Yesterday, on the NY Times' small-business blog, restaurateur Bruce Buschel posted items 1-50 in his list of " One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never

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This Week's Food Debate: Things Waiters Can Do

Yesterday, on the NY Times' small-business blog, restaurateur Bruce Buschel posted items 1-50 in his list of "One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do." The post (the next installment comes next week) is now ricocheting around the food blogs.

At first glance, it seems like an overwhelming rundown of persnickety points -- and some of them are -- but many of the items make perfect sense for restaurants where customers are paying upwards of $30/person for a meal:

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.

14. When you ask, "How's everything?" or "How was the meal?" listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right.

50. Do not turn on the charm when it's tip time. Be consistent throughout.

In fact, I wish that front-of-house managers in Seattle, where service standards are far more lax than almost any other city in the nation (except Portland), would pass this list around to their staff for discussion and training. If more waiters took to heart tips like "Never remove a plate full of food without asking what went wrong. Obviously, something went wrong," restaurateurs would have much fewer Yelp rants to grumble about.

Thing is, Buschel's list is a primer for the most formal service. ("Never let the wine bottle touch the glass into which you are pouring. No one wants to drink the dust or dirt from the bottle." Anyone else's OCD alert go off?) Next week I'm reviewing a restaurant that alternately hit and missed based solely on the mastery of these details. However, his insistence on that level of formality sometimes goes against the definition of good service. If the intent of good service is to make the customer feel comfortable, welcomed, even pampered, the best waiters intuit the kind of rapport that the customers are hoping for and respond accordingly, even if it means touching someone on the shoulder (32), complimenting them on their appearance (42), or even cursing (45). It's OK to break the rules -- just as long as you know what the rules are.

 
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