‘We’ve changed and so have our restaurants’: The new rules for eating out in Australia | Australian food and drink

The question we don’t ask ourselves as diners enough is, “Am I being unreasonable?”

Unfortunately, a lot of reliable old school restaurants are choosing to close rather than renew leases. And can you blame them? Many of these owners claim that fatigue is the problem. And what the burnout means is continually putting their health at risk by working in a public-facing role, while addressing rising food costs, rising rents, angry customers and labor shortages nationwide as there are 52,000 hospitality jobs to fill. These numbers place hospitality as one of the most important industries experiencing a labor crisis, alongside healthcare. Demand for workers is at an all-time high.

Unsurprisingly, after being locked in our homes for long periods of time, we forgot how to eat. But what may be surprising is that a new generation of restaurant employees make up most of the workforce as well. It’s green, it’s been dumped in the deep end, and it’s hard to get guidance.

As much as we like to go out and think that everything was as we left it, it is not. We have changed and so have the restaurants. So, how should we act to make sure we can continue to eat out tomorrow?

Many established restaurants have closed because hospitality is facing a labor crisis. Photo: Joel Carrett/AAP

The obvious: book a table and read the soft line

Remember when everyone was grumbling en masse about how restaurants didn’t take reservations anymore and we longed for the good old days? Well, they are back. Thanks to the pandemic, restaurants are still unlikely to pack diners, should dinner turn out to be a super-distribution event, infecting floor staff, and needing to close for a week.

It has become standard practice for restaurants to ask for a credit card number to secure a reservation. If you sacrifice your details, you will be limited to not seeing what they can be used for – especially if you have uneasy friends. If you agree to charge everyone for a last-minute no-show, you shouldn’t be upset when that happens.


Like all successful relationships, good communication leads to better experiences. Does your group have allergies? Tell the restaurant when you book. There is no way the kitchen can serve you a delicious on-the-go menu when they are already late, understaffed and firing courses for every other table in the place.

Do you want to sit in a certain place because you like it? Ask when making a reservation. Has someone suddenly been infected with one of the millions of viruses circulating? Tell the restaurant before you show up. Are you celebrating something? Tell them! Need to get out early because you have a show? Please tell them. Am I late? You know the answer to this question.

Diners sit at tables inside a restaurant in Chinatown, Melbourne.
Diners at a restaurant in Chinatown, Melbourne. Connecting with a restaurant will lead to a better experience. Photo: Asanka Ratnayake / Getty Images

Be on time

This was applied before the pandemic, but it has never been more important. If your table is rebooked for a second or even a third seat and you are given time outside, this is not a suggestion.

There is an effect flowing from your being late, and this causes pressure on the floor and in the kitchen to get your meal faster, so people after you are not punished for doing the right thing. Paying to speed up service is an act that can only be controlled by experienced employees. Industry novices are not as efficient as retirees and have not yet developed the confidence to speed an order through the kitchen. So, if you are late, you will make everyone late.

You can ask when the next table will arrive but keep in mind that once you leave your table will have to be cleaned, sanitized and reset. You can’t just play musical chairs. It is said, industry he is Hospitality and staff always try to be hospitable. So, if the team reads the room correctly and is able to switch people, they will let you know that you can stay longer. Just don’t assume it can happen every time.

Workers prepare food at Nobu Japanese restaurant at Crown Sydney
The kitchen in Nobu, Sydney. When diners are late, it has a flush effect on the chefs. Photo: Joel Carrett/AAP

be patient

You know how you got past lockdown, thought about your life choices and decided it was time to get a new job or quit your field entirely to do what you love? Well, this happened in hospitality. In addition, a large part of the international workforce has returned home and it is very difficult to sponsor new international workers now.

This means that you are served by fewer people, who may not have worked in the hospitality business before. Everyone runs a little slower, they’re a little clumsy, they’re learning on the job and prone to making one or two mistakes. Please, be kind and understanding. It’s not the end of the world if your drink takes two minutes longer than everyone else’s drink – in the worst case scenario, just remind your server. I guarantee you they will apologize profusely. If you scare the next generation, who will be there to serve you next week?

show up

It pains me to write this, but after speaking to a few restaurateurs they all mentioned a huge number of no-shows. Even when sending confirmation texts and acknowledgment emails. One of the owners told me that he texted someone half an hour after their table arrived, and got the reply, “Nah, brah, you’re not coming. JF don’t feel like that.” After warning the customer that he will be charged to cover the minimum labor and food cost Wasted, the owner discovered that the card had already exceeded the limit. Food waste annoys any restaurateur, especially with soaring costs – and they’ve already prepared it for you to eat. If you don’t show up, you’re setting someone else’s money on fire.

Workers cleaning tables for outdoor dining
Outdoor tables at Sambandha Nepalese restaurant in Auburn, Sydney. Remember that staff have limited time to turn the tables between sessions. Photo: Joel Carrett/EPA

But what if the experience was really horrific?

We have all been here. It’s a holiday night for the front and back of the house. The bar couldn’t get your drinks properly. You are left standing in the cold waiting for your table to turn over (see point three). The service was absent. Warm cold food arrived and hot food arrived cold. It took a long time to push and you felt like you were left to die in the corner.

Raised by the cover of wolves
Raised by wolves, by Jess Ho. Photo: press confirmed

Management should be able to see this and you will get hurt on the inside watching your table receive a substandard experience. If they don’t put out a million fires, they will most likely approach your table, apologize, take your notes and collect you some drinks or send dessert to your table. If you can give their feedback right away, don’t make a scene. If management is down with the ship, try calling instead of calling. Email or call the restaurant to let them know your experience. Determine what went wrong in the coolest way possible. They can always track your table to confirm your story, use your notes to retrain the staff, and most likely invite you back to dinner at them. If there is anything a restaurant wants, it proves to you that they can do a better job.

Companies have been struggling to survive Covid, give them a chance to change your mind before venting your frustrations on Google.

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