Five ways to behave in a restaurant

Jonathan Gold, the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times, recently laid out a restaurant’s responsibility to customers in a superb first paragraph to a review of redesigned Spago:

The first responsibility of any great restaurant is to keep you in the bubble, the soft-serve cocoon of illusion where you forget the world exists for anything but your pleasure. And the newly redesigned Spago, from the moment you toss your keys to the valet to the moment you stagger back out again, gives good bubble.

Well, good for Spago. But what about its customers — or customers of any restaurant that reaches for greatness? Do they not have responsibilities, too? I think so. Here are five behaviors — based on my experience as a reviewer — that every customer should demonstrate while dining.

 

1. Be open to the “bubble.” In a word enjoy yourself (or at least pretend you are having a good time) and service is likely to remain upbeat. Tip: Launch your meal by telling the hostess or your server that you’ve been looking forward to visiting the restaurant all week.

 

2. Be attentive. Servers have to recite specials and sell beverages. Listen and order, accordingly. Tip: It’s OK to ask the price of specials, but if the restaurant is busy tone down the questioning about ingredients or provennce..

 

3. Be fair. Servers (at least in tip-credit Ohio) make their living on tips. So, for example, if you’re not imbibing alcohol buy bottled water. Add an espresso at the end of your meal (but don’t linger at the table if there’s a wait at the door).

 

4. Be thankful. Not everyone eats in upscale restaurants. Acknowledging the efforts of servers, bartenders, and busboys usually improves your visit.

 

5. Be gracious. Forgive small mistakes; few people do their jobs perfectly, but thankfully most people try to. The effort alone is worth a 20 percent tip.