A Service Rant

Please allow me a rant on what I deem to be the deplorable level of service at most of the restaurants wherein I dine. It begins with that most hackneyed of phrases, “Hi, my name is (fill in the blank) and I will be taking care of you tonight.

It is probably equally hackneyed for me to respond “that remains to be seen”. Give me the restaurants in Manhattan any day, where the waiter walks up to the table, pad in hand, and merely says “Welcome to (fill in the blank), what may I bring you to drink?” At the risk of being the ultimate curmudgeon, I don’t want to know their names because I would hope that I should not need to use them. By that, I mean that I expect service to be anticipatory, not reactionary. They should know that I need more wine, water, tea, butter, etc., without my having to call them by name to get it.

Let’s next move on to the difference between a server and a waiter. Since I encounter only servers 99% of the time in Atlanta, I would define them as a person who writes down your order, turns it in to the kitchen, then waits for the kitchen to tell them it is ready (without checking to see why it is taking longer than usual), at which point they take what the kitchen hands them without ascertaining that it is correct, or even presentable, and bring it to your table, usually inquiring about who gets what.

A waiter, on the other hand, is the last line of defense between you and the kitchen. The salad has wilted greens? The presentation is sloppy? The meat is dessicated rather than a pointe? You would never know it if you have a waiter. You will send it back if you have a server. And you won’t be asked who had the haggus.

My next item is no fault of the servers or waiters, but has to do with the confluence of too few bartenders and the demand for “craft” cocktails. As I wait for my second glass of wine I am faced with the decision to have food while it is hot and no wine, or a tepid entrée and a fresh glass of wine.

Depending on the quality of the food and the wine it could go either way, but there is no excuse for waiting fifteen minutes for a glass or bottle of wine because the house is too cheap to hire enough bartenders to handle all drinking options of the crowd on hand.

To end on a bright note, I want to illustrate how even the best service can be ruined. My wife and I had a lovely dinner at Aria, with a waiter rather than a server, but he showed his naivete’ when my wife, who has restaurant myopia (the inability to read the right hand side of the menu) ordered the foie gras and he asked the stupidest question I have ever heard uttered – “Do you want the large or the small order?”

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