Herewith is a modest list of dos and don’ts for servers at the seafood restaurant I am building. Veteran waiters, moonlighting actresses, libertarians and baristas will no doubt protest some or most of what follows. They will claim it homogenizes them or stifles their true nature.
– Bruce Buschel, New York Times, October 29
Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting. Like, literally, do not let them enter. For example that means if someone walks into the restaurant and you greet them less than warmly, march them right back outside and tell them to wait until you're ready to apply a greeting of sufficient warmth. But not too warm, because in certain remaining cultures this can be interpreted as threatening and/or discourteous. A lukewarm greeting perhaps. Not too lukewarm though. Also, don't show your teeth. Consult the audio portion of your trainee media packet for clips of acceptable greeting-like sounds in your specific geographical sub region. Not on the clock though.
Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, 'Are you waiting for someone?' We do not want to make the significant percentage of our clientele that is friendless feel ashamed about their enduring loneliness. Consider reminding them that life for each of us is brutish and short, and that we all will die alone someday. Actually, don't do that. But sort of imply it. Another idea might be offering to join them at a table for two, although we're a little behind on that table situation as of this week, so perhaps the bar instead? We should have a bar installed soon. You will be required to punch out for the duration of this meal, however, and any expenses incurred will be assumed by you. See, life is unfair. Just a reminder again though, no go on showing the teeth. Not joking on that one.
If someone is unsure about a wine choice, help him. That might mean sending someone else to the table or offering a taste or two. Unfortunately in re: of last month's staff re-imagining there is no one else, which is probably best not to think about. We also don't sell wine anymore on account of that whole thing with the grapes and the fire. Perhaps suggest a nice ginger ale instead?
Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness. In order to be safe here, it's probably best to just avoid any sort of conversation whatsoever with the guest. There are certain methods we're working on downstairs (Related note: no going downstairs) that should soon enable the restaurant to operate almost entirely without imposing upon guests our corporeal forms what with their perfumes and oils and petty human names and those cute little flirtatious things we do with our perfect noses and the way our hair looks when it's pulled back and such, as in Elizabeth that one new girl we just hired, say. Back of the house guys have nothing to worry about on this one though, we should point out. Even the thing we've got going downstairs could never wash dishes like Manuel, ha ha! Just kidding Manuel, you're fired. But seriously though, you are. We told you about going downstairs.
Do not lead the witness with 'Bottled water or just tap?' Both are fine. Remain neutral. Leading questions will be saved for the standard cross-examination following the meal. However, if at any point the witness becomes hostile, it might be permissible. Granted, this won't happen so long as you avoid questions like the one about water, with respect to bottled or tap as per above. Questions that contain implicit assumptions, on the other hand, are fine. A classic example of this is “Why haven't you been eating in our restaurant lately? Were you beating your wife?” (Note: most of customer's do not have wives, but you know what we mean).
Know before approaching a table who has ordered what. Do not ask, “Who’s having the shrimp?” Because we don't serve shrimp, which you should know from page 217 of your trainee rules manual novela. Incidentally, constructive criticism of the book is welcome! For example, what did you think about introducing the character of the race car-driving vampire in the second half?
Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition. Except that it sort of is in that you're auditioning for the role of keeping your job every time you head out there onto the floor. Also, we have robots out back we could use to recite the specials all robot-like, so don't make us put them back on the schedule. Those robots are strong.
When you ask “How’s everything?” or “How was the meal?” listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right. Unless the guest's response mentions loneliness in one fashion or another, in which case see above. Maybe offer them a copy of a certain novela to just sort of page through a little bit if the opportunity arises.
Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout. Except of course in instances where consistency might be reasonably construed as redundant.
Never say, “Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad. Although it's important to keep in mind the implications with respect to relativism this philosophy suggests. If every guest's choice of any given item on the menu is considered valid, then that simultaneously implies that all choices are equally worthless. The calamari for example, which just between us is not so great. Relativizing truth to an individual server, one might argue, destroys distinctions between truth and belief, and then what sort of restaurant would we be? A bad one that's what. Be prepared to defend this argument at length upon the presentation of the bill and/or if any incidents concerning “cold fold” or “not what I ordered” arise. Which they won't, by the way, or else the thing about the robots.
Never mention what your favorite dessert is. It’s irrelevant. Except on Favorite Dessert Wednesdays, whereupon replace “never” with “always, under penalty of termination” and “irrelevant” with “paramount.”
Do not curse, no matter how young or hip the guests. This rule may be treated as flexible in some of our younger, hipper locations, if and when any such branches are opened. (They will not be).
Do not compliment a guest’s attire or hairdo or makeup. You are insulting someone else. Insulting someone else in front of the guest, provided they are dining alone, which who are we kidding, they definitely will be, is actually encouraged, provided this information is communicated non-verbally. Like with some sort of dance or pantomime. Per above, “this is not an audition,” although some of our past employees of a certain attractiveness, say, have used this opportunity as a stepping stone to move on to bigger and better things in the world. Maybe it was show business, maybe it wasn't. Hard to know for certain, but anyhow we are just saying Elizabeth.