are only human. While it is their paid job ( unfortunately not a very high paying job), in contrast to many people's preconceived notions, this is not always their chosen profession but a necessary duty to provide for themselves and their families. A person donning an apron or clearing a table is no less a person deserving of courtesy, respect and consideration than the stock broker or doctor who comes in to place an order or enjoy a meal.
A more pleasurable dining experience for all is as always, easy peasy in 5 below!
1) Give your server your order efficiently and politely.
Don't keep them waiting till you finish you cell phone call or your conversation with whomever you are dining with. They have other customers to deal with and orders to place with the kitchen.
If you are taking too long and they briefly excuse themselves, don't act offended when they return. They have a job to do as an employee of the establishment, which is to wait on all customers in a timely manner.
2) If you have given a complex order and for whatever reason it doesn't arrive to you in the particular way you requested it, don't be so quick to assume that it is the server's fault and take it out on them. Substitutions and changes to menu items should be viewed as an exception to the rule, not your entitled right (this isn't your mommas kitchen). The server might have taken your complex order correctly and the mix-up could have occurred in the kitchen. (Not that this should give us the right to explode about the kitchen staff because our eggs were not poached firmly on the outside and soft on the inside. Requests that are truly complicated, off the menu or out of the norm for the establishment should be saved for your own kitchen or maybe if your lucky, your mother's.)
3) Make eye contact.
Any interaction with another human being should be deserving of eye contact from you, especially when someone has served you and is inquiring as to your satisfaction. When they approach the table to ask if your meal and everything else is okay, pulling yourself away from you steak tartar for 30 seconds is not going to inhibit the enjoyment of your meal. This is also the perfect time for any extra requests like a refill on your drink or extra napkins.
4) Keep your personal conversation just that, personal.
Use your discretion when discussing private matters or engaging in off-coloured jokes when your server approaches the table (they are not invisible entities that float back and forth to your table, take care not to offend their sensibilities when they are within earshot). Assuming you are not in the habit of regaling your mother with the tales of the 'the man from Nantucket' or curse profusely in front of any and all of your family members, show some respect to the person standing in front of your table who could be someone's mother, child, grandfather, etc. Coarse language is never the norm, especially in front of strangers, regardless of how you try to justify it.
5) In a foul mood? Take it elsewhere.
A server or waitstaff should never be viewed as your own personal punching bag. They have nothing to do with your personal or professional life, like many other people we come into contact with, and should not be made to suffer with rude behaviour and crabbiness due to a foul mood or unpleasant disposition. If you are having a bad day, do all involved a favor, stay home and make yourself a sandwich.