Put down the phone. That's one of the most constructive pieces of advice Jamey Fader offers in his recent column on dining etiquette, though he also touches on how long diners can claim a table and eating with messy kids. But above all, put down the phone, whether you're using it to take photos of food, talk to friends, surf the web or post instant reviews of your meal on Yelp.
"Hospitality and service, in their most perfect iterations, are a well-choreographed dance," Fader writes. "Navigating the moves successfully requires both parties to have an acute sense of self-awareness. As service-industry professionals, our core function is to meet or exceed expectations. As diners, we should be able to sit back, relax and enjoy a pleasurable experience, but because we are paying for a service, we sometimes seem to think that we can deny our responsibilities in the relationship. The pervasive culture of ungraciousness permeating dining rooms across the country has me feeling a bit itchy."
And readers are ready to scratch. Says Ellen:
I guess I'm a bad diner, then, because I am on the internet on my phone, ignoring the server. But I'm quiet. And yesterday I spent more than four hours with a dear friend at a restaurant. But there were plenty of empty tables so neither of us felt guilty and I'm sure my companion tipped accordingly.
Taking food pics at a restaurant if you’re not on staff is incredibly tacky, no exceptions.
I personally like/appreciate the pictures of food on Yelp. It takes like five seconds, and it's after you get your food, so you're not being disrespectful of the host (since you're already seated) or the server/bartender (because you already got your food).
I don’t care if people take pics of their food. Unless maybe their sound is up. Otherwise, why would I care? Talking loudly on a phone, yes.
I was at a small family restaurant last night where a husband and wife were watching a fucking martial arts movie on their phone at full volume. We eventually asked them to turn it down, which they seemed to do without issue, but the man's wife was so offended that she waited twenty minutes until our table made a bunch of noise laughing at something and came over to tell us to quiet down "because it was hurting my ears."
The sense of entitlement that people now have to pollute public spaces with their phones is totally bonkers, whether it's a phone call on speaker or watching YouTube videos loudly in the airport or on public transportation or listening to tinny music while hiking. I know this is very get-off-my-lawn of me, but it truly bites.
That was a great read! It’s everything I’ve always wanted to say, but much more eloquently.
Would love to add payment to the list. In the age of PayPal, Apple Pay, Zelle, Venmo and many other money-transferring options, to tell a server you need eight separate checks and certain items on certain checks is beyond ridiculous. It takes time away from the server and their section, management often has to approve split checks due to internal theft, and it ties up a point of sale, causing other staff to make adjustments. Also, a lot of restaurants do small plate/tapas/family style dining. Everything is meant to be shared, including the check.
The best resolution is one payment. The second best is equal payment amongst multiple debit/credit cards. The last thing I want at a table is people arguing over the bill. It’s a classless move.
And then there's this from a reader who asked to remain anonymous:
As a former busboy, waiter and host for many, many years, and now as a friend to many chefs, I know everything in this piece is true. That said, it should have been put in Jamey's diary or burn book and not shared....
Does it suck to wait on a table while patrons are on their phone? Loud people? Drunk people? Parents who trash a table and then put me, as a (former) bus boy/server, on my knees to clean up crumbs and food smashed into carpeting? Yeah, it was awful and it was demeaning. But the owners were always wonderful to us, kept morale high, cheered us on to get through shifts (there may have been an end-of-the-shift drink or two, or something extra, for our meal, to keep us going), and more.
This reads like a man who deeply, deeply resents his customers....Is he so impulsive that he didn't think this would reveal more about him as a human being than in any way be helpful to changing the current climate? Perhaps if it weren't such an arrogant, I-hate-most-customers-towards-customers kind of read, there could have been some game-changing takeaways.
So what was the point of this piece? If Westword hoped it would be provocative and elicit clicks, we'll just have to see.
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This "Stirring the Pot" column is Jamey Fader's fourth for Westword; we'd long enjoyed his food coming out of local kitchens, and now that he's no longer working at a Denver restaurant, we appreciate the insight he can offer about the entire dining scene. Clickbait? Hardly: A list of Denver's best chicken sandwiches attracts more readers than an opinion piece, even when that opinion piece touches on a controversial topic.
As Fader notes as he leads into his list of suggestions for diners: "It’s taboo to publicly discuss guest behavior in the world of hospitality, because the act in and of itself is not hospitable, but guests, like service-industry professionals, need feedback so that they can course-correct."
You can read about Fader's two decades-plus as a service-industry professional here. That introductory piece was followed by columns about beards in kitchens, Instagram photos of food, and the perils of putting bacon on everything.
What topics would you like to see Jamey Fader cover? What do you think of the local food scene? Post a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.