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How Respecting Hospitality Staff Works to Your Professional Advantage

- Written by Janika LeMaitre -


In episode eleven of season four of Sex and the City, Samantha Jones meets Lucy Liu for a business lunch at a high-end restaurant in New York City. Both women are dressed to impress, and Samantha’s goal is to persuade Lucy to hire her public relations firm. Very discreetly, Samantha signs the check; then Lucy snatches it from her hands, checking how much she tipped, “25%? Very nice.” She’s impressed with the overall lunch experience, and gracious tip, and ends up hiring Samantha.

Your treatment of hospitality staff from the valets, hosts, waiters, managers, and any other members of the establishment, will be noticed by whoever you are entertaining.

You have two choices, you can treat them poorly and show little appreciation, or you could establish yourself as someone who treats all people with respect. I obviously clearly recommend the latter. How you can do this is simple: maintain good eye contact; shake hands; ask how the person you are interacting with is doing; always be genuine with your interactions.

The interaction with staff does not have to go on for very long, just enough time to make them know they are valued. They are! This is the perfect opportunity to show that you have a good character.

One way that you can show respect is by ensuring that you don’t stay at a table for too long after you eat. Since wait staff generally work on tips, it is polite to leave on time. Lunch is expected to be one to one and a half hours. Dinner is approximately two hours. If you know that you might stay longer, please tell the wait staff in advance and tip extra for their time.

Avoid clicking your fingers or whistling to draw attention and receive service. These are not welcome gestures and are considered very rude in most western countries.

With host staff, should you frequent the restaurant often and your ‘usual’ table is ready for you, on time – exactly how you like it – it’s courteous to tip a small amount to show appreciation for their service. You’d be very surprised when you get to know the hosts and how wonderful it can be for both parties. They appreciate being appreciated in the same way you do when you do your job well and take pride. Your guests will be sure to feel a positive energy.

The kitchen staff is essential and many restaurants are now recognizing this practice on the check by adding an additional amount for extra services like this. It’s acceptable in this part of the world, so make sure to expect the added fee.

Polished point: One way to show respect to the chef is to ask the wait staff to give your compliments to the chef when you enjoy a meal. It is ingratiating to make the chef feel proud of their work.

If you know you’re driving and will need to use the valet, make sure to have cash. If you’d like your car and your transmission back in one piece, then it’s best to tip well. Often you’ll have one valet park your car, and another bring it back. I always tip both valets but tip the first valet you meet if you are in a bind. It’s an acceptable practice in many countries.

Lastly, many countries do not welcome tips. Like in Japan, it can be considered offensive. When you travel, check with the hotel concierge or look online at Lonely Planet for specifics.

Just remember, the next time you go out to eat, don’t take anyone in service for granted. When you authentically show respect to the establishment’s staff, you will also strengthen your reputation with your guests.


About the author, Janika LeMaitre

Jan is a certified etiquette advisor, specializing in personal brand strategy. Her mission is to provide life-changing soft skills for business owners and industry trail-blazers to self-manage and evolve their reputation. Jan is certified with the Protocol School of Washington® and The British School of Excellence™. In addition, she is the board president of Women's Business Group Connects, and as a second-generation Rotarian, proudly serves as a board director at the Rotary Club of Weston & Wayland.

Download your complimentary copy of Jan's "Handling Gender-Neutral Pronouns With Style" quick guide here.


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