Dear Server

Dear Server,

First of all, thank you for taking care of us tonight, although every time you use that phrase, I look around to make sure there’s no one sneaking up on me with black leather gloves and a silencer.  I know you work hard at an often-thankless job that’s probably not your primary career choice, so I’d like to tell you a few things about how you could get me to thank you more and avoid a few things that will get me to thank you less.  I really do want to be a good customer.  I don’t come into your restaurant to have someone to conveniently take out my frustrations on.  I want us both to have a good time while I’m there.

Know the Menu

Understand how and why the chef has put together the menu.  If there’s an interesting story about it, I’m all ears.  Feel free to suggest thing to include personal favorites (and if you do, tell me why) but you can skip telling me what dish is most popular.  Things which appeal to the broadest cross-section of people are rarely the best, and I want to know what makes your place shine.

Know the Wine List

I know that you can get really busy so you might want to call in the somm to help, but it will really make me happy if you and I can converse a little on the subject.  I don’t expect you to have encyclopedic knowledge of wine, but I expect you to be familiar with the ups and downs of your list (both by the bottle and by the glass), and how what you have pairs with food.  For the most part, I know what I’m doing, but I’m always happy to listen to other ideas.  If your restaurant does corkage and you waive the corkage fee, you can expect that fee to end up in your tip.  If we’re having a bottle of something, I’m going to offer you a taste (assuming you’re allowed—and I’ll be happy to tell the manager that it’s silly if you’re not), but that comes with a price:  you’re never allowed after I’ve selected something, to say “Good choice.”  It demeans us both.

Know How to Pace the Meal

I don’t expect the server at Ruby Tuesday’s to know how to pace a meal, I only expect them to not bring appetizers and main courses at the same time.  You, however, are held to a higher standard.  We’re eating at your place for the dining experience, not just the food.  I know that most Americans want food rushed to them, so it’s going to be your job to figure out that we don’t.  If you can also somehow work out that dessert and coffee are separate courses, you’ll have made a friend for life.

Let Your Life Story Be Yours for Now

Despite being friendly to each other, we’re not actual friends at the moment.  If we become friends, which has happened before and I’m open to the idea of, then no topic of conversation is off the table.  Until such a time, I probably don’t need to know that your mom’s arthritis is keeping her from finishing that needlepoint she’s been working on.  Until we become regulars, let’s keep the conversation focused on what’s happening at the restaurant.

Attitude is Nearly Everything

If you simply give a damn, we’ll get along just fine.  What I really care about is that you know what you’re doing and care about it.  If something goes wrong with the food, I’m not going to take it out on you (unless it’s been sitting under a heat lamp for a while).  Part of your job is making sure the chef is doing his, but unless you’re also ordering the meat, I can’t really make you responsible for a string piece of veal.  If you make a mistake, like getting an order wrong, it’s not the end of the world so long as you look like you actually care about fixing the problem.  Most of all, I don’t want to be treated like we’re an intrusion on your time.

It’s not all that difficult to make me a happy patron.  Be competent, caring, and engaging, and we’ll have a great time together.

Sincerely,

Guy Pretty Likely to Overtip

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About sheldonmenery

Sheldon Menery is a self-taught food and wine aficionado who has circled the globe in search of the riches it has to offer. He's wined and dined at some of the best (and worst) places in the world.
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