Now that we're on what should be the warm side of Memorial Day, restaurant managers are beefing up their staffs for the summer season - which means diners are encountering an inordinate number of servers in training.
Unlike magic or Microsoft Excel, restaurant serving can't be mastered in seclusion. For servers to learn how to do their jobs, they have to hit the floor before they're ready. As a diner and longtime waitress, I understand and appreciate the importance of the training process, and wouldn't mind if restaurants spent more time attuning their front-of-house employees to their menus, wine lists and proper service standards. But I've lately witnessed a number of situations in which the exigencies of restaurant training could have been better handled.
First, I wish the presumably talented servers being shadowed by new hires would bother to introduce their charges. I don't need a name, but an explanatory "my colleague is in training" would help avert the awkwardness of having a stranger hover silently over the table. That's especially important when the trainee has certain limitations. At a recent meal, we could have used our plates cleared and glasses filled, but it was clear the trainee who made multiple ineffectual visits to our table hadn't yet been green-lighted for customer interactions.
And perhaps it's holdover frustration from being trained by a string of cranky servers who refused to share their tips at the end of our shifts, no matter how many tables I'd handled for them, but - as an eater - I can't stand when servers bark at their trainees. "Wipe her table!," one of my servers recently commanded her jittery companion. I'd much prefer hazing happen in the back, since a nice night out isn't compatible with workplace tension.
I know most servers don't get extra compensation for tutoring newcomers. I know it disrupts servers' rhythms to have trainees trailing them like puppies. But I'd love it if the process was a mite smoother, and I'll bet the next generation of servers feels the same way.