Do manners matter in a restaurant, or is the customer always right?
"There is a code of behavior, and customers want guidance on how to behave," says Fernando Peire, MD of London's most sought-after and star-studded restaurant, The Ivy, and the Restaurant Inspector for Britain's Channel 5 TV.
Why do rules matter?
"Because they can make all the difference about giving you a table and not when cancelations come up," says the man who was The Ivy's maitre d' for eight years and still does shifts on the floor when required.
"Knowing how not to annoy the staff will give you a better experience, and you'll get more enjoyment if you don't do unspeakable things. You have got to be nice if you want to be welcomed back," he adds.
Here he spells out a few things customers can do to be sure of alienating their waiters. And waitresses too, for that matter.
He looks all happy and eager to serve his customers, but if that's not what you want, keep on snapping your fingers.
1. Snap your fingers or wave your napkin to attract attention
"The correct thing to do is lift a finger and make eye contact. If that doesn't work, get up and have a little chat with the manager.
"Tell him you're having problems and ask him to keep an eye on your table.
"From that point on, you're bound to get much better service."
2. Insist on bringing your coat and bags to the table
"In many establishments it just isn't acceptable to stack the shelf behind you with shopping bags, and throw your duffle coat over the back of a chair. Let these items be safely stored out of sight."HongHu
3. Ask the waiter's advice, then make crass jokes about his recommendation"As in, when told the lamb is good, tell your dining companion: ‘They're obviously trying to get rid of the lamb!'
"If you genuinely want advice, don't ask: ‘What's good tonight?'
"Be more specific, as in: ‘I'm veering between the halibut and the bream -- which do you think I'd prefer?'"
4. Tell your waiter everything's fine, then complain to the management when you get home
"You need to let the waiter know of problems as soon as they arrive -- even if it's just a request to remove crumbs from your table between courses.
"Play fair, and give him every chance to provide the level of service you expect."
5. Leave without saying thank you or goodnight
"Waiters are people too -- look yours in the eye, say thank you for the service, and remember to say goodnight before you leave. It isn't all about the tip."
Another top London restaurant staffer, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of upsetting guests, has a few more pointers.
6. Change your mind about the main course
It seems fair enough to you, but the kitchen will almost certainly have started on the sauce and garnishes for your original choice, and the waiter will get hell if he agrees to your request without consultation.
7. Ask for extra lemon wedges, then when they are brought ask for extra butter
And then when the butter arrives decide some fresh napkins would be quite nice too.
Waiters aim to serve, but on a busy night they don't appreciate diners who ask for something new every time the previous request is met.
8. Pay your check at 11.30 p.m., then sit drinking tap water as the waiters miss their last train
It's your privilege to linger, but it sends mixed messages to ask for the check before you're actually ready to leave.