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Your CheapEats Customer Service Charter

customer-service-charterBad service is endemic in Ireland, and there’s little or no agreed base line standards – until now.

We’ve taken the best and most popular of your suggestions and used them to compile the CheapEats Customer Service Charter. We hope it will be a handy guide when you’re eating out. We also hope that it will be useful for restaurants: it was compiled entirely by readers so we think it’s a good reflection of diners expect – and deserve – when eating out.

Let us know what you think of the Charter. Too harsh? Any startling omissions?

Jennifer, commenter number 18, wins a €35 GBK voucher for submitting the most original suggestions. Congratulations Jennifer, we’ll be in touch to let you know how to claim your prize.

We’ll announce the other three winners of our competition later today.

Eating out should be fun (Pic: Cheapeats)

CheapEats Customer Service Charter

1.      On arrival:

A friendly greeting, and a maitre’d or host to welcome you. If there’s going to a wait for a table, tell the customers; don’t leave them standing and wondering if they’re supposed to seat themselves.

2.      Tap water:

A jug of tap water supplied upon arrival, and filled up regularly without the need to ask; jealously guarding your tiny glass of water because you’ll have to keep calling waiting staff overshadows a meal.

3.      Communication:

Problem with the order or trouble in the kitchen? Let the customer know; it’s terrible to be kept waiting indefinitely. If something is off the menu, let the customer know long before they order.

4.      Know the Menu:

Waiting staff should know the menu and what it contains, especially in relation to allergens (in particular: dairy, flour, and nuts). Be able to recommend a dish and sides that go with it.

5.      Attentiveness:

·        Never leave a customer more than 5 minutes with a menu without checking they are ready to order.

·        Check in early on in the meal, so if the diner needs anything, ketchup, black pepper, or more drinks, they won’t have to wait to catch your attention.

·        Don’t avoid the customer! When they have been served, waiting staff should be prepared to keep eye contact with them and not look as if they are trying to avoid being asked for anything such as more water or black pepper.

·        Be on the ball to know when the customer is finished and ready to leave or order coffee/ dessert. Don’t leave a customer waiting more than three minutes when they order the bill, particularly at lunchtime.

6.      Mistakes with orders:

Perhaps the most common problem. If they mess up your order then you are entitled to send it back and have it replaced with the food you ordered. When you order you are entering into a contract – to pay for what you ordered. So, if it is wrong then all bets are off – the contract is not completed until the matter is resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. For small parties, take the food back so everyone can eat together, and offer a reduction or complimentary dessert/ coffee by means of compensation.

7.      Complaints:

·        Have an established procedure for dealing with customer complaints and train in your staff on it accordingly.

·        Have a set person or persons who deal with the complaints to ensure an understanding and civil reception for any complaint as well as to ensure each complaint is dealt with in the pre-established manner.

·        Restaurants may even consider stating their complaints procedure on the menu.

·        Staff should be understanding not defensive. Accept responsibility for errors, particularly errors with orders, and offer to make amends – reducing the bill or even offering a complimentary drink can go a long way.

8. Doggie bags:

Reduce food waste – a win-win for the customer and the restaurant – and offer customers the chance to bring their leftovers home.

And a special suggestion from Jennifer

Computers these days make it easy enough to set up a customer database. It’s worth maintaing – it can tell servers if the customer is a returning one and also alert them to any previous complaints made by the customer so the same mistakes can be avoided.

It’s nice to be recognised as a regular customer and it can useful to the restaurant to see any patterns in complaints.


  1. That looks good, I especially like Jennifer’s suggestion. The only thing I disagree with is this point:

    “Never leave a customer more than 5 minutes with a menu without checking they are ready to order.”

    I don’t think there should be a hard and fast time limit here. It can take quite a while to choose what to eat, especially if meeting friends for a meal and everyone is chatting at the same time as looking at the menu.

    I think a better idea would be to look out for signs that people are ready, eg. menus closed, laid down etc. and take their order when it is clear everyone is ready.

    Being rushed into ordering is worse than waiting to order in my view.

  2. Oh! I forgot to comment the first time, but don’t leave your diners waiting at the end of a meal. I HATE when you’re either waiting for the bill, or waiting to pay for it and all the staff have that special technique of avoiding your stare turned up to 10.

  3. I think we need a “Waiter Service Charter” next to tell diners how waiters want them to act – I was struggling to get the attention of a waitress on Mon night, until hubbie suggested closing the menu! Waitress was there within a minute to take the order!

  4. How customers should behave in restaurants? Good idea Elly!

  5. Glad to see guidelines for prompt delivery of the bill. Often you’re rushing to catch am event or meet friends and it’s so frustrating when you have to wait for the bill, then wait for the money to be collected, then wait for the change or for the card machine to appear.

    A nice touch would be if the card machine was delivered with the bill so it could be paid immediately. A waiter should use common sense though to judge if a group is going to split the bill or a date is going to have an argument about who is paying and in that case leave the bill for a few minutes.