Seven Ways to Endear Yourself to Your Favorite Restaurant #hackdining

Part of a small series showing food being served as a chef and a customer interact in a restaurant

Favorite restaurants are sanctuaries. They’re where you go to celebrate, relax after a long day, catch up with dear friends, or find solace from the troubles of the world. What draws you in as a diner, though? Maybe you worship the food. Perhaps you adore the staff. Possibly you just dig the vibe. It’s easy to figure out what keeps you coming back.

But flip that notion on its head. What makes a restaurant’s staff love certain guests more than others? We recently discussed what diners do that drive restaurant workers crazy. So, how can guests curry favor and become friendly with the teams at their go-to eateries? Here are seven ways to endear yourself to your favorite restaurant.

Give a gift
A regular at Washington, D.C.’s Tico routinely, but randomly, brings in flowers to hand out to the female staffers and guests. “I’ve never experienced that before,” says Steve Uhr, regional operations director for Good Essen, which oversees chef Michael Schlow’s ventures, including Tico and The Riggsby. “I feel neglectful that I don’t do that for my staff.” During last holiday season, the same guest gave generous presents to several staffers who regularly took care of him. “It’s thoughtful, because if you go and buy something for someone, you have to think about your relationship to that person, which makes it a lot more personal,” says Uhr.

Show your appreciation
The kitchen staff puts long hours in behind the scenes making meals happen. Though they’re creating the food, they often don’t get the opportunity to interact with guests. Chef Quinten Frye at Big Bear Café in Washington, D.C. wants to hear when guests enjoy their meal. “The easiest way is coming back to say thanks or give a simple handshake,” he says. “It’s always gratefully received.”

Be inquisitive
Restaurant staffers appreciate when guests listen to what they’re saying, whether they’re going through the daily specials, describing the tasting notes for a particular wine, or explaining how a certain dish is prepared. It’s equally appreciated when guests are willing to share their likes and dislikes, so the staff can create the best dining experience for them. “The bigger thing is when people want to participate in a dialogue,” says Caitlin Doonan, beverage director of New York City’s Toro. “When they ask us what we’re excited about or what we like, that’s great. It’s more than placing an order. It becomes a two-way street.”

Act like you’re visiting a friend’s house
The metaphor of the restaurant as a home is used over and over again — and with good reason. Many staffers talk about the idea of creating an inviting, relaxing, and comfortable environment for their guests, so they feel like they’re visiting a friend’s house. To complete that vision, diners should be on their best behavior. “Just be polite,” stresses Frye. “I’m a southern guy – I grew up in San Antonio, Texas – so I’m a yes ma’am, no ma’am, please, and thank you kind of a guy. To this day, I pull out my girlfriend’s chair when she sits down. The small stuff goes a long way.”

Don’t linger
We’ve all been in restaurants where you could tell from the energy of the space and its staff that they’re firing on all cylinders. Every table is full, the bar is packed, and the host stand looks like it’s being overwhelmed by a human tsunami. When you’ve finished your meal and paid the tab, it’s time to get up and go. “Be conscientious to other people that are hungry and wrap it up,” says Uhr. “We appreciate being able to serve other guests as quickly as possible.”Continue Reading

Dining Poll: Does Your Resume Include a Restaurant Job?

At OpenTable, we’re passionate about restaurants, and it’s not just because we enjoy dining out. Many of the people who work here have worked at restaurants before joining OpenTable. Have you spent time behind the line or working front of house? Weigh in on today’s poll!