Cell Phone Tips From a Disgruntled Waitress
I've worked in various restaurants for seven years - first as a dishwasher, then as a hostess and server. I've worked in sports bars, fine dining and even at a theme park diner for two summers during college. I feel as though I've seen every form of bad behavior from restaurant guests, from drunken fights between customers to guests groping each other at tables. But perhaps the worst and most frequent dining faux pas that I've seen from guests is talking on their cell phones when restaurant staff is trying to help them.
Almost every restaurant has a set service guide that they teach to their employees, which establishes a rhythm with expected time frames for each step of service for every guest (greeting, taking drink orders, delivering drinks, ect.) Talking on your cell phone while being seated or while sitting at your table can disrupt this rhythm and make restaurant staff uncomfortable, and it's ultimately impolite and can affect the quality of the service that you receive.
Communication between guests and restaurant staff is extremely important. Your hostess or server wants to know what you need so that they can take care of you. You, as a guest, are seeking a leisurely dining experience in which you are treated with respect and hospitality. But don't forget the other side of the coin - your service is doing his or her job, conducting a business transaction with you and he or she also expects to be treated with respect at his or her place of employment.
When a server approaches your table and sees that you're speaking on a cell phone, the server will undoubtedly hesitate before greeting you, because he or she will not know whether or not you expect him or her to interrupt your phone call. They may even wait until you are off the phone, which, if it takes several minutes, could result in confusion on your part as to why there was a time-lapse before you were properly greeted.
The server may construe this as rudeness toward them because their serving rhythm has now been disrupted. While servers are expected to remain professional even in this situation, your server is still an emotional being and the perception of rudeness toward him or her can affect the quality of the service that you receive. It is less likely that you will receive excellent service if the server believes that you have been rude, particularly at the very beginning of the transaction.
In some circumstances, I have personally had guests shoot me an annoyed look when I tried to greet them while they were talking on the phone. This is particularly rude because by sitting at the table, the guest has agreed to the beginning of the dining transaction and the server is simply trying to do his or her job.
There is also the problem of distraction. I have often seen guests tell the person on the other end of the phone to "hold on" while they order. Because the guest's attention has been divided, he or she is more likely to make mistakes while ordering, which can result in service issues and confusion later on.
Another important point to consider is that servers communicate with one another about their experiences with guests. If a server believes that a guest has been rude, he or she will most likely vent to coworkers. This can quickly result in the entire staff having a negative feeling toward you as a guest. And servers remember things like that! Next time you visit the restaurant, the likelihood that you will receive excellent service will have decreased.
I would advise making your phone calls before you approach the host stand at a restaurant, or after the entire transaction when you have already paid the bill. If an important phone call comes up during your meal, leave the table so that your server knows that you do not expect to be served while on the phone. Leave a jacket or other article at the table so that the staff knows that you haven't left. If you are on a lunch break and you know in advance that you'll be on the phone during your meal, do not visit a full-service restaurant for lunch.
Your server wants to help you and give you a great experience! Make it smoother for all parties involved by staying off the phone.