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Is It Hot In Here?

If the weather where you live is like most of the country right now, it is hot. Not just a little hot, but repressively hot. I read recently that the Midwest has experienced higher temperatures for more consecutive days than during the dust bowl era. It is the sort of hot spell that makes you not even want to cook. This may lead you to want to go to a restaurant instead. The restaurant industry appreciates this instinct with open, but sweaty arms.

The intense heat does take a toll on restaurant employees as well. We hope to provide a respite for you from the heat. Physics does not always allow us to do so. After working for a few weeks in this heat, I have determined that some diners need a refresher on basic etiquette when dealing with the heat. We appreciate you and want you to be happy, but there are a few items you may need to keep in mind about dining out in the heat.

The Air Conditioner Is Not Broken: No less than three times over the last two weeks have I been asked by guests if the air conditioner is broken. According to ac service experts that we hired, the ductless mini split air conditioning system works fine under normal circumstances, but this weather is clearly not normal. When you walked in, you let in a large amount of hot air. This air recently has been in the 100-degree range. Duplicate that for everyone else in the dining room. In order to cook your food, we have fryers, grills, burners, and ovens all operating at over 350 degrees in the kitchen. This is a lot for an air conditioner to compete with.

The body heat alone from the guests in the restaurant is a huge source of heat. This can range up to 450 watts per person. Roughly the equivalent of 6 light bulbs per person or nearly twice the wattage of those light bulbs used to heat up the bathroom in a hotel room. It is not that the restaurant’s air conditioner cannot keep up, but no air conditioner can. They have a name for an air conditioning installation that can keep a room that cold. They are called refrigeration units. The only solution is to lock the doors, turn off the ovens, and send everyone home. My boss assures me this would be bad for business though.

Have A Little Sympathy: Before you complain about the heat to your server consider a few things. How does your outfit compare to theirs? How does the amount of activity you are doing compare to what they are doing? How does your seat compare to the heat lamp in the kitchen that is five feet away from all of that 350+ degree equipment I mentioned earlier. That is where your will be waiting for the chef to finish your meal. While you were in your air-conditioned car on the way to the restaurant, they were serving another table. When your car cools down on the way home, they will still be in the dining room serving another table. Your server won’t complain about the heat, because they are glad they don’t have to be in the kitchen cooking the meal. Even while they run around in long pants, a long sleeved shirt, and tie, they are relatively fortunate to be in the room you are thinking of complaining about.

Be Mindful Of The Patio: Patios are a mixed blessing for servers. On cool nights, they provide a great opportunity for more servers to work and make money. In 100-degree heat, they are a nightmare. Servers will often be required to sit at the restaurant for hours to make certain that no one will sit on the patio. This is done in 44 states at a wage far below minimum wage. The only thing worse than being sent home with no tips, is being forced to stay because one table chose to sit outside. The only thing worse is the table that does so will often complain about the heat. The only reason the server is there, and not sitting in their air conditioned home, is because you chose to sit on the patio. This was your choice and not one you should feel entitled to complain about.

Various types of workers are afforded protections against working under the conditions that restaurant employees are being asked to during this heat wave. We appreciate you dining with us. We want you to leave as happy as possible. We wish as much as you do that the temperature was lower. Trust me when I say it is no more enjoyable to work in a hot room than it is to dine in one. The weather will return to normal soon, but please show some consideration in the meantime. This will be greatly appreciated by your sweaty server.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is the creator of The Hospitality Formula Network, a series of websites dedicated to all aspects of the restaurant industry. He is also the author of the book Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips and Building Your Brand With Facebook.

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