Apr 5, 2010

What's The Deal With Waitstaff?

I could use my blog as a platform to call-out the dozens of eateries I've frequented over the past month or so. I could easily complain, moan, and groan loudly. But then I would be a hypocrite by doing so because I always shake my head in disappointment at individuals who negatively rant on websites about a poor dining encounters. It's so easy to go out, come home, and write bad reviews about an establishment. The true critic looks at all angles, sees the positives and negatives, and does or says something useful so that in the end, someone can learn from such a bad ordeal. I hope this "review" encompasses all of my guidelines.

Firstly I would like to outline what frustrates me as a diner and what has happened specifically over the course of even the past few weeks that has brought me to the point of voicing such occurrences. Strange little events can push a diners experience over the line from good to bad. For instance:
• Bringing one person's food to the table, ignoring the other diner, then literally 15 minutes later bringing the other dish.
• Never taking a drink order, forgetting to bring drinks, or anything not pacing the meal correctly.
• Not listening to the diner when they tell you how much to put on your credit card when splitting the bill, 15 minutes later asking how much to charge, having to wait another 15 minutes before someone other than your server fumbles around the dining room trying to figure out who's card their holding on to.
• Standing at the entrance waiting to be seated while people behind you walk in and are helped, then being ignored until you grab the hostess' attention.
• Bringing an empty wine glass to the table along with full glasses of wine for your companion diners without communication such as, "I'll be right back to pour your wine," and waiting 15 minutes even after grabbing the attention of another server and the supervisor.
• Asking for a menu at the bar after waiting 30 minutes for anyone to even look your way only for the server to say to you, "if you want one you can go over the hostess stand."
• Having an empty glass on the table, your server comes over and asks if you would like another. You reply, "yes please." Nothing comes back. They ask again 15 minutes later, "would you like something else to drink?" You reply, "yes please," "Ok, well what do you want??"
• Not clearing dirty plates before bringing new dishes.
• Being told immediately when you walk in that because they incorrectly marked the number in your party for a reservation you have to leave by a certain time, only to be sitting at the table waiting for 15-30 minutes for anything to come: drinks, food, bill, etc. and in return being late to leave.
• Ordering soup and a sandwich only to have the sandwich come out first and the waitress ask you, "you got the soup too, right?" (YES, would have been nice to have BEFORE the meal!--head thought.)

Here is the number one tip anyone in the restaurant front-of-the-house industry can learn from, especially in Rochester: you're customer should feel welcomed and attended to; listen to them, pay attention to them, and make them know you're there to serve them.

There are 100's, probably 1000's of restaurants to choose from everyday to spend your hard-earned money at within Rochester. In the end, it's not the fabulous food that brings people back. It's the experience. You as a server are 100% responsible for that experience. You are only helping your employers and co-workers by doing a good job. Eating out should be fun, not a chore. And when a diner feels like they need to work to get something as simple as a fresh glass of water, or a timely served course, or even a simple "how is everything, can I get anything for you?" they're not going to be happy.

Customer service and food service are absolutely one in the same. The customer or patron is choosing to come to your business. Make it the best possible. But please, don't overdo it.

Service should be seamless and invisible. As a diner, you should never have to look over to an empty wine glass or water glass and wait for someone to refill you. You should never be waiting to eat because everyone else at the table already has their food. You should never have to repeat something as simply as an even amount to put on a credit card, especially when it's the only credit card being used at the table. And lastly, I don't really care what your name is. I'm going to forget it. Instead of taking up my time to tell us something about you, how about you ask something about us...."Have you been here before? No. Welcome! What can I get you to drink?"

Okay, now for the reasoning. I understand places are busy now, with the weather being gorgeous. I understand there are fewer servers for tables because restaurants can't afford to saturate their payroll with waitstaff. But there needs to be a equilibrium. I don't eat alone and I share my sentiments with my friends with whom I am with and they cannot agree more. So what will happen in the future is that we just won't return. Tolerance and understanding is one thing. I tip well -- always feel bad leaving a table with anything less than 20%. But lately, I'm not so sympathetic. Because there are never any corrections or apologetic actions for doing something wrong. And maybe it's because these servers don't think they're doing anything wrong.

I hope some of them have a chance to read this because it's not meant to point the finger at anyone; it's meant to enlighten in the hopes that something, anything, will change. I love eating out, but I dread that I'm doing to be disappointed and feel like I am working harder at getting my meal than the people actually being paid to do so.

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