SH!& Show Service

Service, true, real “SERVICE,” seems to be a lost art. There are some career servers working hard, but attentive service at the “not so in the press” places, heck even the notable, hot spots, seems to more often than not be a small disaster. This past weekend I ordered starters, pasta middle course and entrée. The starters never arrived and the server walked by the table 2-3 times as I ate the pasta. I kept wondering how does he not see this. We had a conversation about the octopus – that never arrived.

It seems like restaurants are either not paying attention or forcing a coursed out meal when I’ve not been asked, aka my trenchermen experience. Are we trying to turn and burn tables so much that we can’t allow for 90 minutes for a two top to eat dinner? I don’t want to eat slowly but I don’t need a sprint either – let’s call it a 10k. Not so short it’s over before you know it, but not a half marathon I need to train and break through a mental barrier.

Getting my order right is probably the easiest thing a server can do. If the food is wrong or poorly done, I know to put that on the kitchen. I can tell by asking what a server recommends if they have any clue about their menu and if they’ve actually tried the dishes. Heck, maybe ask me a question to ascertain what would work best for my dining needs – yes, I do like oily fish – I should get the mackerel!

Once the order is taken, I’m a pickier bitch than most and see things most of my friends never do. I often times try to seat myself to not see the dining room unless I’m there for a purpose. I know I’ll get distracted and that’s not fair to the person or people I’m dining with. YET, when I see a server tuck a dirty glass under their arm and tries taking an order, I want to stop the manager and ask, “Is that ok? By the way, how do you not have a single tray in the entire place?” Personally, I don’t want that many fingers on my drink as you hustle through a dining room. One glass maybe, maybe but two glasses get an F-ing tray and have some dignity. Reason 23, why I won’t be going back to Anteprima again.

When I managed Graham Elliot, our AC was on and off the first few weeks we were open during a hot June. I took MANY bullets from angry customers about the heat and comped more than a few rounds. But, I took responsibility and apologized. I owned up to our mistakes and personally invited people to come back. I didn’t hide and I didn’t make my servers take the heat. I also kindly reminded every person complaining I was the only one wearing a sport coat so I was fully aware of the HEAT! Often, times I see managers never touch a table or acknowledge something has gone wrong. I don’t expect perfection but I expect you to know what is happening on the floor and for them to take ownership.

I feel like I’m the old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn or to turn down that damn music. Speaking of, if I can’t hear the person across from me two to three feet away it MIGHT be too loud – cough, cough, mercadito. I get it’s a hip crowd but no one is dancing and part of the experience shouldn’t be trying to read the servers lips.

Service isn’t difficult. I don’t care if you’ve had a bad day. I need you to be present and focused for 4-5 hours. I would always joke with my staff this is not going to be the anniversary or special occasion that is the bad story. Everyone likes telling the “you wouldn’t believe what happened to us” to all of their friends. If a couple is celebrating an anniversary, I want their night to go so well they have no choice but to come back and see us again in a year.

Oh and managers, if my credit card is out on a check cover and you walk by two, three, four times, I’m ready to rodeo tie you to help me get the hell out of dodge. Boggles the mind when a manager can’t get their hands dirty – learn to bus a table, pour water, open a bottle of wine, make conversation with a guest. If you can’t help support your team, YOU are as useless as a lifeguard who can’t do CPR!

How was your weekend?

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at chicagofoodsnob@hotmail.com. Joe also contributes to Eater.com Chicago.

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