Attracting attention in a restaurant

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by panjandrum, Feb 27, 2006.

  1. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The recent Waiting for Service thread discussed how long we are prepared to wait for service in restaurants and shops, and how we respond if we consider the service to be unsatisfactory.

    I would like you to think about this situation from another perspective.

    Imagine you are a waitperson in a restaurant.
    You are part of a competent and experienced team, and although the restaurant is busy, all the tables are being well looked after.

    One of the diners decides that she needs your attention - let's say to ask for another bottle of wine.

    (1) How would you react if she puts her hand in the air, clicks her fingers and points to her table to attract attention?
    (2) What would you say to her?
    (3) Would it make any difference if she had a complaint about the food?
  2. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    Well, it really depends on the restaurant.

    (1) You are normally supposed to attract the waiter's attention with a simple glance, on the other hand a waiter should take care of the glances (of course :D ). This rule would be fully ridiculous if applied in a casual/informal restaurant where there are few waiters running like crazy and (almost) not having the time to breathe...this case I'd say you'd better just try to stop one of them as soon as they pass along your table

    (2) As a waiter I would simply ask what I can do for her
    (3) I don't see any difference. A customer is always right (when respectful ;) )

  3. Let's see... I worked many years waiting tables. The answer to your question is easy:

    1) You nod and immediately head for the table, Unless you are in the middle of something, in which case you acknowledge her request, and signal that you will be right over, or eventually send a colleague to her table.

    2) WHen you get to the table, you say something like "Yes, Ma'am," or "Can I get you something, (Madame)?"

    3) If she has a complaint about the food, as opposed to simply desiring another bottle of wine, you listen attentively, apologize, and offer to take it back to the kitchen (where you and the cooks will probably want to know what the problem is, if her complaint was justified or not). Usually, you would replace it.

    But how you react also depends on the attitude of the person, how they address you. Ususally, you'd want to maintain a polite tone (atleast in the USA), although sometimes it's important to let rude diners know you will not be treated poorly. You have to set some limits.

    In any case, you keep it civil and quiet on the floor, but what gets said in the wait station and kitchen is another matter entirely :)) You can here some ear-stinging, biting, nasty stuff back there about the customers. All depends on who you work with and who your customers are.
  4. InmayHugo

    InmayHugo Junior Member

    Spain- Spanish
    As a former waitress, I hated people clicking their fingers to attact my attention.
    I would attend their request but I would not be very friendly to them. I felt customers were trying to get my attention the same way as they were calling their dog.
  5. QUIJOTE Senior Member

    I agree with you InmayHugo, I find it hard to believe you had that situation, I consider clicking fingers as insulting as whistling for attention, how would I react? not too well, but like someone said, sometimes you have to hold your tongue all in the name of good service, I do not think that would make any difference whether if it was to complain about food or anything else, just the fact to be called in that manner would put a negative mood to the whole thing.
  6. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    I agree, that's a very rude way to address waiters and people in general

  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It seems that fewer of you than I expected consider this behaviour to be unacceptable. In my part of the world there is a general expectation that staff in restaurants will be treated as if they were real people. I was amazed that the diner in question survived the experience without at least some well-judged comment.
    Any suggestions as to how this might be done?
    Any actual experience of doing it well?
  8. nycphotography

    nycphotography Senior Member

    I do be learnin stuff
    John-Paul Miller, NYC
    I disagree. To do do, except in extreme cases, is to lack grace. Correcting a customer on minor points of manners is itself rude and declasse. If you were properly "educated" yourself, you would find the crass behavior of others a poor reflection on them, but not nearly worthy of your correction. You prevent poor treatment by simply not complying with unreasonable requests, by simply doing what you know is right.

    Does the rude, crass, low life customer DESERVE a right good dressing down? Of course. But a true gentleman would never let himself get sucked in....
  9. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    (1) How would you react if she puts her hand in the air, clicks her fingers and points to her table to attract attention?

    I would pick her knife up and thrust her in the neck, and would repeat the movement several times, ...

    (2) What would you say to her?

    ...while I repeat to her: 'I-am-not-your-slave, w**re'.

    (3) Would it make any difference if she had a complaint about the food?

    Yes, I would only thrust her the knife once.

    Now, seriously, I find it very rude, unless circumstances requires a strong movement to ask for attention (very noisy restaurant, very bad attention...)

    The waiter could say something as "The gentleman only needed to nod or to look a waiter", but I doubt the stupid would notice it.
  10. maxiogee Banned

    panjandrum's local opinion of serving staff is echoed here in Dublin. That is not to say that idiots don't click their fingers, but it is becoming rarer (and that may have something to do with the staff in McDonald's not reacting to finger gestures!) as is general Michael Winnerish dining snobbery.
  11. nichec

    nichec Senior Member

    1. I would nod to let her know that I'm coming or approach her right away. That's often the case in Taiwan and USA, but you can NEVER do that in Paris, the waiters won't be too happy about that. (and then you start to worry about what they put in your next dish:D )

    2.I would say: "Can I get you anything, ma'am?" (I once heard a waiter said: "on fait quoi?" to a client in Paris:eek: )

    3.I guess I would be more afraid or impatient in this case, but I would try to stay cool. (never bump into this kind of situation in Paris)
  12. Hello Nyc,

    I'm not sure what it is you disagree with about my statement:

    It sounds more like we agree, to me. As a waitress :), you must be gracious, and you would never correct clients' manners or "crass behaviors", unless some exceptional situation called on you to do so. In terms of setting limits, if a customer is overtly rude, agressive, or lascivious, you do have to let them know that it's a problem (usually the manager's job to intervene).

    Have you ever seen As Good As it Gets with Jack Nicholson and what's her name? He plays her neurotic, bigoted, mean, whacked-out customer in a New York café. Excellent variation on the theme. And I'm sure, at some point he snaps his fingers in a restaurant in Baltimore! Right on topic :)

    In the case of a customer who snaps his fingers and points, there could be a lot of reasons, for example:

    Maybe he's doing it because he doesn't get out to fancy places a lot, maybe he wants to make an impression, and he's seen that's how they do it in the movies.

    Or maybe she's doing it (and also griping about the food, talking to you rudely, and making too much noise) because she's just a witch from hell. You don't take it personally, everybody else sees what's going on too.

    Or maybe the customer is doing it because he/she is busy, or just a gruff, cold personality, but polite enough ("Hi, please, thanks"), and he/she orders an expensive meal, then leaves a big tip. Every situation is different.

    You're right, Nyc, that a great way to discourage rude treatment is by not responding and not complying with unreasonable requests. But you need a whole battery of defenses when you wait tables! Atleast you can always get your revenge by making a mockery of the situation with your generally sympathetic colleagues.

    (by revenge I do not mean spitting in food or anything of that nature. But just as a good customer is often awarded with a larger piece of cake, a frothier capucino, a little extra kick in their Irish coffee, etc., a bad customer may find their drinks a bit weak, some dregs in the espresso, and a skimpy dollop of whipped cream on their pie.)

    I'm glad I don't wait tables anymore because it is a very hard job in all ways...

  13. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thanks for input.
    I'm a little surprised at the consistent level of tolerance for this behaviour - but really I shouldn't be.

    It was reported to me by the waitperson in question, who has been telling everyone she meets about the really dreadful woman who was in in her restaurant on Saturday:)

    To my utter amazement (I know my daughter quite well:D ), her reaction to the finger-clicking was pretty much as badgrammar suggested:
    However, she, her colleagues, and their manager wish they could have thought of some appropriate way to respond that would have satisfied their sense that:
  14. "However, she, her colleagues, and their manager wish they could have thought of some appropriate way to respond that would have satisfied their sense that:"

    Yes, the situation often has no perfect response when it is happening, and just like in other aspects of life, sometimes the best ideas for what you should have done at the time, come too late to be of any use.

    I also did a lot of catering, andthat is where I encountered the rudest people in terms of how they treated the people serving and cooking for them. Working all those Chrismtas office parties turned me off to the whole Chrismtas season. Employees at the parties were dreadful to us, 7 out of 10 times, I'd say.
  15. Benjy

    Benjy Senior Member

    Milton Keynes, UK
    English - English
    clicking whistling coughing.. it's all the same. i don't wait tables but i do work at a fishmongers. sometimes you will have your back turned, descaling or fileting something and you hear... the cough. i have always been tempted to say "would you like something for that? how about this salmon head thrown at your face or inserted in a hole not designed to recieve such foreign bodies? and sometimes i wish i wasn't surrounded by really large, *really* sharp knives :eek:

    how hard is it to be polite?

    what amazes me is the fact that vast swathes of the rudest people must work (statistically) in the tertiary industries, so they must know to some extent what it is like to "serve" someone, whatever the context. no one likes being treated badly so why do people think that waiters do :s
  16. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    It depends on everyone's politeness...but politeness is a value which is fading away...

  17. belén

    belén Ex-Moderator

    Spanish, Spain, Catalan, Mallorca
    I had a friend working as an air hostess and she would also tell us stories of passengers trying to call her attention in the most unpolite ways, such as doing "shsss shss" or that thing you do with your month when calling a horse (clicking with your tongue)

    This is really humilliating and I think all these people should be given a manners handbook before leaving home for the first time...
  18. Vertigo New Member

    Near Perth
    Western Australia- English Speaking
    Well in Western Australia when me and my family go out for a meal, we wait for the waiter to come to us, we don't really attract the attention as such. However some people may call out to them but I have honestly never seen that before.
  19. Trina

    Trina Senior Member

    Australia (English)
    Having been directed to this thread by a discussion in another thread (Thanks Panj), I have a question regarding Attracting-attention-in-a-restaurant ettiquette.
    Many years ago, an Italian teacher taught me that the correct way to get the waiter's attention in a restaurant in Italy is to call out, "Cameriere!" (waiter) with your arm up palm facing inwards and fingers waving in at yourself. Now, I have not tried it myself (and I don't remember seeing anyone in Italy doing it). The Italian teacher was from the north of Italy (around Pordenone) - though I'm not sure that has any bearing on this.
    Could someone out there tell me (especially anyone from Italy) whether this method of getting attention is acceptable or is it frowned upon?
  20. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece
    Well I can't really see it from a waiterperson's point of view since I've never been one.

    It is generally considered rude. If however you have been waving your arm for a long time, it is considered a rude necessity. The manner in which you wave depends also in the restaurant (in a busy, non formal restaurant it is OK -and necessary- to actually raise your arm and start signalling; in these cases it is also considered polite to make a sign like you are signing to denote that you want to pay. This way the waiterperson will know what you ask for).

    I've never seen anyone pointing at the table by the way. That would be considered extremely rude and I think that, as a waiter, I would make sure I would use any plausible excuse to take my time servicing that person).

    P.S. In the past a waitingperson was known as "Garçon" (Garçoni still means a waiting person although it has rather derogatory connotations these days). When dad was young it was considered OK to call a waiterperson by raising your arm and calling "Garçon!!". He still does it and makes my cheeks go all rosy)
  21. Trina

    Trina Senior Member

    Australia (English)
    Calling "Garçon!" in a restaurant in France I learnt from an early age to be a big, big No-no.
    (While Garçon is known to mean waiter, it literally means boy)
    I'm surprised you only had "rosy cheeks" Ireney. If it had been me, I would have been hiding under the table! :eek: Yes, but as you said, times change!

    I think that because of being taught not to call out "Garçon" in France, I am extremely reluctant to call out, "Cameriere!" in Italy (even though I was told by an Italian that in conjunction with the correct gesture, it was Okay.).
  22. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece
    Trina, I think the difference is that very, very few know what ""Garçon" really means so it is not that bad. Dad knows (I have told him) but he keeps forgetting (the only foreign word that seems to have latched on his memory is "welcome" and even that comes out as "Well. Come" :D)

    Bear in mind that after calling for the ""Garçon" to come he uses the formal (plural) way of addressing him/her.
  23. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    I do not think that raising an arm in such a situation is rude.
    There is an odd tone going through this thread.
    The relationship between customer and waitperson is not personal.
    The customer is paying the waitperson to perform a service.
    At times the customer requires assistance and it seems odd that people working in these situations are so sensitive to formal nicities that they would consider a clicked finger or a cough to be rude.
    If the visual signal of the raised arm does not gain attention then a audible click may work.
    I am led to believe that many waitpersons seek tips from the customer and my tip to the waitperson is that a negative response in such a situation will almost certainly not increase the amount of the tip.

    How is a customer supposed to gain the attention of staff in a crowded establishment and not run the risk of irritating the staff?


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