thanks for participating in this thread. i've enjoyed your frank comments, and have an inquiry on the business side.
in establishing and maintaining a restaurant, how much attention goes into the training / supervision of serving staff, and the oversight of the rooms? is this a one day intro, or is there a regular and continuing process for staff? in some cases, a dazzling room is offset by slovenly service, resulting in unsatisfied customers. a significant language barrier between me and the Chinese rural waiter may limit the fullness of pleasure in my dining experience, for example, if i can't establish a dialogue over the tea infused hard boiled duck eggs.
so, how do you go about monitoring the room and plate flow? how is the maitre or room manager evaluated? do the owners / investors get recurring feedback from customers?
We are in the hospitality business. I personally never forget that. Obviously the range of experience goes from Danny Meyer's level of gracious and helpful service without being too intrusive, to the brusque nasty, don't bother me - slam the food down school - I'm doing you a favor just being here kind of behavior.
How do you go about creating one atmosphere or the other? Well it starts at the top. If the proprietor cares and consistently monitors his service program, it's going to work very differently than the proprietor who doesn't give a damn. You need to set a good example and follow through with your staff and let them know what you expect from them.
The dining room is really like a stage. Once the curtain goes up everyone has their role and their lines.
I grew up in the business with a tradition of strong dining room management. Left to my own devices I like to set up a system where the front of house staff attends a pre-service meeting everyday. The daily business, specials, schedules, etc. are reviewed and maybe some educational issues, new wines or recipes are covered. I then like to see a clear set of expectations spelled out: approach the customer in the first minute, welcome them and take a drink order, menus on the table 3 minutes after the cocktails have arrived, these sorts of things. Next, the house needs to set up a system of checks and balances so that if the server is too busy to attend to a table within a given time frame, that there is a second and even a third person designated to take care of the customer.
Obviously when you're dealing with ethnic restaurants in particular, you may encounter a server whose language/communication skills are really poor. I have a strategy for enjoying these moments. Knowing that things are likely to be off, I decide that my server's ineptitide will become my evening's entertainment. Some of my most entertaining restaurant stories are about asshole waiters! And if you really need something and you're not getting it, don't wait. Get up from the table, go over to the boss and tell him you need his help. A good restaurateur can turn a customer problem into a life long relationship! Anyway, there are so many restaurants and good meals available, if they can't deal with you, leave and go someplace else. Don't forget it's only food - not sex.