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Norb’s Corner: Dine with Dignity

What many Western New York residents don’t realize is how truly diverse this area is. It has varied art, culture and restaurants. Until I started reviewing restaurants, I had no idea how many different ethnic restaurants there are in the area. This is one of the main reasons I love Buffalo and Western New York.

But there is a problem – some Western New Yorkers don’t know how to behave in restaurants. Many people support themselves by working in restaurants. I have a granddaughter who goes to college and works at a local restaurant. Because it isn’t fast food she is paid less than the $15.00 minimum wage and most of her income comes from tips. For some reason, she has often encountered dubious manners and out-and-out disrespect. I have always treated restaurant workers with the respect that I would want to be treated.

So, WNY diners (and those everywhere else), we need to have a chat. I know you can do better. Here are some guidelines to follow when eating out.

Let’s start with gluten. You’re “allergic” to gluten? Are you sure about that? My buddy has celiac disease and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. This affects only 1 percent of Americans. Gluten is in anything made with wheat flour, I think we all understand that pizza dough, bread and rolls, warm from the oven are delicious. Restaurants are not obligated to have gluten-free bread.

Please stop straying from the menu. Restaurants can only serve so much “on the side,” and they can only deconstruct a steak sandwich so much before it is no longer a steak sandwich. If you want the fish in your fish and chips broiled rather than fried, go elsewhere for that nonsense, you’re at the wrong restaurant. Likewise, if you want cauliflower instead of chicken on your chicken wing plate, you’re at the wrong restaurant. Better than that, you go explain it to the kitchen because they are tired of these requests.

Please start saying “please” I don’t know if people forgot this word, but it really should be a common part of your vocabulary. You could say thank you more often too. They are not your servant. Speaking of which, don’t wave them over or snap your fingers to get their attention. They can see you.

When I ask if you need anything else, think about it. After they‘ve dropped off your food, don’t make them take five trips to get some hot sauce, aioli and all your other condiments. They need to ask the kitchen for half of them, and they have many other customers to worry about.

When they ask how your food is, answer honestly. Don’t tell them it is fine and then ask for a discount at when paying because the spinach was too cold.

If you’re having a bad day, please don’t eat out, just go home. As a server they are there to take your order, deliver your food, make sure you are satisfied and give you your bill, not to be your personal punching bag. Spend some time in their shoes and life will seem pretty darn good Imagine spending eight hours on your feet, dealing with the picky appetites of diners, many of whom no clue why they can’t get a discount merely because a restaurant doesn’t have a vegan option.

Tip generously. It’s 2018. You should know better. The server isn’t responsible if your dinner isn’t cooked right. Leaving a dollar is just rude. Only those people who work in fast food places earn that new minimum wage. All other places pay much less. I always “round up” the bill, then I double the tax as a starting point. You also still have to tip when you eat at the counter.

If the food was good and you liked it, become a regular. As the staff gets to know you, and know your preferences. I used to stop at a Mighty Taco on Sheridan Drive every night on my way home from work. It got so I wouldn’t even have to order. They would just start making it when I walked through the door. This came in handy one night when there was a long line waiting to order and I waltzed in. They called from the counter that my order would be right up. There were a lot of upset customers that night.

Close your tab quickly when you are dining out. The server has probably had to smile and be nice to impolite customers for eight hours straight, hustling to get their boiled fish and bun-less burgers out on time while trying to describe what each of the 60 wines tastes like. Spare them the task of having to ask you to please pay your bill, so that they can go home, watch Netflix and forget that their shift ever happened.

It isn’t all that difficult to behave when you go out, just imagine that you are home and your mother is serving you your meal.

Lead image: Dzz

Written by Norbert Rug

Norbert Rug

Norb is a writer from Lockport. His email address is nrug@juno.com. If you have any fun stories or memories to share of Buffalo's "good old days", feel free to send him a note.

Norb has now written 500+ articles, over 90 restaurant reviews, and has been published in the Buffalo News, Lockport Union Sun and Journal, Niagara Falls Gazette, the East Niagara Post, The Lockport Star, The North Tonawanda Extra, the Niagara Reporter, and Artvoice. His work has been published on Press Reader, Good Cookery, the National association for Home Care and Hospice, and Konitono. He also has his own blog at whywny.home.blog.

Norb's writings deal with Buffalo nostalgia. He wrote a series of articles on early Buffalo television including Rocketship 7, Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, and Mr.Rogers. Norb has also written on his childhood in the Bailey Kensington area, The Mohegan Market, and sailing on Lake Erie. He continues to write weekly on the city that he loves.

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