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Harry Makes New Year's Resolutions ... for You!
I'm not a big one for New Year's resolutions. It's not that I'm wishy-washy or without convictions; I go for permanent press and light starch, and I can think of hundreds of resolutions that I will make this coming year.
Resolutions for you, the diners and restaurateurs of San Francisco.
Diner: When you make a reservation, bear in mind that the promised hour of dining is an estimate, not an ironclad guarantee. Most restaurants will hold your reservation 15 to 20 minutes; you should accept waiting that amount of time to be seated. If you're stuck in traffic, your Aunt Sophie can't make it, or you've decided on Chinese instead, do call, no matter how close to the time it is. If you're a walk-in diner, the wait times your host quotes are educated guesses. Just hang tight at the bar and enjoy some crispy fried appetizers.
Restaurateur: I know diners are fickle; some linger over their coffee, others show up late. But do try to seat your guests in a timely fashion, and treat them well when they have to wait. A glass of wine and, later, a comped dessert go a long way toward turning around a bad experience.
Diner: Grazing garnishes at the bar isn't cool -- or sanitary. If you want some extra olives, ask.
Restaurateur: Maybe you should consider introducing a small bar menu.
Diner: Resolve this year that if you are seated at a table you deem unacceptable, you will, without raising a ruckus, ask for something more to your liking. You will only do this once per visit.
Restaurateur: You will admit it when the diner calls you on that drafty table near the door, or the one jammed between a booth and the bus station (and happily reseat it when the next sucker comes in).
Diner: You can send food or wine back if it is bad, as in rotten or turned, or if it was misrepresented, e.g., vegetarian pasta shows up with pieces of bacon in it. If you just "don't like it," you can expect some sympathy and maybe a partial discount. But, hey, you ordered it, and how was the chef to know that you didn't like that "red lettuce stuff"?
Restaurateur: Resolve to inform your staff on menu changes as they happen. Quiz them often on all food and wines. They are the ones who are painting the picture; make sure they have the right brushes.
Diner: Waiters work hard to remember who ordered what. If your party is playing musical chairs, at least keep track of what dish you requested. That way the server won't have to face a blank stare while auctioning off your sea bass.
Restaurateur: Go gentle. Some people just don't get it. Everyone should have to work in a restaurant at some point in his or her life.
Diner: You know as well as any when you've overstayed your welcome. Don't order dessert after sipping coffee for 45 minutes. Don't expect that an early seating means you have the table all night. Don't add onto your party long after you've finished your meal.
Restaurateur: See previous item.
Diner: When placing an order at the bar, do try to get your act together. If three people in your party are drinking Long Islands, don't order them one at a time.
Restaurateur/Bartender: Don't roll your eyes. If you've got a blender, be prepared to use it.
Diner: When you're at home, do you throw your used toilet paper on the floor? If you answered "yes," stay at home and clean. If you answered "no," well, treat these public restrooms as you would your own: Put the seat up, flush, make the basket.
Restaurateur: Send someone to check on the restrooms every once in a while. There's nothing worse than a nice restaurant with a pigsty bathroom.
Diner: And now a final word: tipping. The standard is still 15 percent. If you had a good time and were well cared for, 20 percent is a generous sign of gratitude and easier to calculate. If for some reason you had a less than satisfactory time, let someone know; don't just walk out without leaving a tip and expect everyone to get it. Most places are trying hard to satisfy you.
Restaurateur: Contrary to the Nordstrom model, the customer isn't always right. If you are forced to inform one of this, it is your duty to do so in a gentle way.
I have one last resolution, this one for myself: Stop all the moral pontification, and get back to dishing it out -- next year.
Happy New Year.
Know something Harry doesn't? E-mail Coverte@aol.com and sweep the dirt out from under the rug.