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Restaurant rules abound from health departments around the world. Wash your hands. Handle food properly. Report illnesses. Provide access to your restaurant space. Health inspections are made and reports written – even listed in the newspaper. Restroom signs remind us that “All employees must wash their hands before returning to work” – and hopefully as a general habit even if not returning to work.

Restaurant rules for customers in the past were posted on the door: “No shoes, No shirt, No service.” This behavioral rule has evolved from clothing to attitudes that are uninvited and encouraged to dine elsewhere.

Witness, Red Gravy on Camp Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, Red Gravy has made clear how it feels about all people and their varying attitudes. Thanks to owner Roseann for taking a stand. This is the full quote from the Red Gravy menu.

“RED GRAVY WELCOMES EVERYONE! However, if you believe it is acceptable to condone hate, racism, and those equally abhorrent tenets inherent to the failed ideologies of both the white supremacy movement and the Nazi Party, we RESPECTFULLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO DINE ELSEWHERE. Hate is not welcome at Red Gravy. Fear provides the fuel. Silence gives it a home. TEACH PEACE.”  

This new form of restaurant rules for customers came to my attention while I traveled in New Orleans, Louisiana recently. I’ll call it the rule of kindness. Several restaurants and places of business had similar, although shorter, reminders. Such as:

  • “Be kind or leave.” Posted as a colorful wall plaque.
  • “Be nice or leave.”  Painted on a mural-covered chair for customers in a shopping mall.

As it turns out, this “be nice” movement has popped up in a variety of places: shopping, restaurants, and cities. In South Florida, seven restaurants went together to produce Be Nice bumper stickers that are now seen in cities around the world. Some cities (Miami Beach, Florida to Springfield, Oregon and places in between) have started Kindness Campaigns to focus residents on being kind to one another.

And from a FORBES magazine article in 2012, Rules for customers: “Of course, there are plenty of ‘rules’ for customers too, beginning with treating the staff respectfully and tipping appropriately at least in the U.S. and other countries where servers rely on tips. If there is a problem, say something politely and remember that the waiter probably isn’t the one who sets policy, manages the restaurant or cooks the food.  Also be courteous to people around you by not gabbing on your cell phone while dining. Finally, support policies that encourage adequate compensation and health insurance for all workers, including those who work in restaurants.”

What restaurant rules and workplace messages have you seen? What is your company communicating to customers about expectations? What are you supporting with your eating and shopping dollars?

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