Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Things Servers Should Never Do

The NY Times had an interesting article today about things restaurant servers should never do. A few that caught my eye:

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4. If a table is not ready within a reasonable length of time, offer a free drink and/or amuse-bouche. The guests may be tired and hungry and thirsty, and they did everything right.

This one is so simple and yet so few restaurants live up to it. I used to love Shaun’s, until they made me wait 2 hours past my reservation on New Year’s Eve without so much as an offer of drinks or apps. It was not until we complained that they started comping things. I’d have a lot more good will for them after that if they’d headed off my anger rather than trying to come in after the fact and fix it.

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.

There’s nothing worse than having an intense conversation, and a waiter is just standing over your shoulder waiting to interject. If I look like I’m fully engrossed in conversation, don’t come over yet. Staring at me silently doesn’t count as not interrupting. If it just seems like light banter and there aren’t any gaps, fine, jump in when you can, but try to gauge what’s going on.

17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.

My father is famous in our family for eating his meal with such speed, that he’s already cleared his plate and put it in the dishwasher before the rest of us have put a dent in the meal. Meals are for conversation, sharing, bonding, and it’s hard to do that if one person looks like they’re ready to leave at any moment. Plus it’s awkward for the person still eating. it somehow implies they’re eating too slow and they should hurry up because the waiter wants to turn the table.

40. Never say, “Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad.

We laughed our butts off at Bhojanic in Decatur when our very animated waiter nearly had a seizure from the excitement of exposing us to our first thali. “Ohohohoho,” he said as he grinned ear to ear and nodded his head with a fervor. “Are you in for a treat!” I’m ok with this kind of affirmation of my order because if nothing else it’s is hilarious, but I can see the point that it makes the other person wonder why their order didn’t elicit squeals of delight. Seriously, though, go to Bhojanic. You’ll know this waiter when you see him. Brilliant!

51-100 are being published next week, but in the meantime, I wanted to add a couple of my own.

  • Don’t ask if we’ve been there before – does it matter? I only want an explanation of the menu if there’s something unusual about it. I can figure out appetizers, entrees and desserts myself.
  • If I ask you for what your favorite dishes are, I want a real answer. Usually I get one, but occasionally I get a waiter who hedges and won’t commit to anything. I asked because I really want to know. It’s not a state secret, is it? I promise you won’t offend me by preferring the steak to the chicken.
  • Don’t ask me to hurry up with the check just because your restaurant has a long wait. I once waited outside in a freezing NY winter to eat at Friend of a Farmer for brunch, only to be asked to turn the table over the moment we took our last bite. I waited my turn, I should at least get to enjoy a little post-meal digestion time. I won’t sit around forever, I promise – the dirty glares from other waiting patrons would guilt me enough to hurry me along!

Read the full list here:

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

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