There are 2 groups of people on Earth: those who have worked in restaurants and those who have not. The danger of committing severe oversimplification of categorizing human beings is possible however, for the sake of the topic at hand, let’s just slide into this assumption.
Folks who work in restaurants have chosen a rather coarse means of making a living. Waking up at ungodly hours of the morning, closing shop at 2am, constantly on one’s feet for 10-16 hours a day, moving as rapidly as humanly possible without dropping the platter of beverage and food, cleaning up after messy people, repeatedly making apologies for things one had zero control over, cooking for many hours straight in front of a 1200 degree stove, taking verbal beatings from the chef, suffering inevitable cuts and burns, and knowing that all the while your body is giving you and finger and telling you that one day you will collapse and die of either utter exhaustion or diabetes from eating all the food on the job. It is a unique balance of verbal brutality in the kitchen juxtaposed with having to display cordiality itself in front of the patrons-no wonder actors chose this field as their day job. Having said all this, it is safe to assume that restaurant workers, be they cook or server or hostess, is on some level a bit of a masochist for subjecting themselves to this line of work.
Now that some sense of the working conditions at restaurants is illuminated, you, the restaurant-goer, can now harbor an ounce of humanity the next time you dine out. The rule for how to treat the restaurant staff is very simple: be kind and you will receive in kind. There is a positive correlation between the level of courtesy you display toward the hostess/server/food runner and the level of service you will receive. Although restaurants are part of the hospitality industry, it is also a face-to-face exchange between people. You want to go out, spend your hard-earned money, and have a good time. They want to take your hard-earned money, make sure you have a good time and that you will want to come back, all of which can be easily accomplished on both sides under the code of kindness and courtesy.
In this harsh world, the restaurant staff is oftentimes at the mercy of their customers’ sense of humility and compassion. “We’re all humans, we’re not robots,” said a hostess at the Gordon Ramsey at the London West Hollywood Hotel, “when customers are nice to me, it actually makes me want to go out of my way to provide them with exceptional service.” How about an example of a nice customer? “When they ask how I am doing.” That’s quite easy.
“How are you,” “May I please this,” and “When you get a chance can I get that” are all examples of speaking to your server in such a way that signals to them that you acknowledge them as people, not robots. Why is this so important? As the great philosopher Emmanuel Kant wrote, “act in such a way that you always treat other people not merely as means to some end, but also as ends in themselves.” Going to a restaurant is perhaps the best arena for which one can display this enlightening approach towards your fellow homo sapiens. When you treat people first and foremost as people in themselves, you will see that the kindness you receive from them is genuine. And, of course, this Kantian application does not have to be confined to restaurant settings.