Readers dump their pet peeves on the catering service
Hmm. I guess I struck a chord.
So many diners wrote in with their pet peeves and observations of the restaurant service after my own lamentations a few weeks ago that it is worth passing on some of those comments today.
They lavished praise where it was due – to the intuitive waiters who can “read” a table or who can recommend a better (and cheaper) dish, to the attentive waiters, and to those who greeted them. And they noted that waiting at tables is exhausting work.
But they also had a few things to get rid of about the service that annoyed them and what the wait staff could do better.
Scan the pet peeves and you’ll notice that it’s not always what servers do or don’t do – it’s what they say. It shows that words matter and good service is not just about actions.
Read on to see what’s rubbing guests the wrong way. Restaurants, don’t say no one ever told you.
The most common complaint was one I didn’t expect to come up so often: addressing guests as “you guys” regardless of the number of women at the table.
Says a caller who has lined up more than one “How are you guys doing tonight?” when having dinner with his wife, “My wife is definitely not a guy. ‘How are you guys?’ or ‘How are you?’ would be far preferable to ‘How are you guys?'”
Do you want change?
“I think it’s the rudest thing in the world. They should say, ‘I’ll bring your change. They assume that anything extra you put in will be their tip.”
Another reader added that saying “I’ll bring your change…puts the ball back in the customer’s court, where they can either respond ‘Keep the change’ or ‘Thank you’.”
Take the plates? Not yet
“My most important rule is not to clear the plates until it’s all over,” said one customer. “I know they want to remove messy plates from the table, but it makes slow diners uncomfortable. Also, remove butter dishes and roll baskets before serving dessert.”
Another reader observed, “A slower eater might watch one by one as other diners’ plates are taken away and the race is on.”
Of waiters snatching plates prematurely, another restaurant added, “Isn’t the answer to have the plates cleaned before a diner has finished eating so the waiter sees the silverware properly placed in his plate ?”
Good point. For servers (or guests) who do not know, the knife and fork must be at 4 o’clock on the plate.
The royal we
What bothered another reader was when servers “include themselves in our meal asking, ‘And how are WE enjoying the (fish/steak/whatever) tonight?’ Unless he sits and eats with us, ‘us’ is inappropriate and really bothers us.”
Know where to hold them
“My wife and I often eat out at restaurants, and the only serious action that really bothers me is when waiters place water glasses on the table by holding them by the top rather than the stem or base of the glass. Rude! Who wants to drink water after someone else has touched the rim of the glass?
Another reader with the same pet peeve added: ‘When this happens I don’t hesitate to bring it to the attention of the employee. The response I get is a complete surprise – obviously this has never been covered in their training. They bring a new glass very quickly, place it correctly on the table and in some cases even thank you for bringing it to their attention.”
Party of one
This reader remembers working as a waitress in early adulthood.
“My first boss told me never to ask a lonely restaurant ‘Just one?’ before being seated, implying that the single guest was less welcome and/or less important than groups of two or more comfortably covers any response from a single guest.”
Now a widow for five years, she says she is “constantly greeted with this ‘Just one?’ greeting. Ouch. The more things change…”
Another reader who dines alone said: “I once got mad and said, ‘It’s not only a; it’s a!”
“The server was a pleasant young man, but he disappeared to the back and sides. … Diners should not be able to see a group of servers and bartenders gathered together while they eat unless the restaurant be absolutely sure that each table was served properly, didn’t need anything etc. I could see my guy 25 feet away but he was very slow to get back to the table I missed ordering another beer and my poor child suffers without water.
Know the menu
“If a customer asks for a meal recommendation, the server’s response is an art form. The customer needs to feel that the response is thoughtful and honest. More restaurants would benefit from more training in this area. Too often it is clear that the waiter doesn’t really have an opinion…sometimes taking the “everything is fine” approach.”
And related to this: “I find that a large majority of my dining experiences now involve the server telling me their favorite dishes. This is unsolicited. I think it would make sense to voluntarily offer which dishes are most popular, provide feedback if asked, or provide information about menu items you’ve tried recently or are new to the menu.
“Telling the customer what you prefer is irrelevant because your likes and dislikes in food may be completely different. What they need to spend time on is enticing you with dishes, how they are prepared and what’s in them. Not sure why the time didn’t go there.”
“I have, and always have had, a pet peeve when dining out. Whether it’s the local bar and grill or the best supper club, throwing dirty dishes in a trash can hurts my brain. I’m having a conversation with some friends here! Waitresses, bus people and bartenders are all guilty. Someone train these employees!”
Hold the cologne
Servers “should just be neat and clean. I don’t want to smell anything but my food.”
See you soon
A reader mentions the need “for a quick return to the table. I don’t want to receive my food and then NOT see the server until the bill is delivered. Right after my burger arrives, for example, I notice that I need the mustard. I don’t want the burger to get cold before the mustard arrives.
“A good server will stop…after the food has been served to see if all is well or if something else is needed.”
But not too soon
“One of my biggest pet peeves is when a dish is served before the previous one is finished. I’m not even talking about lingering over drinks and appetizers or talking about not finishing the salad. It’s a few minutes later. I’ve come to tell the waiter not to place our order until we have the appetizer.”
“There was a table next to us that had a lot of food residue, some large, left on the table. The waiter, who came to clean the table, just wiped off all the food that was left on the table on the table. floor.
“In my mind, that’s something that should never be done. At least the floor wasn’t carpeted. Did that hurt our experience? Definitely!”
To see something? To say something
One reader notes something she wishes she had done after a cavalcade of poor service on a single visit to the restaurant:
The bartender shamed his friend’s wine choice, the host and staff focused their attention on a large party that included their friends (even though the reader’s table was the only other occupied), the plates were swept away when they were only half-finished their meals, and the waiter said he assumed the friends didn’t want dessert, a statement accompanied by the check.
“I’m still upset – partly to myself because I was so surprised at the treatment that I didn’t follow up with the manager who wasn’t there at the time,” the reader wrote. Since then, she has visited other restaurants where she feels good, but not this one.
Mentioning service issues to the manager or owner gives management an opportunity to apologize or try to fix things after serious mistakes, and it allows managers to be made aware of minor and major infractions so that they can say to the waiters, “What are you doing? do this.”
money is worth
Finally, this observation from a reader who gets to the root of things – salary and perceived value while waiting on the tables to earn a living. It’s something to chew on:
“After nearly three decades in the restaurant and hospitality industry, I can say categorically that the problem with service in this country is that we have decided that it is a less desirable job and that the only reason for which someone with skills and an education would do is because they are between jobs.
“I have met many biology and chemistry graduates who wait for tables while waiting for their call from pharmaceutical companies to start as a sales representative, endless students who wait for tables between classes and others who cannot hold steady jobs anywhere – including six-week stints at every restaurant.
“If we treated service as an honorable profession like they do in Europe or Latin America, where waiters take pride and own their tables, it would keep employees, pay for their lives, rent, food, children, health care and education of children as he is doing elsewhere. This would actually require a social revolution for which we are not prepared to pursue at this time.