I go out to eat at least once a week, but on an average I'd say three times per week. Quick common core math makes that about 150 meals per year (although I know it's more) which include breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. I'm not in my 20's and have been going out to eat for quite some time. I'm just explaining some of my background before I get to the point.
I understand anyone can have a bad day or night. I appreciate servers, wait staff, those who clear, set, bartend, cook, prep, host and clean the rest rooms. I can be empathetic when things don't go as planned. I allow for the human condition - people have emergencies, get sick or simply do not show up for work.
However, I think it is fair to say, I expect a certain level of service as part of the experience when dining out. Typically, I imagine the experience to include being greeted, seated at a clean table with appropriate place settings for all guests, presented with menus (at times wine lists, cocktail menus, specials,etc.) and asked if I would like something to drink. Next, I feel it is common to be brought the beverage and many times this is the point of placing the order.
Some restaurants may then bring breads, rolls or other complimentary (figured into the meal price) small food item. If so, I would like a bread plate, please.
The next course may be tricky - could be salad, might be appetizer or soup. Many variables. However, if it seems the bread basket or plate has taken up most of the space and the diners are struggling to find room for the food being brought out, ask to clear the bread. Please.
Please do not hand me a hot bowl or plate of food with the hopes that I will find a place for it on the table.
Once this course has been eaten and before the next round of plates are brought out, please clear the dishes. Again, it is awkward and uncomfortable to be brought more food when the table is already covered with dishes.
I recently was forced to accept a plate from a server and had my fingers covered in sauce as a result. We were the only diners in the restaurant and when I was able to try my food - it was cold.
Yes, please check on me. Please ask if I would like a second beverage or water.
Please clear all of the dinner plates before asking about dessert. Please offer tea and coffee to everyone at the table (even if it does not come with the "special").
In return, I will thank you. I will spread the word about your fine restaurant and its great service. I will recommend it to others, take photos and post all about it on social media. I will leave a better gratuity.
So, dear owner or manager of a restaurant, please check on your staff. All of them. See if they are truly trained and understand or need help or are overwhelmed. Your business is in their hands.