Dining Out And Treating People Well

Happy Wednesday!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend (clearly I’m a little slow this week).  We enjoyed a lovely few days of sunny weather, leaf cleaning, running of course, and some family time.

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Shorts in November is the way to my heart!

As new parents, we have been avoiding going out to dinner.  For awhile, Mary was testing her vocal chords and attempting to see how much attention she could get in public.  These days, she just likes trying out her new words and waving/blowing kisses to everyone.  She’s adorable but also a ticking time bomb.  At any moment, we know everything could turn into a nuclear meltdown.

Just over three years ago, Rock and I got married.  Among the lovely gifts we received was a gift certificate to a restaurant.  That card has survived multiple moves and shifts among different bags and wallets.  We finally decided to go out and use that gift as a family and cross our fingers.

At the perfectly hip hour of 5:00pm on a Friday night we arrived for dinner.  It had been a long time since we had been out for a family meal.  I was looking forward to not cooking or cleaning up and also having a nice big fat steak.  It was going to be my splurge night.

Mary had a blast eating our appetizer and coloring with crayons.  It was great.

The couple across from us ate their dinner and had a pleasant conversation.  Then they asked their server to bring over the manager.  Having once worked in the restaurant business, this always piques my interest.  We run a business where customer service and satisfaction are essential.  We both leaned in a little bit to hear what was going on.

One of the patrons at the other table explained to the manager that while they love this particular restaurant, their entree was overcooked and it was not what they were looking for.  The manager kindly mentioned that they finished the entree and asked how they had asked for their meal to be prepared.  The patron responded that they wanted a steak made medium well.

The manager was gracious and didn’t even bother pointing out that a medium well steak might be tough. They were given a new meal to take home and not charged for that entree. We then overheard the customer hand over a gift certificate for three times the price of their dinner.  They asked if they could tip from the gift card and then stated they would be generous and leave the server $2; less than 10% of the cost of the meal.  Let me also note that they mentioned several times to the manager that they had fantastic service.

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Here is where I have an issue: Why would you eat your entire meal and then flag down a manager after you were finished to let them know that your meal wasn’t satisfactory?

Restaurants are in the customer service business.  It is their job to make sure you are having a great experience.  My first job ever was as a hostess of a very nice Italian restaurant.  I am still forever grateful to that company for taking a leap and hiring me.  The general manager was a wonderful man who taught me so much about customer service.  He graciously showed me how to answer a phone in a pleasant and professional manner, and how to deal with multitasking and “difficult” customers.    It is not a surprise to me to see that he is now a top restaurant manager in Las Vegas for a large corporation.

Here is what I learned:  When you go out to eat, your server basically makes no hourly wage.  It works this way because the industry assumes that you the consumer will compensate by tipping.

I know this infuriates some and you say that the restaurants should compensate the server so that you don’t have to.  That is how it works in Europe and other countries.  While that is a great concept, our government has not made that a law.  Employers can pay servers $2 or $3 per hour, meaning servers rely on your tips.

This works in your favor because most servers want your gratuity.  They are going to do everything in their power to give you a wonderful dining experience.  This also means they are freaking out when the kitchen is working slowly or providing you with subpar food.

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Here is what you get:  When you dine at a restaurant, you are paying for the experience.  You are paying to view a menu and choose what sounds good at that moment.  You are paying for someone to call in your order, bring the food to you, clean up, and make sure your drinks are full.  You don’t have to cook, clean, or do the dishes.

There is also a full staff working with your server.  Bartenders, bussers, and assistants delivering food to your table are all part of the team.  Your server often has to share a portion of their tips with all of these people.   So when you stiff their tip, everyone is getting slighted.

Please be patient and considerate when things aren’t perfect.  Sometimes we get bad service.  When this happens, it is important to sit back for a moment and look around.  Does your server have 10 tables and everyone is asking for something or waiting for their meals too?  Is the meal taking a long time?  Remember that your server doesn’t have control over a slow kitchen.  Keep in mind that sometimes a hostess can get a bit hasty and seat too many people in your server’s section at once and they are bogged down or overwhelmed.

I honestly believe that most people are good and they want to do well at their jobs.  Your server is likely not trying to provide you with a poor experience.   They want your tips and want to do well by you.

If you see that they are trying but  very busy, maybe new, or perhaps the kitchen is at fault, please don’t discount the tip.  These people are working very hard and rely on your gratuity.

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My golden rule for going out to dinner is that if we are going to afford paying for drinks and food, we walk in knowing that we are also paying for the gratuity.  If we can’t afford to properly tip, we shouldn’t be dining out.

How do you feel about tipping or dining out?  Have you ever worked at a restaurant?  Do you have a toddler (or other family member…haha) that you fear will erupt at the dinner table?

For Better Or For Worse

I have an amusing memory from marathon training with my husband just a month or two before we got married.  We had finished a drizzly 22 mile training run and we were exhausted, cold, and extremely hungry.  After dinner we ended up at a diner in New Jersey.  Trying to be Miss Healthy I ordered some fruit for dessert and my husband got what at the time seemed to be the most delicious piece of chocolate cake.  As we sat eating our dessert I scooped a large dollop of his chocolate frosting and ate it.  He gave me a sideways look and I said, “For better or for worse right?”  His response was priceless, “Yes but it doesn’t have to be for worse!”

Fitness and healthy eating routines are kind of like marriage.  They should be a life long contract.  We often hit the gym or eat healthier foods after we have been at our worst.  Gained a few pounds?  Enjoyed too much holiday deliciousness?  Feel out of shape?  Those are easy reasons to jump on the healthy bandwagon.

But so many times we often reach our goal weight or start to feel better and we start to slip.  “It’s okay I can skip the gym today, I’m back to my goal weight.”  Or we look at the scale and see a number we are happy with and we figure what the heck, a donut can’t hurt.  Right?

And this is how we end up on the forever cycle of diets and gym memberships and self loathing.  We work our hardest when we feel our worst.  And we treat our bodies the worst when we are feeling our best.  A vicious cycle for sure!

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Instead we need to look at our health in much the same way as we would a relationship.  Through good times and bad we need to stick with it.  When our jeans are too tight and when we fit into those pants we’ve had since high school we should continue our fitness routine.  Whether we despise the number on the scale or we love what we are seeing, we should continue to eat those healthy foods.  By doing so we can sustain that level of fitness.  And with that level of fitness comes the endorphins and happiness.  When we stick to fitness routines we feel better about ourselves and are more apt to make better choices in what we eat and how we treat our bodies.

Even better, as we continue to exercise and eat well, we can allow ourselves those times when we have a burger and fries and not feel guilty about it.  We know that most of our choices have been wise and we can enjoy an occasional treat.

The benefits of sticking to a healthy lifestyle year round are endless.  We are more likely to be happy, less likely to get sick, our relationships tend to be happier and we feel better about ourselves.  Aren’t all of these great reasons to stick with it for better or for worse?

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Setting A Good Example, On The Field And In Life

I’m sure most of you have seen this video by now, but I have to share it because every time I think about it I smile and every time I watch it I get tears in my eyes.  Coach Dave Belisle gives perhaps the best speech ever to a group of athletes after a tough loss.  The reason I think it is so touching is because in the midst of heartbreak and among young boys filled with tears he doesn’t let them sit and wallow in the sadness.  Instead he pulls them in and asks them to remember just how great it is to be where they are, how well they just played, and that there is still a lot to celebrate.

Coach Belisle and the Cumberland American team.  Good work boys!

Coach Belisle and the Cumberland American team. Good work boys!

As adults we fill the shoes of role models a lot.  We aren’t always asked to and at times we have to do it whether we choose this or not.  We teach children and young adults good manners, fair play, integrity and hundreds of other things.  They learn by our example.  Those boys will be better sportsmen because coach Dave Belisle showed them the importance of losing like a champ and remembering to keep the experience in perspective.

When I see parents pushing their children along in running strollers or see a father and young child jogging together it makes me grin from ear to ear.  A runner I am working with for an upcoming marathon was recently telling me that she loves taking her son to a particular park because there is a track there.  She likes to do a few miles while her son plays and he often runs a few laps as she does hers.  All of these to me are great ways that we can lead by example.  When kids see us getting our run in, or ride along at a young age, running doesn’t seem to them like something that is a formidable punishment.  Instead running is just a part of our daily lives.

When a parent regularly goes to a gym or plays soccer on a league, kids see this as a regular part of an adult’s activity.  This is why I love when road races have an accompanying 1 mile race for younger runners.  There is something so special about seeing an entire family participate in the morning races.  Kids are growing up seeing running as a fun activity and something they can enjoy and be good at.

A friend on Facebook posted the other day that when she got off of the treadmill one of her little one’s commented that she looked like a waterfall.  It was a hilarious comparison, and I am sure we have all felt that way before.  But how cool is it that the kids could see that and laugh about it with her?

Healthy examples go beyond just exercise.  When we make healthy choices and others see this it becomes normal.  When we eat healthy foods as a part of our daily routine it gets picked up on.  On the other hand, when mom eats a salad because she is on a diet, salads become a diet food.  I once asked a little girl what her favorite thing to eat was and she said a spinach salad.  I was floored!  It shows that spinach and salads don’t have to be something that just adults enjoy.

Sometimes when I listen to the radio in the car I get so annoyed by the ridiculous commercials for weight loss miracles that I have to change the channel.  The fads, the diets, the pills; none of these are examples of a healthy lifestyle.  Most of them are nonsense and none of them are long lasting answers to living a healthy life.

I’m not a parent yet but I have worked with children for decades.  I’ve watched so many families instill healthy habits within their family through the way they remain active, do things together, and the way they eat.

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This past summer I was dining with a group of children ages 4-7 and I couldn’t believe some of the things that were being said.  One kid pulled something out of a lunch box and suddenly the conversation changed to “sugar is calories and bread is calories.”  Soon there were a dozen kids arguing about calories and how they make you fat.  I of course had to put a stop to it and we simply changed the subject.

While it is important for children to understand to a certain extent what foods are good choices, it is scary for them to be so concerned at such a young age with fat and calorie content.  I’m not sure 6 year olds need to be reading the food labels of their neighbor at lunch or analyzing the contents of their sandwich.

Everything is about balance.  Obsession with exercise and food can be a slippery slope and when we head down that road children see that and can be strongly influenced.  Showing youth that exercise can be a fun part of our lives is a great example.  And while it is great to teach them that having some broccoli or asparagus with our dinner is a wise choice and French fries aren’t a dinner staple, it is just as important to share with them that a cupcake can be a delicious and occasional treat for us all to enjoy.

There is a lot we can share by our examples in life.  I personally loved a few things that Coach Dave Belisle said: people like fighters, sportsmen, people that don’t quit, and people that play the game the right way.  Then he added that he needed one big hug from the group and then it was time to celebrate.  “Try to suck it up,” he said.  All wise words to live by.

Keep setting great examples and happy running!