Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Ever Happened to the Art of Serving?

WARNING: Major venting session ahead!

I was not always an indie author.  I have worked at many jobs, including over 20 years in sales.  As a teenager and again in my 20's, I was a server.  Back then they were called waitresses and waiters.  We learned the art of serving.  The number one rule was to provide service while not disturbing the diner's experience.

Oh my, has that changed over the years!  It started several years ago when servers began not only wearing name tags, but announcing their name.  There are even some restaurants where the server prints their name in huge letters on the paper tablecloth with crayon.  Cute?  No.  Tacky?  Yes.  I don't mean to be rude, but I do not go to a restaurant to make a new friend.  I am not mean to servers.  I am polite to them and I am a good tipper (unless they are totally clueless.  Then I explain to the manager that I usually leave 20% or more and this is why I did not at this time).  However, I don't really care what their name is.  I am there to relax, not challenge my memory. I want to enjoy the people I am with, not buddy up with  "Ryan" or "Melanie".

Some say it is good to learn their name so that if you want something you know who to ask for.  Really?  How many times do you actually remember the name?  Aren't you usually busy doing something enjoying the company you are with?  I should not have to ask for my server anyway, if they are doing their job.  If I do need to (perhaps I spilled, etc) I am sure that either someone else can bring some cloths or find the person handling the section I am in.  I doubt there is a secret code regarding who is serving where.

That is just the start.  Let me say this:  I do NOT go out to eat for a performance.  If I wanted a performance, I would go to a play or concert.  I am not there to be jarred out my relaxation by a server sitting down next to me in the booth to appear "cool" and friendly.  I don't want a stranger right in my face. I do not want to be touched (I am a hug and kiss person, but not to complete strangers...and yes I have been touched by servers), and I do not want to hear how smart the server is because they can recite a half dozen fresh specials.

Restaurant owners, please take the time to print out your fresh sheets.  Is that so difficult? That way I can look at them at my leisure IF I WANT TO.  For instance, I do not like fish.  Without fail, I have to hear about three or four fish specials that there is no chance I will be ordering.  Plus, we want to talk, not listen to you perform like a carnival barker.  Customers are sophisticated enough that they are not "tricked" into ordering more just because you have your servers yammer at them.

Yes, a good server checks back to see if everything is satisfactory.  However, it is supposed to be done skillfully, without interrupting the customers conversation.  Could you possibly stand back a little and wait for a break in the conversation?  Could you ask quietly instead of, once again, barking at us a la performance mode?  And, please don't ask "How is that tasting for ya?"  I can't believe how many ask this.  Why?  Are you worried it might not taste good?  What happened to  "Are you pleased with your selection?" or "Is everything done the way you expected it?"

Oh, by the way, it is not endearing for a server to act like middle aged and older women are "girls".  Those flirty, sweet voices you use, thinking you tricking them into thinking you think they are 20?  Guess what?  It is condescending and usually ends up in a smaller tip.  In general, if women are tipping you poorly, it is no longer because they are cheap. We make money now, remember?  We get it. It is because you aren't doing your job. Or because you act slimy or manipulative and think it is attractive.

One more thing. Enough with the magicians and balloon artists, already.  Again, unless I go to a kid themed restaurant, I really don't want to feel like I am at a carnival.  No, I don't want a balloon wiener dog at the bargain "price" (expected tip for interrupting our meal) of $5.00.  Sorry.  I have been wiener dogged out. Unless it is advertised as kid's night, I don't want to be treated like a kid. 

How about a nice place to eat that is reasonable, with good food and attentive (instead of disruptive) service?  I have found a few and we go there again and again.  The other places?  Their wiener dogs will have to wait for someone else to adopt them.  It isn't going to be me.

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