Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Does Service Matter?


Recommended Posts

I've been reading various threads and the term service seems to always rear its ugly head at some point in a discussion about restaurants.

My question is does it really matter? And if so, to what degree?

Granted, I'm a minimalist when it comes to service. Just bring me and whoever is at my table, food at the same time, at the appropriate temperature, make sure the bottle of wine is on the table and be reasonably "handy" if I need anything else.

I would rather pour my own wine, my own water and grind my own pepper if necessary. I don't need servers asking me how everything was/is, I don't need people to keep refilling water glasses every 13.7 seconds. I don't want my napkin folded if I leave the table for any reason. I don't want anyone using mini vacuum cleaners to clean-up microscopic particles (leave my particles alone).

I don't need lengthy descriptions on where the vegetables were planted, where the corn was husked, where the cattle grew up, where the fish went to school or anything of that nature. I certainly don't need to know the chef's specials. I can assume all the specials came from the chef.

I don't want anyone wiping my chin if I drool, nor do I want my chair pushed under me. I learned to seat myself a long time ago. I don't need for anyone to shine my shoes, wash my car or press my jacket - I'm quite capable of handling those things myself.

I certainly don't want by fish "de-boned" or have 17 forks set at my place before dinner. I don't need a different napkin with each course and I don't want my tablecloth changed before the entree. I don't want anyone smelling my cork because I'm not going to smell theirs.

Female waitstaff need not call me "honey" or "sweetie" unless they mean it (the same for male waitstaff). I don't want anyone lighting my cigarette because I don't smoke or burn. I don't want to be asked if I need change when paying in cash. I don't want my check presented in a Tiffany gold case that's worth more than 10 times the bill. I don't want anyone bowing or shaking my hand when I leave - a simple good night (day) is appropriate.

Bottom line - please bring the food, make sure the wine is open or have corkscrew on the table and leave me alone - that's all I need.

What do you need?

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to post
Share on other sites
I've been reading various threads and the term service seems to always rear its ugly head at some point in a discussion about restaurants.

My question is does it really matter? And if so, to what degree?

What do you need?

Now that is the whole question, really....

A good server should be able to anticipate your needs. If you want your table to be left alone, then not sayin the server should read your mind, but they should know that yall are havin a good time and to be as invisible as possible. But then again never having to ask for water, or a new napkin, or having tell the wait staff how to do their job, is always a Plus.

But a great place to be left alone would probably be a diner...... you can almost ensure your water being empty. And never seeing your server.... you might have to hide your wine though... unless of course your diner serves alachol.

**********************************************

I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

**********************************************

Link to post
Share on other sites

Agree with you. IMO as long as the food arrives on time, the proper temperature, and my glass is never empty that's good enough. I really don't want to talk to my server because I know they don't care about what I have to say, and I really don't care about what they have to say (unless it's a friend of mine). Besides, when I go out to dinner, it's to be with friends and family, have a good time and eat good food. That's it. If the food is memorable, it's a bonus (although it rarely is...). I really don't need someone telling me how the food is made, if I wanted to know I'd ask.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My restaurant service needs are typically a matter of context. I always need/expect efficiency and courtesy at a minimum. And I never want or need obsequious or fawning behavior.

For a simple and moderately priced meal - the sort of every day or a few times each week dinner out that many of us have regularly - I j want the same basics that you mentioned. This includes timely service but extends beyond the food or beverages. I want someone to offer me the option of dessert after my meal is finished... and (major pet peeve coming)

1) bring me the check promptly when I ask for it

2) even bigger pet peeve - for cryin' out loud please come back promptly to collect the check and cash it out or run my card once you have given it to me!

When it's a special occasion dinner or one of the rare times when I splurge for much higher end fine dining" I want and expect a smoother, more attentive level of service.

The birthday dinner I had this past winter at Tom Powers Corduroy (Washington DC) is a good example. We had a five course tasting menu and as if by magic... every single course appeared at precisely the right moment when we'd had enough time after the previous course for a bit of digestion. And the only silverware ever on the table at any time were the items needed for that course. Not ocne did I even notiuce when the new silverware was placed on the table. It just seemed to be there when the next course arrived

The service was so deft and unobtrusive (granted - I did have a charming dining and conversation companion) that it amazed me. No one fawned all over us nor did they try to be our new best friend. They just magically seemed to appear in a very low key way whenever needed and somehow anticipated so many things that it was a transporting experience. I don't mind tipping heavily and paying extra for that level of service - just don't need it on a routine basis.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, service. Elegant, unobtrusive, comprehensive, charming and perfectly-timed, all at once.

A bad course can be swept up and replaced or forgotton, bad service remains on the palate like spoilt wine throughout the meal.

So, pour my wine, bone my fish, don't bring me my menu until you've brought me my martini, lull me into a nearly narcotic sense of warmth and well-being.

I don't go out to eat, I go out to dine.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, service.  Elegant, unobtrusive, comprehensive, charming and perfectly-timed, all at once. 

A bad course can be swept up and replaced or forgotton, bad service remains on the palate like spoilt wine throughout the meal. 

So, pour my wine, bone my fish, don't bring me my menu until you've brought me my martini, lull me into a nearly narcotic sense of warmth and well-being. 

I don't go out to eat, I go out to dine.

Well said!!!

:smile:

Link to post
Share on other sites
Whatever the cuisine, the service will make or break the meal.

I always thought it was all about the food. I can enjoy myself with great food even if the service is lacking.

However, if the food is bad, no amount of service will save the day.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't need lengthy descriptions on where the vegetables were planted, where the corn was husked, where the cattle grew up, where the fish went to school or anything of that nature.

I don't want to be asked if I need change when paying in cash.

Several smiles in your post, though I don't agree 100% in re change as sometimes I want change and sometimes I don't .

Other than that, I think I fall somewhere between you and Busboy.

Thanks,

Kevin

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah.. Service matters.

My thoughts are pretty much in line with Busboy's and phaelon's.

I don't expect fine dining type service EVERYPLACE I go, but after having a few meals at nice fine dining places with good service, you really start to notice service issues at lesser places. One thing that really starts to bug me now is servers/runners bringing food to the table, not knowing who gets what.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't need lengthy descriptions on where the vegetables were planted, where the corn was husked, where the cattle grew up, where the fish went to school or anything of that nature.

I don't want to be asked if I need change when paying in cash.

Several smiles in your post, though I don't agree 100% in re change as sometimes I want change and sometimes I don't .

Other than that, I think I fall somewhere between you and Busboy.

Thanks,

Kevin

I wasn't clear on that point - sorry. I meant they should always bring change and never ask. If I don't want change, I will tell the server when I hand over the check.

So now we're in agreement - yes????

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to post
Share on other sites
One thing that really starts to bug me now is servers/runners bringing food to the table, not knowing who gets what.

I always thought that made it exciting - seeing if everyone remembered what they ordered. Or it could give someone a last chance to change their mind - and steal someone else's order. That could get very funny.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't need lengthy descriptions on where the vegetables were planted, where the corn was husked, where the cattle grew up, where the fish went to school or anything of that nature.

I don't want to be asked if I need change when paying in cash.

Several smiles in your post, though I don't agree 100% in re change as sometimes I want change and sometimes I don't .

Other than that, I think I fall somewhere between you and Busboy.

Thanks,

Kevin

I wasn't clear on that point - sorry. I meant they should always bring change and never ask. If I don't want change, I will tell the server when I hand over the check.

So now we're in agreement - yes????

99.99% :smile:. I guess I'm used to them always just asking, so I can either say yes, or keep the change. But it wouldn't be bad for a server to always just bring the change to be safe.

Thanks,

K

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

Link to post
Share on other sites
One thing that really starts to bug me now is servers/runners bringing food to the table, not knowing who gets what.

I always thought that made it exciting - seeing if everyone remembered what they ordered.

LOL.

Yeah.. I run into that from time to time. I'll be out with a group of people, and sometimes they forget what they ordered. A lot of times, they aren't paying attention either. A runner will be standing there with food, not kowing where to put it. If the server knew where to put it, it would be less of an issue.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

Link to post
Share on other sites

Bad service can affect the food. If a plate of fried calamaries was not served promptly, the crunchiness can disappear, turning a plate of good fried calamarie to yucky calamarie. The same goes for hot soup that can go cold, if the server wasn't on top of it and my personal pet peeve of melted ice cream.

Let's not mention the server that completely ignores the order all together.

Not too long ago, I had refer a couple of out of town friends to DB Moderne. Granted they were not the sharpest dressing crowd, but their money was as good as anyone else's. One person in the party is on a strict no cholesterolel diet, and ask the server to hold the sauce on a cod dish. The server said rather condescendingly, "would you prefer to order something else? Because I just can't imagine the cod without the sauce" Where upon my friend replied "no, the cod is fine, just hold the sauce." The server returns with the cod drowning in the sauce. When my friend complained, her said, I thought you said the cod is fine.....

So does service matter? I think so.

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, service makes a difference to me (gee, I guess I'm not a foodie after

all! - see other worn out thread) :rolleyes:

Anyhoo, I agree with Rich about the asking re: change aspect. I think it's

tacky for the server to ask. It's just one of my own little peeves. Just bring

me my change, and I will leave you your tip.

I don't like being rushed, as in - "We are changing shifts, so could you pay your

bill now?" Gee, dessert or another glass of wine would've been nice, but I guess we need to leave.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Good service is very important to me. Sometimes we have intense conversations pulsating over our dinners that are clumsily interupted by topping off an inch on a glass of water or asking for the umpteenth time if all is well. Opposite that is the time when my empty glass that I place on the end of the table for easy emphasis gets passed up time after time for a re-fill. The little white haired lady can't be too thirsty can she? Perhaps, but you'll need something to help you swallow my tip.

I was in a (supposed to be) chi-chi place recently (it thinks it is). Kind of new place in town. Nothing had been served yet but the waiter slid my napkin across my lap.

Eww, Eww, Eww, I felt like 1) a chastened child and 2) like I'd been mildly violated. The food was not that good. The duck confit absolutely reaked. I have no idea how or why my eating companion could even touch it with her fork. It had an everlasting 'aroma' that filled my nostrils the whole time we sat there with napkins dutifully across our laps like so many safety belts tucking us into the roller coaster wondering if there'd be confit hurled all over any minute.

We ate at an even more chi-chi place once. The service was so good it was purely amazing. Our waiter said, "Let me put the white wine on ice and open the red so it can breath, (or is it the other way around?) and then let's start with some champagne" he exclaimed with twinkling eyes. Too cool, dude, and I don't even hardly drink. And I was allowed to do whatever I wanted with my dad gum napkin.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Rich, I'm kind of like you. I expect professionalism and competence from my servers and busboys. Give me the menu, pour the water, and bring the bread in a timely fashion, clear the dishes when I've clearly put down my fork. You know, the usual. If you know about the food and can give me useful information or good recommendations, that's great, but the essential thing is to make sure everything comes when it should, properly hot or cold, and that you do it civilly and without dumping anything on my head. :laugh:

I will add, though, that my standards of service change when I'm in a 3-star restaurant, as opposed to my local diner. The waiter in the diner should provide good service, but the waiter in the 3-star had better do so; the waiter in the diner should know something about the food on offer, but I want to be able to count on the waiter in the 3-star for specific information and recommendations. Etc. And that's only fair, because with the usual ~15-20% tip the waiters get, they're making a hell of a lot more money in the high-end places.

[Edit: Now, having read Owen's comments, I see I'm in agreement with him. I also agree with you that it's not appropriate for a server to ask if I need change, and I'm happy to say "Keep it" if I don't need change.]

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of us can replicate 85% of the restaurant meals we eat, at home. For the most part, we go out to be served, and saved the cooking and cleaning up.

Personally, I don't go out to be fawned over or educated. I wish there was a way to start a meal by saying, "please don't ask me if I like it or it tastes good or, god forbid, "does that taste as good as it looks?"; I'll let you know if there's a problem. Please don't top off my water every five minutes or try to take plates when we're still eating. Please don't interrupt conversations or ask me if I'm still working on something, and I'd rather not know what audition you have or what your real job is.

to me, annoying is almost as bad as slow. And dammit, why do some servers hover until it's time to get the check and go? Why?

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
Link to post
Share on other sites

Really slow service pisses me off. On the other side of the token, really pushy, fast service also pisses me off. There's this Vietnamese place here that is horrible about that - they're perfectly friendly and nice, but as soon as your ass hits the seat, the waiter is right there wanting to take your order. I mean, DUDE. I haven't even opened the menu yet, and I can't fortell the future! Back off! I once took a friend there who had never tried Vietnamese food before. She wanted to pursue the menu and read all the descriptions and really figure out what she wanted. But the damn waiter made it virtually impossible. We'd tell him to give us a few minutes, and he'd be back in half a second. It's really irritating, and for that reason I don't like to go there anymore.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

Link to post
Share on other sites
Really slow service pisses me off. On the other side of the token, really pushy, fast service also pisses me off.

I'm over 50. Everything pisses me off.

~~~~~~~

What do you think about the waiter sliding the napkin on your lap for you?

I can't help but say it is creepy creepy creepy to me. eww eww eww

Edited by K8memphis (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Great service cannot make bad food good, but poor service can ruin great food. For me the best service is attentive and efficient without being noticed. The focus should be on the food. Bad service is generally more noticeable than great service. While I sometimes enjoy chatting with the waitstaff, I would rather it be when it is appropriate for me and my party. In some restaurants that I have gone to more regularly and have come to be acquainted with the staff, I enjoy that relationship, especially when the staff knows when to and when not to be chatty. The best example I can think of for this is Alinea. A certain interaction is required there given the novelty of the cuisine and the serviceware. Fortunately, IMO they strike the perfect balance of friendliness, information and service. Good service should make the client feel comfortable. They do.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to post
Share on other sites
Most of us can replicate 85% of the restaurant meals we eat, at home.

Really? Is that a comment on the type of restaurants you eat at, or your cooking skills? Much as I love to cook, and to eat at home, I would emphatically disagree.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...