Dear Restaurant Staff -- Please Don't Touch Your Customers, Ever

Categories: Complaint Desk

Waiter Flickr.jpg
Zoetnet
Your shoulders look a little tight, perhaps I could...
If you dine out with any frequency you've surely encountered the custom. Your waiter comes to the table, politely hands out menus and says hello. Then, as he prepares to deliver his opening service monologue detailing local farmers, the meaning of share plates and the chef's guidance on special menu items, his hand lands firmly on your back, shoulder, or worse. It happens a lot and I'm sure on many occasion goes unnoticed, but it shows poor form on behalf of the staff, and ought to come to a stop.

HG Sply Co. is the restaurant that initially set me off to this service issue. I've been touched plenty before, but the dining room at this restaurant was so loud I often didn't realize a waiter or manager was coming up behind me. The issue was further compounded with a touch that didn't connect with grace but instead landed with a jolting thud. It was unsettling. I've since noticed the practice at other restaurants, and it's an indication of a poorly trained staff.

The intent is obvious. A staff member is trying to connect with their customer and establish a bond when they reach out their hand. But trust is better fostered with solid menu knowledge, passion and a professional demeanor -- a physical connection is not required.

I suppose at restaurants like Hooters and Twin Peaks this is sort of the shtick, and is necessary and welcomed. A subtle touch furthers the illusion that a customer might actually get a date or a phone number. (What else could make that terrible hamburger worth its purchase price?) Looking at restaurants, however, might lead you to imagine how unwanted contact makes women diners feel when they dine out at other restaurants.

The practice is clearly frowned upon in the fine dining world. In Service Included, a book that details one woman's tenure as a waitress in New York City, the author describes rules that were handed to all service employees. The use of first names, flirting and hands on the chairs were all forbidden in addition to touching the guests. And a list in The Times describing 100 things restaurant staffers should never do offers even more direct guidance.

32. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.

I certainly don't derive any pleasure from a waiter's gentle caress, and while I'm sure plenty of customers either don't mind or enjoy it, the difficulty is on the restaurant staff to determine which type of diner they're currently serving. Seems like it would be easier to just ditch the practice and show all of their customers more respect.

Dazzle us with your professionalism, not with your finger tips.


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54 comments
mann2c55
mann2c55

The only time a customer should ever be touched is when he's grabbed by the throat and heaved out the door for being obnoxious. At all other times, hands off.

ballsaggath
ballsaggath

guy fieri poked me in the ear with a hard on while i was trying the anusburger at his establishment

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I've had a server at Chilis actually sit down next to my wife in a booth chirpily asking: "So, are you all ready to order?"

I was speechless. We left.

observepaul
observepaul

In the event that friends or familiar regulars visit, contact is still inappropriate for service professionals. When one is on the clock, they are not friends... they are customers and one maintains professional distance, decorum, and comportment. Management and other clientele who may observe have no knowledge of any special relationship, nor do observers have any knowledge of the hygiene habits of anyone with whom a server comes in contact. Thus contact is properly avoided. Engaging with guests and clients is a matter of vocal tone, timbre, eye contact, sincerity, honesty, and depth of knowledge and skill. Contact, especially if unwelcome, has the potential to be a liability issue. That touch on the shoulder can turn into a lingering caress and a lawsuit for harassment. Staff is not free to determine what contact is or is not appropriate and harmless. The safest way to operate is to avoid it. If one has one's hands full coming and going like any genuine service professional, then contact is really not possible anyway.

observepaul
observepaul

The only appropriate touch from service professionals to customers/guests/clientele is clasping a handshake offered by that customer or guest.

J_A_
J_A_

I don't even like when they place my napkin in my lap for me. I'm a big girl, I can do that myself.

Whitney Bradford
Whitney Bradford

Ruh roh! I frequently utilize the shoulder-touch. Bradley said it just right, I think. I'm trying to speed around the restaurant during a lunch rush... people don't want to acknowledge me standing there awkwardly, tableside, waiting for a break in their conversation... A little touch seems to make for an easier segue than me just outright interrupting them (which is tempting at some tables).

Greg820
Greg820

This is a health and sanitation issue, too.  Do you want your server that just patted that sweaty guy on the back to then go get your plate of food?  Hand sanitation is tough enough to perform in a hospital setting (I'm an RN), and I cannot imagine it is any better in a restaurant.

James Savik
James Savik

I'm fine with it as long as they are hot.

Danny Cardona
Danny Cardona

Good servers like myself wash there hands on a very regular basis you self admittedly dirty pig lol..... Like I said i have never in my life been so self righteous as turn away a kind gesture of simple platonic human contact.... But then again I and not a douche nor do I have deep seeded issues with human contact to begin with........ I feel sorry for anyone who can't embrace their fellow man. This is a huge reason I don't want to raise a child in this world. Pretty soon people won't even touch their own children

Donna Lussier
Donna Lussier

I have never, ever been touched by a server. Maybe you're going to the wrong eateries. Touched on your back, your shoulder or worse? Were you groped by your server? That's bad form in almost any restaurant.

Juli Walters
Juli Walters

Servers should never touch their customers. They are handling food and eating utensils.

Ambelleina Warwillow
Ambelleina Warwillow

I've never been touched by a waiter...which is good because I'm not big on random people touching me. I'm not autistic or a victim of abuse, I don't know why those have to be put forth as reasons to prefer not being touched, I'm just not into people up in my personal bubble.

Casey Goldston
Casey Goldston

I'm a server at a fine dining restaurant and I always greet my tables with a high five. Then a little tickling for dessert.

Tomas
Tomas

I 100% agree.  Your colleague at the DMN asked for a list of service pet peeves a couple of years ago. This was mine and it made the list.  I am not sensitive to touch in social or familiar situations, but when a server does it, it is absolutely inappropriate and creepy.

Bradley Jameson McMahan
Bradley Jameson McMahan

i think most servers or atleast myself do it just to get peoples attention because its usually loud or the patron(s) ignore their server... I think you should be talking about dallas' lack of manners and not the hard working servers that put up with people's shit...

Anthony Parker
Anthony Parker

Babes in Carrollton is the WORST! Not only do they touch, but. they SIT-DOWN with you at the table, almost sitting on your lap! Given, that this is a resource for local high-school students (mostly female) to earn some pocket-change, adopting a Hooters approach is highly inappropriate! On the occasion it happened to Me and my Wife, I just gave this chid my "WTF LOOK" and she quickly realised she'd crossed a line and scampered of to get our sub-standard food!

ThreeOranges
ThreeOranges

I think this article was intended for Autism Monthly, not the Dallas Observer.

Danny Cardona
Danny Cardona

Get over yourselves and quit living such a limited life... If you really have such a huge problem with it go to a therapist and find out what YOUR problem is and the real issue at hand.

dcoftc
dcoftc

Wow get over yourself and and your personal bubble issues before your procreate and teach a future generation that physical contact is a horrible thing. Are you people really so effed in the head that you cant handle simple human contact...... Were you raped were you molested??? What is the real issue here????? I think more people should practice platonic human contact instead of being so afraid of it and irrational about human connection...... Read a book!!!! NON sexual human contact is therapeutic. http://www.livestrong.com/article/186495-importance-of-human-touch/   

Quit living such a sad limited life........... Reach out and touch someone :)

Matt Lafata
Matt Lafata

Completely disagree. No issues with a friendly server making contact in that way. It's a warm greeting. Get over it and/or don't go back to that place if you don't like it.

Joy Jennings
Joy Jennings

My favorite on the NYT's list is #24: Never use the same glass for a second drink. I hate it when servers take my glass away to refill it...I'm still eating, I need my drink! If it's a soda, fill a carafe or another glass and bring that to the table to fill mine.

dallas_foodie
dallas_foodie

I have noticed the same awkward, trying-to-be-friendly physical contact at H&G. And yes, it felt like flirting from the male waiter until I realized he was doing it to all his male and female customers. I agree this is totally unnecessary and has the opposite affect of being friendly. While they're talking about the food all I'm thinking is, "why is your hand on my back?" No one wants their waiter to make them feel like they're on a creepy date.

kbd526
kbd526

Well, as a female, there are a few good looking chefs who I wouldn't mind putting their hand on my back... 

dcoftc
dcoftc

@Greg820 It's called washing your hands on a very regular basis.... Which I and pretty much every other server I know do.... It's our job LOL It should be yours too


The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

@dcoftc I freely admit to having personal space issues which probably has caused me some limitations.  Getting over that is important, but I (not your or anyone else) am going to chose where, when, and how I do that.

porkrod69
porkrod69

@dcoftc Stupidest response I've ever encountered.  If YOU touched me in a service setting, I'd smack you in the face with that fucking book you refer to.  If we want a 'therapeutic touch' I'll go see a masseuse.  I'm at a restaurant for food, not to be fondled, molested, caressed or otherwise touched without explicit invitation.  It's not being prude or uptight--IT'S COMMON FUCKING COURTESY.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Do you like complete strangers touching you, aside from the handshake upon introductions and meetings? If you are a regular and on familiar terms with the server, a little touch is reasonable. Neck massages are never reasonable.

dcoftc
dcoftc

@The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley @dcoftc  If a tap on the shoulder freaks you out that much I feel sorry for you...... Either way I have never had a complaint from a customer I make very good money and have PLENTY and I mean PLENTY of repeat customers who request me on a very very regular basis. It's all about the approach and they way in which you engage the customer. 

dcoftc
dcoftc

@porkrod69 @dcoftc  If you smacked me for touching you one the shoulder while I was waiting on you I would kindly call the police and have you arrested for assault :) 

dcoftc
dcoftc

@primi_timpano If a server walked up and touched me on the shoulder to get my attention or patted me on the shoulder as was leaving and thanking me for my visit I wouldn't have a cow and throw a bitch fit like you a$$Holes :)

The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley
The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley

@dcoftc @The_triplefake_Brandon_Eley 

Who in the fuck are you to make judgments, feel sorry about, or offer unsolicited assistance resolving my personal issues?  Keep your filthy dickbeaters to yourself.       

alteredjustice
alteredjustice

@kym.donachie By your logic, it took you 10 hours to google your own retort. But I'm not that ignorant; I know you were working last night.

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