Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Standards of Service

Since I have no stories of my own to tell, I figured I would post something different.
I recently read an article in the New York Times about what one person is having their wait staff do at a restaurant they are opening. While I think there are some very good ideas in the article, some does contradict what many places have us do. I also noticed a conflict between what customers want from their servers. Granted, some of this depends on the type of restaurant you work at, but for the most part I have found customers desires to be unique. Another thing is that some of these rules/suggestions are just plain impossible to adhere to every second of the shift. We are human, not perfect beings, and making mistakes, while they should be few and far between, are bound to happen.

Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no cuteness.
Many restaurants require their staff to do this. Many customers will ask for your name if it is not given. What is the harm in a customer being introduced to the person who will be serving them for the next hour or longer? I do agree that not flirting, jokes, or acting “cute” with your customers is a good idea. Since these are not people you know very well, it is safer to stay away from anything that may offend.

Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.
So now we have unlimited time? Not to sound overly harsh, but are they there to order something or just talk? Contrary to what I would prefer and customers would believe, I do not have unlimited time. I have other customers that need something from me and when I approach your table it’s your turn. If you stop talking two seconds after I leave the table, I may not be able to come back right away. I try to never interrupt a customer. Usually when the server approaches the table people are polite enough to stop talking and place their order.

Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.
Many of my customers would consider not removing an empty dish or glass bad service.

Know before approaching a table who has ordered what. Do not ask, “Who’s having the shrimp?”
While this is ideal and what we strive for, sometimes if a group is large enough, or the same dishes were ordered with slight changes, we forget. If customers play musical chairs we may not give you the correct plate and will have to ask. I don’t remember your face when you order sometimes. It’s what seat you are in that helps me get the right food to you.

If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner, the importer, etc.
Great idea, but is this really possible with every customer? If the bottle is not empty it would be irresponsible, and a violation of some codes, to remove the label.

Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.
Can I place the same standard of behavior on my customers? Please?

Never say, “Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad. Saying, “No problem” is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm. “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” will do. Do not compliment a guest’s attire or hairdo or makeup. You are insulting someone else.
While I understand the point of this, I highly doubt that my customers are stupid enough to think that a compliment for something means an insult for all else. I think saying “no problem”, while very casual, is OK. It’s all about tone of voice.

Do not discuss your own eating habits, be you vegan or lactose intolerant or diabetic.
Trust me; I would love to not tell customers about my personal eating habits. My place of work is very casual and customers frequently ask me about menu items. How about not asking the server what they prefer?

I think many of these ideas are a great ideal and standard for employees, as long as the owner/manager realizes that they are dealing with the biggest variable there is; humans. Customers are all different, as is the staff. While you can set the rules for your employees, you cannot guarantee that the customers aren’t going to make it difficult for them to follow those rules, or that they will not desire a different experience than your rules would provide. I think the most important thing any restaurant can have is not rules, but trustworthy employees that are able to judge what type of experience the customer is looking for and to provide it.

Original article:


Anonymous said...

Very interesting indeed especially the one about not interupting the customer and waiting for a good time to mention something like the features.Couldn't agree with you more on your summation.

A Nova Server said...

What an excellent post! I enjoyed reading the "standards" of this new restaurant, and your real world take on each. You're right about every last one of them! Well-written!