Thursday, November 23, 2006

How to deal with rude a maitre d'

I was at a restaurant recently – not an overly fancy place or anything - and couldn't help but notice a group of four young ladies walk in, nonchalantly ask a passing waiter if they could take the first table and then proceed to sit there.

When the maitre d' came by in a few minutes and said another group had been waiting for that table, they seemed to take great offense. They said asking them to move was embarrassing and that they had, in fact, asked the waiter and taken the table. It took many apologies and much persuasion on the part of the maitre d' to move them to another table.

Was this impolite behaviour on the maitre d' and restaurant's part? Or is it appropriate to wait only for a maitre d' to seat you, no matter how big or small the restaurant, or whether or not you have a reservation? What is the best way to conduct yourself at a restaurant – when entering the place, asking for your table, seating yourself, ordering, addressing a waiter and tipping?

~Veera Inamdar

Dear Veera,

It is absolutely inappropriate for the maitre d' to dislodge a customer who has been seated by a steward in his absence. Having created a blunder, the restaurants would have to bear the consequences. However, if the group has seated themselves, it would be within his right to request them to move.

If the restaurant has maitre d seating, it is solely the maitre his responsibility to seat customers according to the prior reservations and allotted tables. The reservation register is maintained, with specific table’s requests, for the precise purpose of avoiding any faux pas. Delegating a reliever while he is on a break would avoid any embarrassing faux pas.

Protocol demands that you always wait to be seated. Be prepared to be shunted if you take the liberty of plonking yourself at any table. If you have table preferences take the time to make a reservation to avoid any unpleasantness

The lady must follow the maitre d' to the table ahead of the gentleman and be seated first.

Immediately place your napkin on your lap or the maitre d will do it for you with his nose in the air, indicating that you were too slow.

Snapping your fingers to catch the attention of the steward is the height of bad manners. Try and make eye contact .If that fails, a simple “excuse me” or just raise your hand will do the trick.

Genteel people would address the captain by his name from his name tag under his left lapel.
When placing your order read the name correctly from the menu. If you find the French name s unpronounceable just smile at the maitre d and take his assistance. If you are unsure about what wine to order, it is a good idea to ask for help.

The guest never does anything until the host does it first, including eat, put your napkin on the table – indicating that the meal is over, leave the table; he is after all, paying the bill the least you can do is to be courteous!

When eating sit up straight and bring the food up to your mouth. Never stoop towards the food.

If you spill food on your self, don’t make a scene. Excuse yourself and repair the damage in the wash room.

Should you spill food on the table cloth, ignore it .

Proper posture at the table is important. Sit upright with arms near the body and elbows off the table.

It is extremely rude to smoke at the table and is offending to even ask for permission to do so.

Never pick your teeth at the table or spit a piece of bad food or gristle into your napkin.

Neither should you speak with food in your mouth lest you spray others at the table.

Make pleasant table talk, steering clear off controversial topics

Taking a call at the table is taboo. Turn your cell phone onto silent or vibrator mode as you enter the restaurant but should an emergency arise, take the call outside

The host always pays the bill and the guests should accept gracefully without grabbing for the check.

Finally, tipping is a tricky business. In India, tipping is normally 10 percent of the total bill. In the U S , 15 to 20 % is mandatory —20 percent for a first-class place.

If you have had a drink at the bar, leave the bartender 15 to 20 percent, In Australia leaving a tip is not necessary. However, if a service charge is included in the bill, leaving a tip would be totally up to your discretion. If the service is impeccable or the waiter cute, you could leave a handsome tip.

Best wishes,

~Rukhsana Eisa.

Facing an etiquette crisis? Please mail Ms Eisa at with your queries.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You will get better service if you tip your bartender with your first drink and tip about 40%. You will get stronger drinks further. I tip my hair dresser and nail techs about 60% too as who wants your personal body care to be just average? Also, once a month, I randomly tip someone whom waits on me often too with $20.00 1x a month, be it the person behind the store window, the person who pumps gas for me, or a kid who might do work for me in the summer. You cannot take it with you, so spread the wealth: it's good karma.

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