S E R V E R
For this feature, I spoke with a variety of people about their experience with food service. When I asked the question of service to diners, I found what most people wanted to discuss had the tone of your average Yelp review. It’s the worst experiences that are often the most memorable, right? The same sentiment can sometimes be felt on the side of the waitstaff, too. A rude customer could ruin a waiter’s day.
The relationship between server and diner is one that occasionally can be strained. Customer are paying the staff to serve them. The diner is relying on the server to be fed. One waiter I spoke with anonymously, and cringed when he was asked to provide his name. “It creates an unequal relationship when they don’t give their name in return,” he said. “For the rest of the night they are saying my name whenever they want my attention and it can become stressful.”
Waiters and waitresses are professionals. Just remember professionals are people, too. Jennifer Price is a waitress at Tucci, a family-owned Italian restaurant that serves local food. In speaking with her, I could tell she was good at what she did. She mentioned in the variety of establishments she’s worked at she is usually the most-often requested server. “Some customers would even call in to ask if I was working that night, and if I wasn’t then they would come in the next night so that I could serve them,” she said. “The thing was though, some of those customers might not have been particularly great tippers, nor my favorites but they appreciated my efficiency, my humor, and genuine love for what I do.”
Jennifer also wanted it to be known that she herself is impressed with the dining experience that they provide at Tucci and that it is the best Italian food west of Little Italy! She has worked at other “fine dining” restaurants before but at Tucci she is proud of the local ingredients, the Tucci garden, and the environment of the family -owned restaurant. Pride was a word that she used a few times – if someone takes pride in the work that they do, that reflects upon their attitude, their work ethic, and overall energy.
I asked Jennifer a few questions about her experiences with customers.
What do you wish you would be asked about more often?
I wish diners would ask me more about the food that we serve and appreciate the fact that we put an emphasis on using the best local produce and meats grown and raised by Pacific Northwest farmers and ranchers. I also wish diners would ask more about wine instead of getting the same old bottle every time. Most people stay within their comfort zone, and I think it’s important to share our knowledge and educate them in a fun, yet professional style.
What can a diner do to make a server’s life a little easier?
An important one is to practice cell phone etiquette and leave the conversation at the door. This is can be distracting to other tables, and I think using a phone at the table is being rude to your own guests, as well as to the person who is trying to meet your “dining expectations.”
Practice common sense and common courtesy. Don’t call your server over and say that you are ready to order when you haven’t yet decided what you’re having. Be ready to order or relax and wait your turn. Don’t flag two different people down to request the same item twice. We are constantly multi-tasking, and chances are…it’s in the works!
Are you a server with a story to tell?
D I N E R
If I am going to go out to dine, I like to know I’m going to have a good time. I consider myself to be a good patron: I tip, I share my dining experiences with friends, I’ll even recommend a place to out-of-town folks if I like it enough. I even follow what’s going on with new trends in the industry, so that I can be aware of what’s going on with the business I’m supporting .
For instance, our restaurants are getting noisier and noisier, and I believe that is supposed to be an emerging trend. We are the #social #community generation and the layout of new restaurants seem to encourage the noise with open kitchens and communal seating. Don’t get me wrong— I’m as likely to snapchat that kitchen action as the next millennial. But sometimes I would prefer to simply talk to the person that I came with. Such quiet, reserved places are getting harder to find.
When I first enter a restaurant, I’ll scan around for the best spot to sit and then request it before the hostess places us. It feels rude to have to say that actually, you’d prefer to sit over there where it’s quieter, please and thank you. I don’t like bothering the service by having asking to change tables or to turn down the music. If I were a guest in someone’s house, I wouldn’t want to tell my host how how they should be entertaining people.
I feel that it’s good to be able to have control over some things. I don’t think anyone enjoys the feeling of wondering if your server forgot about them while they can only sit there and wait. In order to avoid that helpless feeling, I sometimes choose to go to a food cart instead of a restaurant. If I am waiting in line then I can see where the line ends. I’ll say to myself: this only ought to take a few minutes. As I get closer to the front I’ll know to put down my cell phone and get ready to order. Maybe when I’m on my phone I can even take the time to look up what’s recommended online. I think the boom in popularity with order-at-the-register places like Bollywood Theatre and Laughing Planet has something to do with customers wanting to have more control over their experiences.
My favorite dishes around town:
“Dynamite” at a local Mio Sushi.
The Spicy Salami, Mama Lil’s Peppers, Goat Cheese and Honey Pizza from Life of Pie, the new pizza joint on Mississippi.
Oh, and the beef brisket from Podnah’s BBQ on Killingsworth, though it’s so hard to pick just one thing there that you may as well get the Pit Boss and taste everything.
My favorite waitstaff around town:
Has to be Mao from Sivalai Thai on Burnside. He is so delightful and attentive, and is even empowered to sometimes bring out some tea or mango rice as a gift for the customers. He’s got a rascally side, too. Go visit him and bring a date.
What is your dining profile? Do you have an experience as a diner to share? chitchatchew.com is the upcoming portal for whining and dining and will feature a recurring mailbag titled “Server/Diner.”
If you have an question, comment, or story related to service as a diner or a server, you can email the author of this column at firstname.lastname@example.org.