Excuse Me, Miss? Um… Hello?

Part of loving food is dining out regularly.  It’s always fun to create new recipes in your own kitchen and entertain others, but sometimes it is a welcome respite to go out to eat.  And when you find that perfect restaurant it can be like a mini vacation.  You sit back and relax, you enjoy the atmosphere, smell the aroma of freshly prepared food and enjoy being taken care of by your server and then when the food arrives and tastes so delicious, it is perfect! 

But how often is this really the case?  More often than not we go out to eat only because we either don’t feel like cooking or because we haven’t had a chance to go grocery shopping.  While in college I worked my way through school as a server, both behind the bar and in the dining room.  So, now it has become one of my biggest pet peeves to take the effort to go out to eat, and not to mention the expense, only to be met with less than stellar service.  Last weekend Robbi and I decided to go out to dinner with my folks.  We chose a beautiful restaurant in the marina that had an outdoor patio that overlooked the water, sailboats and even yachts.  It was idyllic, with the cover band in the distance doing their not too shabby cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”  We sat at the table with a sigh of relief after hunting for parking and running errands all day.  We quickly ordered 3 beers and a coke and put on our sunglasses to enjoy the perfect Southern California weather.  This was one of those days that was the perfect golden summer Sunday.  Our drinks arrived and after a nice little “Cheers!” we relaxed and sipped.  Five, ten, minutes passed and the beers are now empty and we haven’t even orderd our food yet.  Where was our waitress?  The rest of our dining experience was constant hunting someone down and asking for a refill or for the ketchup.  To me, those are the standards for server 101.  I realize there are always going to be those tables that are ridiculously demanding, and have you running back and forth to accommodate every silly whim, but asking mom if she would like a refill on her Coke shouldn’t be too much to expect.  In my opinion there are several givens that every server should be able to meet.  They include:

  • Friendly introduction and welcome
  • Tell me about any specials or promotions
  • Take drink and food order promptly (quicker if there are children at the table)
  • Offer to refill drinks before it gets empty
  • When the food is delivered already have condiments at the table
  • DO NOT AUCTION OFF FOOD!  To me this is a big one.  Know who ordered what and hand it to the appropriate  person.  If someone else is running food to the table have a system in place to know what goes where.  If I am spending $15-20 on my food, give it to me with a bit of class, not by barking out the dish. 
  • Check back 2 bites into the meal.  I shouldn’t have to hunt you down if there is a problem with my meal.
  • Thank me for coming in and say goodby.
  • SMILE!  You might not be in the mood to be pulling a double shift on a beautiful Sunday, but this is your job, do it well. 

I have no problem tipping well, most servers are very generous tippers.  But I have come to terms with the fact that I will not tip blindly just out of habit when the bill comes.  So, for those of you that are servers, please take pride in your job.  If you do not like what you do, do something else.  For those of you that frequently dine out, hold your restaurant and its employes to higher standards. 

Servers who provide better than average service have the potential to make very decent money, not to mention loyal customers.  Remember this scene from 3rd Rock From the Sun?  While I would never be so crass as to behave like this in a restaurant, the thought does float through my head. 





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