A specific dining incident prompted this post. It was a chain restaurant and would be categorized as full-service dining.

The incident

My brother and I ordered a bottle of wine, and the server brought the bottle already opened with the cork stuck in the neck. When we commented on this, the server said that the bartender opens it for the server as she was not comfortable with this service. Say what?

I couldn’t believe that management would even allow this. We could have sent the bottle back, but instead we discussed the issue with the young server. Opening a bottle of wine with a cork at the table is basic service in a full-service restaurant.

She was a bit embarrassed but she still didn’t fully understand our concern. The price of the wine warranted the proper serving of the bottle.

We informed her that this could easily affect her tip although it didn’t with us. The appropriate action was to complain to the management about this practice, which we didn’t. That was our mistake.

A basic

Servers have certain basics that they should do other than just taking the order and delivering the food and beverages. Even this can be a stretch as noted in my post “MY MOST BIZARRE DINING EXPERIENCE.”

I had the good fortune to employ and work with some excellent servers. They didn’t waste moves and never looked flustered.

Once you’ve watched a server do it right with the basics, it’s frustrating why others don’t have the basic skills. Good servers can handle the curve balls thrown at them (slammed, kitchen problems, needy customers) without it affecting their ability to offer great service. I was observant of their modus operandi. The ability to carry multiple plates on one arm seems to be a lost art.

The fault lies with….

So, who is at fault? Are they not trained properly, even if they have some basic skills? Is management negligent?

Many good restaurants train their servers properly, so they know in greater detail what they are selling/serving. They’re involved in tastings and must know not only the food menu, but also the drink menu, especially wines. There are plenty of potentially great servers that just need some appropriate training.

Much like athletes who have the skills but need the good coaching to get to the next level.  Management should have a strong system for training.  It could include shadowing a good server.  Manuals with distinct expectations go a long way to ensuring good consistent service and are a future referral.

Some people should just not be in the service business, especially foodservice. It’s not for everyone. It should be innate in the person’s personality to serve all kinds of customers in a dining and drinking setting.

Back to the basics

I refer to basics again. Table management is a basic skill that a server must employ. I reflect back on the many times my cutlery was cleared after finishing an appetizer and the entrée was served without replacing my fork and knife. A server must scan assigned tables every time a walk through is made; it cannot be overstated.

Don’t waste moves. A server should be accessible when perusing his section slowly, so customers can get his attention without being obtrusive. This is in addition to checking on each table after serving a meal. At the same time, hovering around customer tables is a habit to avoid.

Another practice that makes me cringe is when staff remove used glassware by sticking fingers in the glasses. Unsanitary!

More basics

Taking orders based on gender and age is not old school. It’s ladies first, the elder followed by the younger. Further, the knowledge of the menu offerings by servers (food & beverage) is management’s responsibility, and as noted above, is an integral part of training.

Efficient servers don’t appear rushed either, even during the busiest times. Smiling and being natural should be a given.

Good servers can handle a larger section without diminishing the service for each table.  Much like a defenseman in hockey who can play the heavy minutes and still maintain a high level of competence.

Now this IS table service

My love of dining out began with my experience at a steak house restaurant (The Steak Loft) when I was in my teens (1970s). The waiter – the term server was not used then – would not only prepare Caesar Salad to order at the table, but also carve the Chateaubriand and plate it with all the trimmings. I ate there many times. Now that was more than basic service. This waiter had been trained properly and his demeanour was professional. The level of service wasn’t lost on me.