Not-so-fine diners

LEGAL CONTRACT: Andy Slavin and Leila Jones at Sirocco. He wants customers who laugh at his jokes.
LEGAL CONTRACT: Andy Slavin and Leila Jones at Sirocco. He wants customers who laugh at his jokes. Geoff Potter

WE'VE all had bad restaurant experiences and griped about them. Some of us take to websites to vent our displeasure.

But what do restaurateurs and wait staff think of our behaviour?

If a restaurant has an obligation to provide us with goods and services of an expected standard, do we have an obligation to provide respect and good manners?

Peter Van Zigl has been waiting tables in Noosa for 15 years and has heard and seen everything.

"We are here to help the customer," he said. "But customers can help us by not talking on their mobile phone when we are taking their order.

"Also, it is very disruptive if people arrive late (for a reservation). It's worse if people don't book at all.

"If you were expecting visitors at home and, say, peeled enough potatoes for four people and 20 turned up, it would become a problem."

Customers who agree to vacate their table by a certain time and later refuse to move, cause headaches.

"We run a really busy all-day and evening restaurant here," Pascal Turschwell, second-generation restaurateur and owner of Gaston Bar and Bistro, said.

"I had people recently who came in at 3pm, said they would leave at 6pm and then sat on and on.

"We were really busy. Each time I politely asked them if they were ready to go they said 'sure' and then ordered more drinks and lingered on."

Waving arms in the air or snapping fingers to attract a waiter are the biggest bugbears of wait staff.

"Just a half hand raise is okay," Mr Van Zigl said.

"We had a waiter going around to tables with water and someone called out to him 'hey, water boy'. Everyone at his table was embarrassed."

Almost finishing your meal and then sending it back to the kitchen or getting two-thirds into your bottle of wine and complaining it is corked are ploys some customers try.

"Like most restaurants we do a check-back on the food a few minutes after it has been served," Andy Slavin, co-owner of Sirocco in Noosaville, said.

"People don't realise ordering a meal leads them into a legal contract.

"If you order and vacate without clearing the bill, it is illegal. It is the same when they taste the wine, if something is wrong they should pick it up on the first sip, not the last."

Large groups who want the bill divided so each person pays exactly their share are a nightmare.

"Groups of men usually throw their credit cards in the middle and say divide the bill," Mr Slavin said.

"Women tend to want to pay only for what they had."

It's not all bad. The general consensus from most restaurateurs and waiters is that we are generally a polite bunch who do the right thing.

So what makes for the perfect customer?

"Someone who is friendly and nice," Mr Turschwell said.

"Someone who interacts with me in a pleasant way," Mr Van Zigl said.

"Someone who laughs at my jokes," Mr Slavin said.

Topics:  dining

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