Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


How To Treat The Wait Staff With Respect

When I interview sales managers, I take them to lunch to see how they treat the waiter and waitress.

Last week James Ziereis, Vice President of Sales at Caesars in Atlantic City, expressed the above sentiment while participating in a South Jersey Chamber of Commerce panel on networking.

His comment brings up an interesting etiquette question: If someone is not polite to the wait staff, will that person be polite to his or her subordinates? Many people, including company executives, believe that how you treat a waiter reveals a lot about your character.

One client told me that the president of her company disguised himself as the waiter during a pre-meeting breakfast because he wanted to observe whether members of his sales staff would greet him. Very few said “hello” or acknowledged him.

I also spoke during the networking panel, about etiquette. After the meeting, a manager wanted more information about dining and some specific recommendations for interacting with the wait staff. I gave her the following suggestions. These behaviors are not complicated, but diners who use them will be viewed by others as considerate and pleasant individuals.

1. Greet people. Say “hello,” “good morning” or “hi” when you make eye contact with the wait staff.

2. Do not speak down to the waiter. Ask for what you want politely and respectfully.

3. Say “thank you” when the waiter brings your food. You can also, at times, acknowledge the waiter’s effort with a smile or nod.

4. Be polite, if a problem occurs. Cursing at someone is not acceptable behavior. How you react in a restaurant when there is a difficult situation can show others how you would react in a challenging situation in the office.

5. Tip appropriately. If you are the host, it is your responsibility to pay the bill and add the tip. You don’t want to look like a cheapskate. The general guideline is to tip 15 - 20 percent of the pre-tax total. For most business meals you would tip 20 percent, especially if you made any special requests.

Dave Barry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist, summed up my suggestions best when he said, “A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.”

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