A small rant about … Restaurant ‘Service’

As a single dad with minimal cooking skills that don’t include a barbeque grill, I spend far too much time in restaurants.  If my apartment complex allowed me to have a grill on my balcony, I would love it.  They supply a ‘community’ grill at the pool, but that seems icky to me…just sayin.  I do make a mean omelet, but since every meal can’t be breakfast (sadly), I have become somewhat of an authority on eating other people’s cooking as well as developing some opinions on service.  Because I grew up with a mother who ran restaurants, I typically tip at least 20% because I know how draining their job can be and I appreciate good service.  In my opinion, there is nothing better to go with a tasty meal than service that is friendly and unobtrusive.  I shouldn’t see my server much, except when I need them…and I usually only need them to take my order, make a recommendation if I ask for one, refill my beverage of choice when I need it, and clear my plates away when I am finished.  This is a blue skies scenario, however, which is rarely ever realized.

Instead I am more likely to get one of the following…

  1. The Scripted Delivery – This comes from those restaurants that teach their servers to go from a script for everything…and generally this drives me bananas.  For example, I find myself dining at BJ’s (a chain restaurant) pretty frequently because I enjoy their food.  What I don’t enjoy is the script, which has become so predictable that I could probably deliver it without training.  I have been tempted several times to sit down and when the server comes to let them introduce themselves and then quickly stop them to save some time… ‘Before you get started on your script,  Server Name in the interest of saving both of us time, I would not like to sample one of your handcrafted beers this evening…I would simply like some unsweet iced tea.  I have already made my selection since I dine here frequently and I will have the Santa Fe salad with no tomato and an order of the fried artichokes.  I would like the fried artichokes to come out first.  I would be very happy if you would check on me every once in awhile and see if my tea glass needs a refill, but other than that, I am interested in enjoying my meal free from interruption.  At the end of the meal, I would not like dessert, even though I am sure your pizookies (their signature dessert that they launch into another script about at the end of the meal) are tasty.  I would just like my check.  Thank you very much for your consideration in this matter :)’
  2. The Manic Enthusiasm – Instead of a friendly, conversational tone from the server, I sometimes get the wide-eyed, crazed enthusiasm of someone putting on an act.  You can see them as they approach the table.  They take a deep breath and take on a different, sugary sweet, disingenuous persona that just grates on you a little bit.
  3. The Neglect Approach – These servers take your order after you have sat in their section for 10 minutes or more without being acknowledged.  At this point they will typically turn up and apologize for the busy restaurant while taking your drink order with which they will take several more minutes to return… At this point, they will take your order and odds are they will not even deliver it themselves, but instead rely on someone else to deliver it for them.  After this, you might see them once in a great while until of course it is time to bring your bill…they will do this promptly.
  4. The Overzealous Approach – This usually happens with novice servers who check on you every 5 minutes, destroying any chance of having a conversation with the person you are with.  I went recently to a Brazilian Steakhouse here in San Antonio.  I love the concept of this restaurant…  The salad bar is amazing and when you are finished with your salad, servers dressed as gauchos buzz around your table with different cuts of meat on skewers that they will slice for you if your green sided/red sided card is flipped to green.  This would be great except for a few things… They overdo it… I finished my salad except for a few items on the plate that I intended to continue picking at as the meat was brought to the table.  I was asked 7 times by 7 different servers if I wanted my salad plate cleared away!  I declined 6 times and finally relented on the 7th time because I just didn’t have the energy to fight it anymore.  In addition, the servers bring out side orders to go with the meat they are bringing to the table.  Several times these dishes were replaced when we had barely taken a quarter of the contents of the dish.  After awhile, even the meat guys were ignoring the color of the cards and stopping by the table every time to try to unload their different cuts.  It was all just very exhausting.  It was a good thing that the company was so good, not that we got to talk to each other very much with all the servers buzzing around like bees.  Great food, overattentive service.
  5. The Auto Gratuity – This irritates me.  When you get your bill and the gratuity has already been added.  Now I realize that this is customary for large parties and it protects the servers from being undertipped, but it has started to happen in some restaurants for smaller parties as well.  A gratuity will be added to the bill and they will usually not tell you that it was, in hopes that you will overlook it and add more.  My problem with this is that they usually figure it at 18% which is more, sometimes, than I feel the server in question deserved for the service.  It is presumptuous.
  6. The ‘I order my own food at the counter and you deliver it to my table but still expect to be tipped fully’ trick – Enough said…annoying.

Anyway, enough ranting about restaurants… now I am tired and hungry again.  Sigh.



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