A COMPANY canteen across the road from our office where my colleagues and I go for lunch has just implemented the "clean up after you eat" ruling recently.
I was not aware of it after not having been there for several weeks. When I was at the canteen recently, several notices in Mandarin caught my attention, so I asked one of my colleagues what they were about.
My colleague said the notices requested patrons to clear their tables after meals. Pails were placed in the dining area.
Those who had finished eating, I noticed, would dutifully clear their tables of the utensils and put them in the pails.
Prior to this, a canteen worker used to go around cleaning the tables. Whenever there was a large crowd, two workers would be assigned to the task so that those who had just come in to take their meals would have a place to sit and eat.
Someone said the canteen was facing manpower shortage and the new ruling was put in place. It was the most intelligent thing I have seen in an eatery. The few days that my colleagues and I were there, not one person disobeyed the ruling. After their meals, patrons would drop the dirty plates, forks, spoons, and cups into the pails. Those who were not aware of the ruling were gently reminded to do so.
I remember at one time, fast food restaurants used to ask patrons to do the same. Those who had finished eating would clear their tables and drop trays of leftovers into a special bin. Whenever I saw diners at fast food restaurants clearing their own tables, I will praise their good habits to my children and urged them to do the same.
These days, such scenarios are rare. In many fast food restaurants I have been to, most customers order, eat and just leave their leftovers and dirty plates on the table to be cleared by the waiters and waitresses.
The reason many are not clearing the tables is because they think that cleaning the tables is part of the restaurant's service.
An excuse given by many people I asked is that if one has to pay service tax, then why should one do the restaurant operator's work? They failed to see, however, that the simple act also reflects civic mindedness.
For example, like one incident I witnessed in a fast food outlet at MRRII some time back. This fast food restaurant, which is located near the Karak highway, was understaffed.
The kitchen and counter crew members had been trying to cope with a sudden surge of customers that morning when a woman customer stormed into the premises and demanded that a table that she had chosen for her family be cleared.
When the counter staff said that it would be done as soon as someone was available, the woman raised her voice and berated the chap, before giving a lecture on good service. She even threatened to report the matter to the management if no one cleared the table.
Finally, not wishing to create a scene, the counter staff member apologised to the customers waiting in queue so that he could clear the table for the angry woman.
As the woman walked after the staff member to her table, an elderly gentleman in the queue muttered "kurang sopan" (lacking in manners) rather loudly. I was sure the woman heard it.
But whether the remark had embarrassed her sufficiently to make her think twice about being inconsiderate the next time she walks into a fast food restaurant, who knows?