Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Getting Great Service

What makes restaurant service great? I appreciate a server who answers menu questions easily and/or knows how to find the answer for me, and mentions specials - or special options such as a buffet in the back room - before I order. Or quick changes of a food or beverage item when the first is unsatisfactory, and removal of the item from my bill before I ask.

I appreciate frequent refills of 'bottomless' beverages or bread, details remembered such as no salt on a margarita glass, quick clearing after courses, and bills that arrive soon after I finish eating. I like it when servers are easy to understand and understand me well, and when ethnic restaurants offer authentic preparations and atypical dishes - such as horchata or menudo in a Mexican restaurant.

What makes a great restaurant customer? I asked my older daughter who has served in three different chain restaurants in two cities, during the last six years.

"People forget what their parents taught them about manners when they go to a restaurant," she says. "Be gracious and treat us like we're hosting you at our home. If you're nice to us we'll go out of our way to do something nice for you" - such as when my server in a Kansas City-area restaurant artistically arranged the lemons I requested, on a small plate.

"Don't be rude, and interrupt me during my introduction. Don't snap at me, or act like it's the end of the world if something arrives 30 seconds after you want it." And good tipping is a must when 90 percent of a server's income is based on tips. That's why, "The standard should be no less than 15%, but 18-20% all the time, if service is good."

The next time you dine out, try thinking about service from both sides of the table. You - and your server - will be glad you did.

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