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Most bizarre ways to ask "How is everything?"


Fat Guy
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If you have to ask - there is a problem.

...

But outside of that top percent of a percent of restaurants, the "How is everything?" question and variants are probably appropriate. I just prefer not to be subject to some of the more tortured variants.

I hate that question with every ounce of my being.

If I am choking and possibly in need of the Heimlich maneuver, the question is permissible though I will not be able to respond if food is lodged in my throat. If I have shoved the plate away and am calling out for a pizza delivery, feel free to ask. Any other occasion is merely a rude interruption.

There are many ways for a server to observe and present an opportunity for customer comment without actually speaking. Refill the water or coffee. Freshen the bread. Walk by the table and glance at the people as opposed to doing everything possible to avoid eye contact.

Between courses, servers, like children, should be seen and not heard.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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For me, it was at Charlie Trotter's, when our captain asked, "How are we feeling?"

That's a fair question when a guest is first seated, and eager to discuss choices.

After a three-hour fifteen-course meal it's different. The one and only night I ate there it was a parade of bizarre -- to me, at that time -- and I enjoyed every bit.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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"How are YOU feeling" might be a fair question, but asking "How are WE doing" is patronizing as hell. It's a restaurant, not sixth grade.

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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"How are YOU feeling" might be a fair question, but asking "How are WE doing" is patronizing as hell. It's a restaurant, not sixth grade.

Eh. I don't feel like it's patronizing. I just assume that my server must think that I'm Royalty. Happens all the time, actually. :biggrin:

Really, my biggest problem with these threads about "biggest pet peeve about servers" or "biggest pet peeve about the quality check," is that pretty much every possible way of quality-checking a table is disqualified by someone in some way or another as annoying, obtrusive, pedantic, etc., and by the way, it's not like it isn't already really difficult to come up with something to say. Like, let's say that we whittle it down to one way to ask if everything is delicious, or acceptable, or "OK," or cooked to specifications - one way that won't offend anyone, or piss off anyone, or irk someone enough to start some tip decay happening - then, how does one say that same thing, over and over again, without becoming so robotic that the tone itself becomes irksome?

And then you have to throw in the other side of the equation: The things that the restaurant completely disallows us from saying. For instance, I'm not allowed to say what our "specials" are for today. Do you know why we don't have "specials?"

Because all of our entrees are "special."

And yes, this is why I'm bitter. :wacko:

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"How are YOU feeling" might be a fair question, but asking "How are WE doing" is patronizing as hell. It's a restaurant, not sixth grade.

"Well, I don't know about you, but..." might be the correct answer? :rolleyes:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I HATE the use of WE in place of YOU. But probably because I used to have a boss who would make requests that way. So obnoxious. I landed up quiting because of her.

I also had a restaurant owner (a complete maniac for many reasons) prohibit waiters from asking tables if everything was ok. He claimed it was opening things up for negative feedback forcing us to take food back to the kitchen, change orders etc. He wanted us to say, can I get you anything else? I think that's a little over the top. I landed up quitting that job after a week too for other reasons. lol.

I made it sound like I am a big quitter, I am really not.lol

Edited by ambra (log)
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The server isn't the manager, owner, or chef, so these sorts of "How's everything?" questions misrepresent the server/diner relationship. Given that relationship, why doesn't the server just say, "Is there anything I can do for you?" Then I get to say, "No, thanks," or "Yes, please do this." Fill my water, usually.

Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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In a lot of restaurants, where the server has several tables to look after and is often in the weeds, the timing of the question isn't really a matter of choice. There's simply a process that unfolds: presentation of menus, taking of drink orders, delivery of drinks, taking of food orders, bringing food, circling back to ask how the customer is doing. This happens when it can happen, in other words not when another table is having an order taken or food delivered or whatever.

I don't object to the practice overall. I think in a lot of restaurants if the server didn't check in, many customers would find that neglectful. I just think sometimes the chefking-in language is unnecessarily bizarre.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I agree. Something along those lines makes the most sense to me as a check-in question.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This is a case, like bussing one's tables at a McDonald's, where restaurants, over the past decade or two, have trained servers to verbally check with diners during their meal. Touchy, feely progress. Customers expect it now because restaurants have trained them to expect it.

Pity the poor server, already in the weeds. who pauses to ask "how is everything" and receives an honest answer instead of "fine, go away." Deeper and deeper into the weeds the server goes as he/she now has to deal with a table's issues above and beyond. Sometimes it is better not to know and figure on at least a 15% tip no matter what. Customers will flag or chase the server down if the problem is sufficiently severe.

Then there are the customers who, on many/most occasions choose to lie - "Everything is fine, thank you" - when the burger is overcooked or a salad is not quite fresh but they would rather eat and suffer in peace than wait for another burger to be cooked or get into a discussion on a minor issue.

I get that question maybe 80 percent of the times when I am at a sit-down restaurant. I don't think the question has ever led to me being more satisfied with a dining experience. I am able to get a server's attention when needed - almost always without having to call the restaurant on my cell phone and ask for my server.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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So is it the case, historically, that prior to year X servers didn't ask such questions?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It has probably always been asked to some tables by some servers but I don't remember it as a mandatory policy in the 80's and know it was never an expectation in my restaurant in the early 80s.

I figure it had to be some corporate type at one of the chain restaurants that included it as part of the server training manual. I'm just guessing but it strikes me as something TGIFridays would come up with.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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The "We" thing just irks me as the server insinuating him/herself into false chumminess with the customer. Presumably I don't know the server and probably don't desire the attempt at wheedling themselves into my inner circle.

Regardless, I'm more frequently bothered by, "My name is Joe Bob, and I'll be your server tonight". I'm not even sure why it annoys me other than that it is such a canned line. I'd much rather hear someone be him/her self than be the victim of a scripted performance. When the meal continues on in the same vein, with every part obviously designed by management, I am likely to avoid the place in future. I want my dining experience to be my dining experience.

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In my experience of running a busy hotel bar (in Scotland)waiting staff check a table is happy with their food for several reasons. I've had a think and have a couple of points to make:

1) When you are getting hammered the only way to ensure that everything is running ok is to have a procedure in place eg, take food to table and follow up with checks after five minutes or so. When training staff this is useful because it takes a bit of experience to 'go freestyle' and as a manager you can then monitor exactly what it going on on the floor with ease. It is a lot easier to attract the attention of waiting staff in a fine dining restaurant as the atmosphere is quieter and the structure more formulaic, no chance of 30 golfers walking in wanting haggis and irish coffees at the same time as the group of locals at the bar want a refill. It sucks but it is far easier if you can schedule in a visit to a table than have them try to call you over when you're busy with someone else - and I hate to leave people waiting or wanting something! Bear in mind I wasn't just waiting tables I was serving drinks behind the bar, manning the phones, running the reception desk for the rooms upstairs and making coffees and preparing desserts to order - 60 meals a service with 2 staff members.

2) Cynically (and based on experiences of several difficult customers) some people will try to stiff a restaurant for a free meal by complaining after the event generally with an empty plate - obviously this is only a small minority of people but it happens. Asking during the meal means not only that problems can be rectified swiftly but also that this doesn't happen as often and prevents difficult situations arising.

3) You'd be surprised how often people (including myself) don't order another drink when the food arrives only to realise that they want one as soon as the waiter/tress has disappeared!

p.s. Though this is the case I can't stand cheesy questions and overfamiliarisation it was simply something that had to be done to keep service going as efficiently as possible. When it was quiet it was easier to gauge customer's wishes without being so intrusive and that is obviously the ideal to aim for.

Julianne

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Why ask "how is everything?"  The real question, in my opinion, should be "is there anything else I can do for you right now?"

Although it does invite responses of "yeah, clean my house."

...ok, maybe that's just me.

:laugh:

Basil endive parmesan shrimp live

Lobster hamster worchester muenster

Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi

Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert

Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks

Provolone flatbread goat's head soup

Gruyere cheese angelhair please

And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.

--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

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When I was in college I waited tables for only a few months at a time at only a couple of places, before I realized that it was the most vile demeaning work in the world. You may say that it depends upon where one is working, but I assure you that the difference between a fine dining establishment and a diner is merely the difference between being a call girl and a whore.

Waitressing is a kind of prostitution that involves a level of self abasement far beyond mere sex for money. While we sit here and discuss what, precisely, is the tone the servant class should take when inquiring about our meal, they wonder if they will have groveled up enough tip money by the end of the month to make rent; no insurance, no pension, no job security, and hardly a salary at all.

Let's keep things in perspective, shall we?

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Let's keep things in perspective, shall we?

Good idea.

Many of us are lawyers, doctors, salespeople of all kinds. Some of us are freelance writers. Whatever we do, most of us are probably not farmers or factory workers. Our livelihoods depend on serving the needs of our clients. I assure you that even lawyers making a million dollars a year feel a little like prostitutes when their clients make demeaning, unreasonable demands. And I also assure you that it's not the slightest bit credible to compare it to actual prostitution.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I know Steve, and you're right, but there were nights, walking out with a net of about 12% (we're talking about 1989 here), having done everything humanly possible, that you just felt violated.

Marya

Let's keep things in perspective, shall we?

Good idea.

Many of us are lawyers, doctors, salespeople of all kinds. Some of us are freelance writers. Whatever we do, most of us are probably not farmers or factory workers. Our livelihoods depend on serving the needs of our clients. I assure you that even lawyers making a million dollars a year feel a little like prostitutes when their clients make demeaning, unreasonable demands. And I also assure you that it's not the slightest bit credible to compare it to actual prostitution.

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When I was in college I waited tables for only a few months at a time at only a couple of places, before I realized that it was the most vile demeaning work in the world.  You may say that it depends upon where one is working, but I assure you that the difference between a fine dining establishment and a diner is merely the difference between being a call girl and a whore. 

Waitressing is a kind of prostitution that involves a level of self abasement far beyond mere sex for money.  While we sit here and discuss what, precisely, is the tone the servant class should take when inquiring about our meal, they wonder if they will have groveled up enough tip money by the end of the month to make rent;  no insurance, no pension, no job security, and hardly a salary at all. 

Let's keep things in perspective, shall we?

Your statement is very demeaning to those servers who enjoy waiting tables and do so professionally.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Your statement is very demeaning to those servers who enjoy waiting tables and do so professionally.

There, indeed, is the point.

Here in the United States we have very few 'professional' waiters and waitresses. The pay structure simply can not support that as a life's work. This point is further illuminated in that restaurant staff have some of the highest drug use and alcoholism rates of any line of work.

I am sure that I am not demeaning any wait-staff, by suggesting that is it rather distasteful to discuss how solicitous the help should be, w/o crossing the line into disinterest on the one hand or obsequiousness on the other, while at the same time not mentioning that the work is grueling and the pay miserable.

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This point is further illuminated in that restaurant staff have some of the highest drug use and alcoholism rates of any line of work

Can you reference any statistics to back this up?

Other than anecdotal evidence. This is a typical stereotype myth thrown out as an excuse for a industry's shortcommings.

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