Here are some better ways to address dine-in customers

As staffing struggles continue, some foodservice workers might not receive hospitality training, resulting in insensitive or annoying language that can also inhibit sales, Advice Guy says.
Operations should conduct regular hospitality training, Advice Guy says. / Photo: Shutterstock


My husband and I enjoy eating in restaurants of all types and price points. For years now, we’ve been annoyed by almost every server looking at our mostly eaten meals and saying, “Are you still working on that?”

My husband tells the server that if he is working, he wants to get paid. They always look at him blankly. If it’s just me, I’ll say that I’m not “working," but I’m still “enjoying" my meal.

Is there any way you can get the word out to restaurants that it is nonsensical and rude for servers to ask customers if they are “working” on their meals?

– Barbara Young, guest


Yes! Over the years I have developed a long list of pet peeves as a guest as well. While for me, “still working on that” isn’t one of them, I can see how it rubs you the wrong way.

After all, the goals of the hospitality industry are to make guests comfortable while generating revenue. Annoying a guest with off-putting language accomplishes neither. For me, it’s the greeting “you guys” for all occasions.

In these days of just being grateful for adequate staffing, servers in many operations miss the hospitality training they might have gotten, resulting in insensitive or annoying language that can also inhibit sales.

Here are some examples, starting with yours, along with suggested alternatives and an explanation of why these suggestions might work better:

Instead of



“Are you still working on that?”

“Are you still enjoying your dish?”

More accurate and reminds the guest they are in a hospitality environment.

“You guys” as in “Are you guys ready to order?”

“You/your” (it’s plural already!) as in “May I take your order?” or “Are you ready to order?”

Inclusive and less informal.

“Can I get you anything else?”

“I would recommend our chocolate cake paired with coffee or an after-dinner drink.”

Avoiding yes or no questions helps avoid an easy “no;” builds in a sales opportunity as well as hospitality.

“No problem.”

“My pleasure.”

Reinforces hospitality and appreciation.

My overall advice is that operations conduct regular sales training. It’s a modest expense that, in my experience, generates immediate return on investment with the right trainer.

A small part of that training is encouraging servers to use language that puts guests at ease, resulting in a better experience, increased sales and better word of mouth.

More on positive hospitality-oriented language here.



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