On this site we often mention the reasons that restaurants make it onto our list of favorites. We have particular things that make us happy, that make us want to come back again and again. It is usually a combination of good food and a welcoming atmosphere, the latter being provided by a staff that is competent, attentive and friendly. Good food can mean different things to different people. If you don’t like cilantro you’ll probably not like Mexican. If you don’t care for garlic, you will probably not like Italian cooking, no matter how “good” we tell you it is. Good service, on the other hand is more easily quantified. With few exceptions there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Last winter the NY Times Dining Blog had a list of 100 things restaurant staffers should and should not do. The list contained the obvious – Don’t disappear., and the esoteric – Don’t play brass on the sound system? I guess most people don’t like brass. Could be why I have never seen the Canadian Brass playing in a restaurant.
Our list is more personal. It’s a list of what we really like – why we keep coming back – and what really ticks us off (especially Grumpy), in no particular order.
- Say “Hello”! Smile! Make like you’re happy to see us! This one kills me, it’s so easy. Why do restaurateurs hire grumpy people? How hard is this? Hire friendly people! People who smile. People who are naturally sociable. If the owner / manager can’t figure out at the interview if someone is a “people person” then they are in the wrong business. At the interview ask them to name their favorite movies. If they don’t mention one comedy don’t hire them. It’s the hospitality industry. Be hospitable!
- Would you eat here? Is the place setting presentable? Are the tableware and glassware clean? Is it on a place mat or table cloth? Nobody wants to eat off a table, or a bar, where someone’s dirty fork was just sitting. Wipe the bar or table clean and put out a fresh place mat if there is no tablecloth.
- Obviously a good restaurateur should check the plates coming out of the kitchen. Some say its Rule # 1. It’s not; it’s maybe Rule #2. Rule # 1 is to check the plates coming back into the kitchen. Are they empty? What is still on the plate? What was the problem? Find out and fix it! If all of the potatoes are coming back, guess what – you have a potato problem. If many of the plates are coming back unfinished, you have a kitchen problem.
- When serving, don’t ever ask – “Who’s having the – whatever?” Write it down, and serve it, in order. And please bring me back the silverware you picked up with the last course.
- Don’t wear cologne or perfume. Some of your customers will like it. Some won’t, and a few will hate it! There is no upside. No one will be upset – or even notice – if you don’t wear cologne or perfume. Besides, it doesn’t go with food and wine, period.
- Don’t blame the kitchen, or anyone else for that matter. Just apologize and try to make it right. We know it’s not your fault. Or we know it is. We’ll get over it if you fix it.
- Never, ever say – This is not my table. We knew that already. Our server disappeared and we need help.
- Please don’t ask us to settle our bar tabs before we go into the dining room. It’s inconvenient, and you can figure it out if you really try. It’s not that hard.
- Please don’t remove any plates until everyone has finished that course. Don’t leave one person sitting there finishing up with everyone else staring at them.
- And I saved the best for last. When cashing out a table, please do not ask “Do you want change back?” when you pick up the payment. I know you are just trying to save time but it is presumptuous and it is rude. Just say nothing, or – “I’ll bring your change right back.” We’ll probably tell you the change is yours; it won’t take any more of your time, and our last impression will be a good one.
Thanks for listening. Now please may I have another glass of wine.