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Do You Say Something Or Not?


PLangfordJr
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I think you're describing professionalism - your server should not only have the professional skills to do the job well, they should also have the professional pride to keep it up all day every day. Well when on shift anyway!

An important skill, and one that for me really separates the wheat from the chaff, is the ability to read customers and tailor the service style appropriately. A couple of black and white examples: A small table having a business lunch would often, but not always, want little more than for there orders to be taken and food and drinks delivered efficiently. Whereas a couple of old ladies may well want to know a little about you, to have a little chat. A group on a stag night will want to have have a laugh and a joke with you. Gross stereotypes I know, but hopefully you get the point. The art is of course a lot more subtle than this!

Cheers,

Matt

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Thank you both for your thoughtful responses. I agree with both of you to a great extent.

Having had the great good pleasure of experiencing really outstanding service in a number of wonderful restaurants - including but by far not limited to Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, Toque in Montreal, Hugo's in Portland, Maine; Cafe Shelburne in Shelburne, Vermont; and Hen of the Woods in Waterbury, Vermont; and of course many, many others - those experiences describe a great evening in a restaurant for me. (et voila! a satisfied customer telling virtually everyone!). In each case, it was very clear that the cooks, chef and servers have a high degree of professional pride and that they consider hospitality central to what they do. I always hope for such a fine experience in a restaurant, but don't expect it, and am perfectly content with ordinary, good, professional and correct service. I've also been to a smaller number of places - and too often they are "fine dining" establishments - where there was little or not evidence that anyone in the place gave a hoot. Unless things are really bad, those are places to which I will not return, because I believe that everyone is fully aware that they're scraping by with the bare minimum. Sure, anyone can have a bad night, and I think I have a sense of that. If the whole place is having a REALLY bad night, that's different.

To add a new wrinkle, which may belong in a different topic, really bad service will keep me away from a restaurant with really outstanding food. OK, it could be an off night - once - and I'll go back. If it happens twice at the same place? I don't care how good the food is, I'm not going back. Once can be an aberration at a so-called "top" restaurant, more than once is unacceptable. When I get MUCH better service at my local diner than at a restaurant where one meal with a glass or two of wine is likely to be over $100, I'll go to the diner.

"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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I will say that in the eight years I owned that agency, every single time I told a miserably difficult customer to go elsewhere (which happened only about four times in all those years), it turned out that they did indeed tell everyone they knew.  One even wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, but their acquaintances and "friends" didn't care because they knew all too well the personalities involved.  As one supposed "friend" said, "'Mr. Jerk' was telling everybody at duplicate bridge the other night what happened, but nobody pays any attention to him.  We know he can be a kind of a jerk.  In fact, we won't even go out to dinner with him any more.  If you think he's bad in your agency, you should see him when he's upset with a waiter."

In my experience with customer service of various kinds, a small percentage of people are really irrational and really vocal. When I've worked in retail, I've had people literally yell at me for not carrying some item that I did in fact carry. I could wave the item in front of their face and they would switch to yelling about something else without skipping a beat. I'm sure they kept on telling their friends we didn't carry Thing A even after they'd seen it. I would hope most people they complain to would consider the source; unfortunately, some of these people sound fairly reasonable if you don't know that what they are saying is just wrong. People would come in and tell me some story about something another employee did, which would sound believable if I didn't know it was totally out of character for that person. Sometimes you find out that one of those people is dealing with something really awful that is making them irrationally angry. One of my friends, after losing a loved one spent a lot of time calling places trying to get people fired-- that's how she put it. In fact that's how I started dealing with those types of customers: imagining that something terrible must have befallen them to make them act that way and trying to feel sorry for them.

I don't think these people are the same as the poor tippers though. The poor tippers are cheap, or "don't believe" in tipping (like it's Bigfoot) or grew up in the Depression. A select few have a real grievance.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Problem is, for you waiting staff, is that people have every right to not believe in tipping, or tip as big or as little as they wish.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly deluded. I realise that the "culture" of tipping varies around the world, but its always volountary and if restaurants want more money for their waiting staff then they should add 20% to the price of the food.

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Problem is, for you waiting staff, is that people have every right to not believe in tipping, or tip as big or as little as they wish.

Actually no: in the US, tipping is customary, and forms much of servers' compensation, therefore is a duty to be honored or shirked according to the customer. (ETA: It's also voluntary to, for example, be considerate of the elderly, or of pregnant women, or to help people in an emergency. But if you don't, that too says a lot about you.) One fellow customer, a sharp observer of restaurants, has long pointed out that the customer-server interaction is an implied covenant, with obligations both ways, but that some customers only perceive it as one-way.
if restaurants want more money for their waiting staff then they should add 20% to the price of the food.

It's not so much restaurants as what servers want (in restaurants that I know, the tip is immediately pulled off for the servers) and also, US fine-dining restaurants now often do bill a service charge for large tables (I guess to deal with those customers I mentioned with one-way vision.) Edited by MaxH (log)
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