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Food & Drink

Connie Forbin’s Guide to Being a Good Restaurant Guest

Is the customer always right? That’s debatable. It helps to follow these basic rules of etiquette.
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The bar at the French Room is a place to enjoy great service—and to reciprocate the good feelings. Courtesy of French Room Bar

Late-night talk show host and comedian James Corden was recently banned—and then unbanned—from New York City restaurant Balthazar after a manager reported two instances of inexcusable behavior, as chronicled by restaurant owner Keith McNally on Instagram.

One report said Corden allegedly demanded drinks on the house after a hair was found in his food. The other involved an egg yolk omelet Corden’s wife had ordered that had a bit of white in it. McNally claims Corden yelled at the server, prompting the ban. It was lifted after Corden called McNally and apologized.

Anyone who works in the service industry knows making the customer feel as comfortable as possible is the ultimate priority. The idea that the customer is always right is alive and well, but I think we’ve all decided that as a society, there are lines and boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed.

Connie Forbin, a longtime captain at the French Room, has perfected the art of service over the last 37 years. While service is her job, she offers some tips on how to be a good guest while dining at any restaurant.

Honor Your Reservation Time

Forbin knows things happen when it comes to meeting a reservation time—keys get lost, or shoes go missing—but showing up on time to a reservation is important.

“That time is carved out for us to serve you,” she says. “Your end time, you can’t control once you’re there.”

Forbin speaks specifically to the French Room’s dining policy, but honoring a reservation time is an industry-wide standard. Guests are allotted about an hour and a half for tea at the French Room, and when guests are behind, it cuts into their time to eat and drink.

If you’re late for your reservation, it bumps into all the reservations that follow yours. And that can sometimes interfere with your own service, Forbin says.

“If we have seven tables that come in at 11 o’clock, we are staffed for that, we are prepared for that,” she says. “But if you don’t show up until 30 minutes later, and we have several other tables, we’re not able to give you the best service.”

Be Mindful If You’ve Got a Big Group

Another reservation tip, especially if you’ve got a lot of people in your party, is to make sure all or most of the group can make it to the reservation, preferably at the same time, Forbin says.

Forbin recalls a party of 20 that had only four people show up on the day of the reservation with no notice. She names several reasons why this can be an issue.

Instead of taking up several tables, the group only took up one, which meant empty tables other guests could have booked. And not only did the restaurant have to prepare and organize the tables for the party, but they also had to redirect staff to tend to that reservation.

The kitchen, anticipating a larger party, likely prepared enough food for a large group, which all went to waste once it couldn’t be eaten, Forbin says.

For this reason, restaurants are turning to cancellation fees. Not all restaurants do this, but at a place like The French Room, it can sometimes mean being charged per head that doesn’t show up.

“Please” and “Thank You” Go a Long Way

It goes without saying that being kind and courteous to waitstaff is one of the best ways to be a good guest. And yes, that means saying “please” and “thank you” to your server.

“Although we’re servers and we’re serving you, we’re still human,” Forbin says. “We still have feelings.”

Forbin says customers who are kind usually receive the best service. And that’s because servers in any part of the industry appreciate it.

“It’s just human nature,” she says. “You want to gravitate where you feel good.”


Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Nataly Keomoungkhoun

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Nataly Keomoungkhoun joined D Magazine as the online dining editor in 2022. She previously worked at the Dallas Morning News,…

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