Monday, July 22, 2013

The perfect restaurant in my mind

Most of us sometimes fantasize about opening our own restaurants, but these fantasies take different forms with different people. Those who know their way around a kitchen probably think about menus. What cuisine will they offer? What dishes will they serve every day, and what might their daily specials be? Those with a gift for decorating will think about decor. What will their restaurant look like? Should they line the walls with antiques, teddy bears, movie posters, works of art or what? And what might they do to make the dishes they serve look especially appealing? The music-minded will imagine the live music they will present on Friday and Saturday nights. Would a karaoke night attract more customers than it will chase away? What kind of background music should be playing?

As for me and the perfect restaurant in my mind, I think about what my staff will say to diners or, more to the point, what they won't say. Here are some words and phrases that would be outlawed in my restaurant:

I'm (...) and I'll be taking care of you. Taking care of customers is the server's job. Why is it necessary to announce it? It's like the custodian saying, "I'm Harvey and I'll be emptying your waste basket." Most servers wear name tags, so introductions are not needed.

You guys. The waitress serving the family in the booth next to ours at Denny's yesterday managed to use the phrase "you guys" three times in her first three sentences. I can see why women would be offended at being called guys, but guys should be offended, too. The phrase is both too familiar and too slangy. It's also unnecessary. The Denny's waitress could have simply said, "I'm sorry you had to wait." She didn't need to say, "I'm sorry you guys had to wait."

Enjoy. The other day a waitress placed my food before me and said, "I hope you enjoy your meal." I actually liked that. It even sounded sincere. Most servers, however, just say the word enjoy, then walk away. I sometimes feel like tossing a dinner roll at their backs. A server need say nothing more than, "Will that be all?" Then just walk away and let the diners enjoy their meal in peace.

Let me take this out of your way. Just take the dirty plates out of the way. Again, servers don't need to make an announcement. Many servers seem to think they are the main attraction at the restaurant. They're not. The food is, and perhaps the atmosphere. Servers are there to serve, not to call attention to themselves. If anything needs to be said before taking plates away it might be "Are you finished?" or "Would you like a box?"

I will be your cashier. There's no hurry. Whenever I hear the phrase "There's no hurry," I'm reminded that there is a hurry and that management probably wants my table for other customers. Most customers already know they are entitled to remain at their table and converse for as long as they wish (whatever management may desire). Sometimes it's good to be told how to pay the check, although a few words on the check itself would clarify that.

Although I think servers should say less, I would be satisfied if they just didn't sound like they were all following the same script. Another waitress at Denny's yesterday complimented a little boy on his good manners. Never mind that the boy had been running around his table throughout most of the meal, the proud look on his mother's face told me the waitress had said the right thing. It wasn't in the script.

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