Restaurants and dining are not just about the food— never was and never will be. An extremely important element of the dining experience is the service. To me, this could make or break a restaurant; no matter how much I love the food, if it is slow service or I get an attitude from the wait staff, I would rather not go back, but dream of the tastes.
Just last week I wrote a FoodView about how high end and famous restaurants are tracking their customers to better serve and pamper, as well as to create an experience reminiscent of the corner joint. This, though intrusive at times, is a pure demonstration of the importance of service in terms of a restaurant’s survival. A good dining experience with knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating staff, results in good memories and a return visit. This should be the goal of every location, the return of the patron.
This unfortunately is not always the case. Sometimes the wait staff can get in the way of the dining adventure— rudeness, brusqueness, or attitude in general can really dampen the mood at a restaurant. Most times adventures with this kind of staff, repulses me and does not make me want to go back, or tell others to try it out. Just the other day (more about this later), my food was essentially tossed on the table, causing the pretty presentation to tumble and other things on the table to clatter. On top of that we had a waitress who’s manner was so short and distant, we could hardly get a question in. That kind of interaction stayed with us throughout our meal, and lingered more than the flavors of the food.
There have been countless times where my table has essentially been forgotten; no waiter, no water, no nothing. I remember in my very short stint working at a Johnny Rockets, the manager who was training me impressed upon the importance of being attentive to the diners, frequently asking them if they need anything, just checking in. It really surprises me that being ignored happens so much. It would also surprise me that in some kind of training this would be left out. Every restaurant, no matter its sizeor fame should insist on customer service as a good business practice.
Though sometimes it is not necessarily the server that initiates an uncomfortable dining experience through attitude. There have been several hosts or hostesses at various different kinds of restaurants and locations that have given off the vibe that the clients are beneath his or her service. This involves being ignored or given attitude or a roll of the eye or even a shortness; none of which you would expect from one in a costumer service position. This is truly disheartening because most times, the hostess or the person at the front, is the first encounter with the restaurant, the first impressions. I have always thought, that in most spheres of life, the first impression is extremely important. There can be redemption, but it also can be ruinous.
Sometimes it appears that the wait staff as well as the hosts, all the people that are supposed to be the faces and represent the brand of the restaurant, are more involved in each other than the customers or even the restaurant. I have noticed that this generally occurs in lower end and more chain like restaurants, but it is not foreign to up scale places. This is how customers get forgotten and ignored. It also does not look good to the customers, who in essence should be the main focus of the staff.
I also have had really really great experiences with servers being considerate and understanding. Friendliness, eagerness and willingness to serve and accommodate make meals better and smoother, and even more enjoyable. Even asking “how is everything?” or “do you need anything else” makes a big impression on me. Even if it is not genuine, the care is there. They care for their livelihood (the tip) and they were trained correctly.
On a trip to Atlantic City, my boyfriend and I encountered some really great service examples. We were eating at a Mexican restaurant, Dos Caminos, in the Harrah’s Casino Resort, and the diner started off shaky with shady behavior from our hostess, but our waitress redeemed the meal. From the moment we were seated and our waitress came over, our dining experience vastly improved. She was friendly, warm, and encouraging. She was extremely open to answering questions and adding amiable suggestions. It did not feel rehearsed or programmed either; it was like she wanted to be there and wanted us to enjoy our time there. After ordering our dishes, tasting the appetizers, and starting to chomp down on our mains, we encountered a problem. The dish I ordered was too salty, salty to the point that I was unable to eat it. It was unpalatable. We got the attention of our server and alerted her of the problem. I told her the issue and she was concerned. She apologized, took away the dish and asked if we wanted it remade or something else instead. We did not take the offer, already pretty full from our drinks and appetizers but expressed our appreciation. A few minutes later, with the dessert menu, our waitress brought over complimentary drinks. When the desserts we ordered came to our table, the waitress informed us that they were on the house.
Even in a place like Harrah’s where people usually come for vacation and are not regulars, the waitress believed in customer service and keeping us happy. This was not necessarily a place where people return over and over, but I know that next time, despite not being completely satisfied with my dish, I would return. The actions of our server made the outing much better. Our appreciation was also expressed in our tip to the waitress.
Tipping now has become difficult. Servers expect a certain percent and we are told what we are supposed to give, but the tip should be a reflection of service. Like my friend pointed out, we all work for our money, and so should servers. Good service deserves a good tip, whereas bad service, on the part of the server (bad food or long waits are not always the fault of the person who brings us our plates) does not merit a high tip.
The service of a restaurant is one of the main things that sticks with me. Even if the food is awful and the coffee is cold, an attentive and personable server can make all the difference. Sometimes going out to eat is more about the experience than the food. I believe that the wait staff should be making an effort to create relationships with the patrons of the restaurants of their employment. These relationships bring people back. Perhaps restaurants do not need to go as far as giving their waiters a whole dossier of intelligence on a customer, but giving the correct training and emphasis on customer service doesn’t hurt. Both restaurants and their wait staff (at all levels) need to realize the benefits of good service and reliable customer relations from a business standpoint.