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Being in the people-pleasing business is no easy task while restaurants navigate being besieged (happily) by high demand, struggle with fewer available staff and get creative when food supplies fail to arrive. Inevitably we are going to all have to play our part and gamely make sacrifices until things recover. So in the spirit of stress-free living, here are the eight things customers should know for a new era of post-lockdown dining out:
Patience is a virtue
Sorry, you may have to wait longer for your crepé to be flambéed. A lack of staff across the UK has seen restaurants reduce trading hours and even close. Everyone is scrambling to get the best staff and its not uncommon to find staff working 70 – 80 hour weeks to bridge gaps. As a result, diners may have to wait a little longer to have wine poured, napkins folded when they get up, or tableware replenished. Restaurants are making herculean efforts to ensure every detail is met; patience and kindness are qualities well remembered.
Apologies, we may not be able to find you a table
Just because it’s your anniversary doesn’t mean a table can be found. Due to restricted hours and staffing as mentioned, availability has been affected – temporarily. Most restaurants have reduced operating times, or closed on quieter days to give their limited staff a break. In the case of some of the country’s leading hotels, restrictions may apply to non-resident guests. This limit on supply in a period of high demand has created a bottle-neck during the summer holidays. However, with the travel corridors opening up and the relaxation of bewildering tests, a return to more normalcy may be on the cards. Book early is our advice.
No show, no manners
It’s simple – if you make a reservation, turn up! It’s basic etiquette; but to no show in today’s climate feels more an offence. No restaurant can afford to have empty tables, especially after nine months of zero revenue, compounded by escalating wage bills and food costs. It is appreciated that plans change, but anyone not advising a restaurant in a timely manner is not helping.
Have a little respect
Be polite, not a proverbial pain. The social movement enshrining no bullying and no harassment, amongst other positive steps from #MeToo, has collectively ensured a better code of conduct for all. The boorish behaviour front-of-house and booking teams faced, with subservient style dressing downs or ill-tempered rants, is thankfully becoming a relic from the past. It’s apparent all service industries need an image upgrade to thrive, with staff being treated as the hard-working professionals they are. Compassion, humility, workers empowerment and a managements responsibilities to their staff, means the old adage that a customer is always right is perhaps living on shaky grounds.
Social dressing down
If you have something to say, say it to the face – but nicely. No establishment ever wants a guest to have a bad experience and will welcome constructive feedback at the time. But let’s be reasonable too – just because your bread roll was a little bit salty, don’t expect the restaurant to waive your entire bill. Remember, this is an industry that can ill afford further financial losses or lost table revenue. If you made a small mistake at work would you expect to work a day for free because of it? Going nuclear on social media to voice an ire can have massive implications to a business. If you can’t be nice, then perhaps don’t say anything, or, think twice before you post.
The world but not as we know it
You may not always get the choice you had. Since reopening, most restaurants have pared back offerings, such as reducing choices on a la carte or tasting menus. There are many reasons for this: formerly it was due to limitations on the number of chefs allowed in the kitchen under the two meter ruling; and more recently the fall-out from a shortage of ingredients and products, compounded by HGV driver and staffing shortages. Strangely, some people seem unaware of all the challenges being faced, but highlighting issues is helping.
Keep a clean sheet
Don’t use it if you don’t need it. Hotels and restaurants are experiencing tough problems in getting linens laundered, now that commercial linen companies find they no longer have a ready supply of workers after Brexit; or indeed drivers. In the new era of value-led dining out, sustainability should be awakening in everyone’s conscience. Admittedly, this is more to do with towels and bed linens than tableware; although don’t be surprised if tablecloths are suddenly missing in your favourite restaurant.
Safe as houses
Our opening salvo was everyone should play their part. It can be easy to forget that diners are at different comfort levels when away from home confines – some feel safe, others more cautious. Whilst all Covid specified government restrictions have been lifted, such as numbers and face coverings, the only caveat being that businesses have to deliver service in a ‘Covid secure manner’. This requires each business to carry out Covid-risk assessments and regular documentations. Every restaurant will take their own spin on this, such as using throw-away menus instead of bound copies, or reduced tableware paraphernalia; but either way, every table sitting will have its own set of operating protocols. Hand washing and sanitizers still rule strong, so, ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ proverb might be the better way to say: Please do your bit.
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