One of the biggest problems I have with restaurant service these days is the "fake service:"
- Waiters who suggest “superior” entrees, as though they’re offering you an inside tip on a winning horse. If the entrees weren’t all good, they wouldn’t be on the menu.
- Waiters who congratulate you on your choice, as though you clearly have a keen culinary eye. I know what I want, I don’t need validation.
- Waiters who return to the table again and again, interrupting your meal or dinner conversation, to ask if everything is OK. If it wasn’t OK, you’d already know.
- Managers who creep up to the table just to make sure the waiter has been asking you if everything is OK often enough. If it wasn’t OK, the waiter would have told you about it.
The amount of service a waiter is able to perform for a customer is limited, which limits the opportunity to do it well:
- Service must be prompt, with an understanding that there are busy times in restaurants and times when they are short-handed. If service isn’t prompt, waiters have to expect a reduction in tips, even if it’s not their fault.
- Service must be accurate. Duh. If you can’t get the orders straight, find another line of work.
- Waiters must be knowledgeable, able to answer questions about the items on the menu and how they are prepared. Waiters must know before they take an order if a menu item is no longer available. However, waiters can fake knowledge about wine, because wine snobs are just bullshit artists anyway.
- Service must be flexible, allowing for the little peculiarities of diners. Salad dressing on the side? No problem. No onions? Just remove them. Whole wheat toast instead of hash browns? Yes, sir.
- Eyes in the back of your head. Waiters must be able to spot an unhappy diner from across the room, at any moment, drop what they’re doing and race to the rescue. There’s nothing more frustrating than discovering you don’t have silverware and spending ten minutes trying to flag down your waiter who is rushing around and NOT LOOKING while the gravy on your steak is slowly coagulating.
- Personality. If you’re good at what you do, and it’s a busy night, you won’t spend much time at the table with your guests. So you have a brief period of time to make your guests feel welcome. However, you’re not auditioning for a part in a movie, so know when to shut up. If you don’t have a personality, please don’t try to manufacture one, it’s always a horrible failure.
- Obsessive attention to detail. Nothing makes a better impression than a waiter who handles things you didn’t even expect them to handle. Once, while having coffee after a meal, I poured some cream into my cup. The waiter, rushing by with a tray of drinks for another table, ducked and grabbed my cup from me before I could stir it. He quickly returned with another cup of coffee and another pitcher of cream, because he had noticed that the cream was curdling in my coffee, indicating that it had gone sour. Now THAT was a waiter.
When diners are seated, they will find a slip of paper on the table, containing a list of service objectives the restaurant is trying to achieve, each with a little space to write in an amount. So a list might look like this:
- Waiter arrived promptly__________
Drink order taken and delivered correctly__________
Waiter courteous and knowledgeable__________
Meal arrived within a reasonable time__________
Order accurate and complete__________
Oh, and there will be one last item on the list:
- Guy who thought this up________