What's with the bell?
If you have never eaten at a Korean restaurant, I will fill you in on the call bell located on the edge of every table so you know how to use one when you find yourself at a Korean restaurant someday.
The call bell is basically telling your waiter that you need his/her service.
It's pretty ingenious in my opinion. It's actually not a bell that you ring but a button that you press that will make a bell sound, and your table number will be displayed on a screen.
If you're ready to order your food and you haven't seen your waiter walk by for awhile, press the button. If you need a refill on water and you've been waiting for a long time, press the button. When you're ready to pay and want the bill, press the button. You get the idea. Now you can see how this bell can be quite addicting because honestly who likes to wait around if you know you can call for assistance ASAP? However, there is an unspoken rule about how many times you should really press this magical button. Most people are respectful and don't abuse this and only really use it if they've been waiting longer than usual for their waiter to come around to check on them. I'm sure if you're an excessive button presser, your waiter will probably treat you like the boy who cried wolf. You don't want to be that person!
I've used the call bell many times. Of course, not at just one restaurant. My children and I eat out every Saturday night, and 9 times out of 10 we'll go to a Korean restaurant. I can't help it. I live in a city where I can drive less than a mile away and find myself at an authentic Korean restaurant.
The majority of Korean restaurants have the call bell system installed, but if you're eating at a smaller hole in the wall restaurant I doubt they'll have it. If the restaurant is small enough where you can just say, "Excuse me" and the one waiter working there turns his head, then most likely they won't have this feature.
Why do Koreans use the bell system?
As for the culture of Korean restaurant eating, there is no appetizer, entrée, dessert type of menu. You order your meal, and you are given your food + banchan which is the Korean word for side dishes. The banchan is included with your meal. Perhaps you can think of it as small appetizers that come out at the same time as your meal. After you are done eating your food, you are usually given your check with some fruit pieces or even a cup of shik-hae which is a sweet rice drink. That would essentially be your dessert.
So most Koreans just eat and leave. We don't chit chat and linger over dessert wine and creme brulee like Westerners, at least not the older generation. The bell system is put in place so as soon as the meal is over, the customer can press the button to get their check and leave. It's also a great tool to help restaurants provide quick service to customers without invading their privacy. Haven't you been in the situation where your waiter comes to check on you and you have a big mouthful of food in your mouth? Wrong timing, right? It's just an easier way to run business to call your waiter when needed
This is just my opinion. I have no knowledge of the restaurant industry, but if I ever did own a restaurant, I would implement the wireless bell/buzzer system. Seems like it would be worth the money!
I'd like to hear what you think!
Quentin Jobs from Bay Area California on January 16, 2020:
What a great article @xtinak. Thanks so much for sharing.
Travel Blogs from The world on July 23, 2012:
We just wrote about the Yogi-Yo Button on our blog ... we are currently in Busan and are loving those bells: http://busan.for91days.com/12/07/22/the-brilliance...
Service Buzz on April 08, 2012:
For a High Quality Table Bell Call System, you can visit: http://www.servicebuzz.ca
Jason on March 21, 2012:
That, and a really loud, electronic bell sound will play from speakers near that screen displaying the number.
xtinak (author) from LA LA Land on October 05, 2011:
@glass visage - once someone presses the button, the table number will be displayed on a screen..
glassvisage from Northern California on October 05, 2011:
I never noticed this before... I guess I've never been to a "real" Korean restaurant :) I think it's a great idea, but does the server just have to have a good ear to figure out which table rang the bell? How do they know which one?
xtinak (author) from LA LA Land on October 02, 2011:
cre8ivOne from Midwest, USA on October 02, 2011:
Very interesting xtinak!
I would love to check out a Korean restaurant sometime. The bell system seems like a useful tool as well. : )