6 Things I Learned Working At A Toronto Restaurant That You Should Know Before Dining Out
Toronto restaurants are great for a night out, but do you know the secrets of the trade?
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
I worked in the restaurant industry as a teenager and into my early 20s, and there are a couple of things every customer should know before dining out, even at the best restaurants .
In 2019 I worked at a popular restaurant on Adelaide Street as a hostess, setting and cleaning tables, running food and organizing reservations.
I pulled long shifts in heels and an uncomfortable dress to make money while at Toronto Metropolitan University , and through the gruelling hours of work, I learned a couple of trade secrets, from cleanliness to how to score the best table and minimize your wait time at the door.
Here are six secret tips on optimizing your restaurant experience from a former Toronto hostess.
No matter how long you are quoted stay in eye sight
On Fridays and Saturdays, the restaurant I worked at would have a line up out the door, and I'd routinely quote people without reservations two to three-hour wait times.
My waitlist would stretch up to 50 groups long, and while some people made it their life mission to argue their way in, I always tried to help guests who were polite and waited in eyesight.
Usually, when a waitlist is that long, it means the restaurant is already booked up for the night, and if a table comes up, you'll need to claim it ASAP or lose it to the next group.
So if you're quoted a long wait and really want to eat there, be prepared to stand nearby and politely check in with your hostess every now and then for the best chance at sitting down early.
Expect some pests
You may not see them, but they're probably there.
Despite the restaurant I worked in keeping a clean kitchen and space, there was always the odd cockroach or mouse scurrying around, especially after dark.
The reality of living in a big city is that pests are going to be an issue.
Now I'm not saying it's not gross, but it's more common than you think... and any table that spotted one usually got their bill taken care of or at least a couple of freebies.
Don't be the weird regular
Every restaurant has regular guests who develop relationships with the staff.
I had two graphic designers at my first restaurant job that would come in once or twice a week for lunch, and I'd sit down with them for at least 10 minutes to chat.
I loved seeing them, and I always ensured they had the best table, quick service and a free dessert occasionally.
But that's because they were the kind of regulars who remembered my name and were always polite.
I've also dealt with regulars that trapped me in lingering hugs every time they saw me, which usually had me running the other way – safe to say they didn't get the same perks.
Build a relationship with your restaurant workers, tip well and be kind, and they'll scratch your back too.
Don't seat yourself
Just because you see an open table does not mean it's free, so don't seat yourself unless a sign tells you otherwise.
Chances are the section you've sat in doesn't have a server assigned to it, so you'll be waiting a long time to get service, or you will just have to move for a reservation anyways.
(Also, the table may not have been cleaned.... trust me, it's better to wait.)
Wipe down your cutlery
All your cutlery has been washed, but at my work, we stored it in a big bin that we all grabbed from, so chances are dozens of people had touched the utensils in one night.
I've also seen a knife slip off of a table onto the ground and back up onto a napkin one too many times while setting tables.
So before you dive into your next meal, you may want to give your fork and knife a quick wipe.
Workers don't get real breaks so cut them one
When I was in the restaurant industry, I regularly worked eight to nine-hour shifts with a 15-minute break as a hostess, and most servers were lucky if they had a chance to sneak a couple of fries in the break room.
Working in a restaurant is the hardest job I've ever had, and between cleaning toilets and dealing with upset customers, sometimes even the sunniest disposition can crack.
So be friendly to your restaurant workers, and If they seem swamped or tired, maybe cut them a break on forgetting your extra ketchup sauce and ask again nicely.
I promise you'll get better service if you treat restaurant workers like friends rather than servants.