Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Guide to Modern Dining Etiquette part 6: Your Server

Well we went through the long wait in the restaurant lobby.  We made our way to our table.  Did you ever think so much was going on just to get you to that table?  Most likely not.  If you have not read the first Five Modern Dining Etiquette articles you may want to do so.  We have been making our way from home to the table and learning all the subtle nuances and work it takes to get you there.  I started this series because I have served food to the public for more than 16 years and it never ceases to amaze me at the lack of manners from the guests and the lack of professionalism in the Food Service Industry.  So now you know where I am coming from and where we are headed.  Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts below, I would love to hear some of your own story's!
OK back to the story.  You are all seated and even the kids are tucked into their seats and momentarily distracted by the new surroundings.  Your server has greeted you and went over any specials or offers and is now asking for a drink order.  This is where as a diner you need to consider where you are and how busy it is around you.  Nothing is worse for a server than being busy and getting held up at a table.  Even if it is slow it is terribly awkward to stand at a table in silence.  "What the heck?  I just got triple sat,  and now you are holding me up!  Just tell me you need more time!"  As a guest I understand that you have undoubtedly had bad service somewhere. You asked for that side of dressing but now your done with the salad and the server shows up with the dressing as you push the plate to the end of the table.  Did you notice that the sever greeted a table just after you asked for the side of dressing and that table kept them there for five minutes?  Probably not, you should be enjoying good company and conversation.  Just keep in mind if it is busy service slows down.  If you want a more slow paced and engaging meal you should eat early during the week.
After quickly deciding weather to order drinks or asking for more time, it is time to get to the menu.  Now as a server if you are busy this is where knowing your menu can come in very handy.  When suggesting dishes at your introduction or if asked to recommend a dish, recommend a quick and simple one.  I takes pressure off of  you and the kitchen.  As a guest don't walk into a full service restaurant on a Saturday night order a well done 20 ounce steak then tell the server "We have 20 minutes to make a movie."  If you are in a restaurant to slow down and enjoy yourself don't let the server rush you.  Let them know you want to relax.  A good server will find a way to ask what kind of service you are looking for. 
Hopefully if it is a new restaurant for you your server can guide you through the menu and help you make some great dining choices.  You should not be afraid to try something new.  Some establishments will be happy to replace the meal if you did not like it.  Some will not though so it is always best to ask. 

Now for the dreadful order error.  It happens.  It seems to happen to me every time I go to a certain McDonald's location here in Wichita Falls.  I don't eat fast food if I can avoid it but sometimes I just want a Quarter Pounder and Fries.  Now I could get all angry and be rude and snobby but I don't.  I think to myself am I just the unlucky guest or do they mess up all the time?  More likely I am just that unlucky guest so I deal with it with manners.  It does no one any good to freak out.  It's just going to raise every one's emotional level and you wont get the fix any faster.

As a server I always own my mistakes.  I also own the kitchen mistakes.  I mean that in two ways, I claim them personally, and get blamed for them.  It has been my experience that the guest never believes the kitchen is at fault.  Most of the time it is a server error but the kitchen messes up just as well, just not as often in a good kitchen.  As a server you need to own it as I said.  You can not abandon the table out of fear or embarrassment.  That is the worst thing you could do.  I shows a lack of care or concern and a lack of confidence.  Get your manager involved and continue as if nothing ever happened, once you start that downward spiral it can be near impossible to pull back up and end the shift on a high note.

A good restaurant will take care of you and do everything in their power to insure that you come back!  The restaurant I work for goes the extra mile when mistakes are made and we do our best to make sure you leave happy and have forgotten all about the speed bump in your dinning experience.  I guess it just rolls right around to the same point as before, use your manners.

If you handle a mistake with class the server is way more likely to make sure the correction is made promptly.  No one needs to have a their blood pressure raise a point or two and cause a scene.  If you make the mistake admit it and move on, you are a professional after all. 

Love Food, Live Life!