Friday, November 13, 2009

As Promised, 100 Things For Restaurant Staffers (The Truth, Part 1)

Although he has titled his missive to restaurant staff in general, the opening paragraph makes it clear that this list of 100 do’s and don’ts is directed squarely at “the servers” in his under construction seafood restaurant.

To be sure, not every edict he issues is wrong or misdirected, and some are just common sense items that every restaurant should make an effort to enforce, but some of them just scream for a response. If for no other reason than they have generated a huge response from hundreds and hundreds of commenters wherever they were re-posted or discussed.

Here’s my take on the First 50:

#3. Has absolutely nothing to do with the waiter or waitress. They do not decide when or where a table is sat, and seating an incomplete party is not even at the discretion of the host or hostess. This is a management policy, and the reason for it has to do with maximizing the number of covers (read: dollars) you can do in the peak hours. I can start here because if the imaginary “tip meter” that so many diners claim they possess has begun ticking lower; you are already blaming the wrong person.

#4. Again, this is not something most waiters can decide to do, nor can most door hosts. Not sure about a Maitre d’. If you are kept waiting for your reservation, something has gone wrong at the front door or with the reservation booker. Not with the waiter.

#6. Just silly. The restaurant (and the waiter) is trying to sell you things. THAT’S THEIR JOB. It’s a simple, and very common, technique to try subtle “tricks” to get you to buy, and that includes making tap water “seem” like the “poor” choice. This is exactly like the grocery store putting the least expensive items on the bottom shelf. The eye-level is reserved for maximum profit. IT’S BUSINESS, you’re not being insulted and you are an adult. Get over it.

#7-9. Here’s where we go off the rails. While I agree, I don’t need to get the waiter’s name; some people (see all the comments) really like it. Some people are in no mood for “cuteness and jokes” and some are quite friendly and up for a good time. And how is the waiter supposed to be cold and efficient (no jokes, no flirting) and then not be “robotic” reciting the specials? You either want the show or you don’t want the show, but the waiter can’t be expected to turn it on and off line by line whatever the mood of the diners (keep in mind there’s a good chance we could be talking about 6 or more tables with near 40 or more individual people) or wherever we happen to be in the eating out process. And jumping in to a conversation to get even a drink order is like successfully executing Double Dutch, it is enormously difficult and multiplied by several tables over the course of a busy night, it’s amazing it gets done at all. And I won’t even discuss the times when the waiter is COMPLETELY IGNORED by a table that (for whatever reason) refuses to respond when approached. What in the world does one do with that?

#17. This elicited probably the biggest response in the comments. And I will say on paper, I agree. Restaurant meals were usually more elaborate, consisting of (basically) an appetizer, salad, main and dessert course. Usually, everyone was served all the courses, even if they opted not to eat every one. That was when it was desirable and appropriate to serve and clear a course all at once, getting the table and diners prepared for the next one. Today, dinner is more of a mix and match, where appetizers are rarer and not everyone orders a salad. Many times it’s a glass of wine and an entrée. So courses, and the collective clearing of them, are becoming a lost art. Also, when the plates are cleared is again sometimes a management decision and not in the hands of the waiters. I managed a well-known (not fine dining) restaurant where I was instructed by the GM and the owners to get the plates cleared as soon as people were done eating. So that’s what I encouraged the staff to do, even though I disagreed. And if you read the comments attached to the original column, there are more than a few people who want their plate gone after they are done. They HATE having to sit and look at their cold dirty plate while others are finishing. Do we enforce the rule and let them fume? What if that’s the guy (or girl) that will pay the bill and tip? THAT’S the customer that is always right in my book.

#19. Again, not up to the waiter. That is a policy set by the manager/owners. P.S. If you don’t get automatic seconds on the bread without asking that is usually a management decision as well.

#23. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Aside from the ridiculous idea of a busy waiter on a Saturday night having the time to STEAM THE LABEL off a bottle of wine, how exactly would he accomplish this? Hold it over a boiling soup pot in the kitchen? You want to see a chef kick a waiter’s ass? Here’s an idea, how about these supposed high-end customers in this supposed fine dining restaurant do something with their fancy new IPhones besides text message during dinner (or worse, take a call at the table) and try something wacky. like making a note about the bottle of wine they just enjoyed. Are these grown-ups we are waiting on or helpless little kids?

#24. Many many scotch drinkers would completely go insane if I didn’t refill the glass they are using

#26. Your white wine is going to be kept chilled in a bucket. If you don’t want that, say so.

#31. There is any number of reasons why a diner didn’t eat all or even half of his or her food. Calling undue attention to this could be potentially rude and/or embarrassing. A simple question such as, “was everything all right?” is much much better than the confrontational “what went wrong?”

#32. Ridiculous. Sometimes a simple touch on the shoulder is preferable to getting someone to move out of the way rather than dumping a tray of food or drinks on them. I have had people back right up in to me and if I didn’t use my hand to stop them it would have been a disaster.

#42. Ridiculous (Part 2!) I have complemented women on a fabulous outfit or a gravity defying pair of pumps on many many occasions. As a gay man I will defend with my life the right to do so! And besides, most women in Manhattan haven’t spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on shoes or an outfit just to have no one notice, and an approving nod from a gay waiter or bartender is the ultimate compliment.

#46. See #42. If Victoria Beckham parks her skinny and perfectly outfitted ass down at my table she is most certainly not equal to everyone else. If David Beckham sits next to her it’s “Victoria who?”

Coming up, the next 50.

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