Friday, December 11, 2009

"I'm not here to make friends!"

#8 on Bruce Buscel's excellent 100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1):
Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.

When it comes to working, shopping, commuting... virtually every other public social interaction... I have to deal with strangers and other people I don't necessarily like or want to spend time with. But when I choose to sit down in a restaurant with others, it's almost always a celebration of a friendship. (As lame as that sounds, it's true.) One of the greatest pleasures of a restaurant dining experience is the social cocoon the guests should be allowed to create for themselves during the meal.

The waiter's job is to guarantee a positive experience while remaining as unobtrusive as possible. Please allow the customer to build and maintain intimacy at the table.

A few specifics:
  1. I'm sorry (not really), but I don't want to know your name. I want you to be friendly, civil and efficient, and I'll do my best to be the same.
  2. Please don't interrupt our conversation, unless it is to announce that the restaurant is on fire. If you want to tell us the specials, or ask for our drink orders, just wait a moment and try to make eye contact. If we're talking and we don't look up at you, it's not a good time. Come back in a moment.
  3. Do NOT hunch down at the edge of our table, and certainly don't sit at an empty chair at our table, when taking our order. Cops do that when they're putting the squeeze on a mobster. You don't do that. (Obviously, this rule doesn't apply if you're a cop and the customer is a mobster ripe for squeezing.
  4. No personal greetings on the check. No smiley faces. It feels desperate, a little like begging. Good service begets good tips, not sudden homey warmth at the end of the meal.

My favorite waiters are the ones who do not try to ingratiate themselves over-much. I like those who do their jobs quietly, efficiently, and with class. Those people can be my friends.

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