Monday, June 30, 2014

The Restaurant Game

In our society, customer service is huge. It is crucial to many businesses and none more so than the restaurant/bar game. Who stands out the most, takes the most crap...(deserved and undeserved) from both the kitchen and the customer? The server! 

Back when my husband was alive, before he settled on the aircraft industry, he was in food service. He managed a couple of restaurants, was a co-chef at one and worked as wait staff at others. He knew the business well and being a salesman at heart...he knew that good wait staff and customer service were key. He used to say that no matter how lousy the food, if the service was good then customers would usually overlook the poor cuisine. He was right.

Going to a restaurant to eat with Tim was always interesting. He would critique each place we went from the cleanliness to the decor and the food to the service. He knew what it "should" be like and if it wasn't....then on occasion he would take it upon himself to school the staff. He could tell the temperament of a server before they even seated us and if he detected even a smidgen of rudeness, ego or lethargy in the person he would tell them right up front that they were starting out with an $X tip but depending upon the service we received would decide if that amount actually made it into their pocket. Since Tim was an amazing tipper, it usually jolted even the poorest of wait staff into a 5 star server during the course of our meal. However, if the service went south at any point, both the server and the manager would hear about it. Tim always felt as if customers were doing the restaurant a favor by coming in to eat....not the other way around. He also never chewed wait staff out for a problem that he knew came from the kitchen. I have watched him walk into a kitchen to compliment a kitchen staff or to go off on them for a poor meal. Yeah, dining out with Tim could be an adventure for everyone involved.

I too have done my fair share of time both being a restaurant server and a bar server. I learned early on that how I presented myself (clean and appropriately dressed) and how I treated the customer made a huge difference in how the customers treated me and how they tipped. Trust me, in a world where tips are everything, it serves you well to treat customers as you would want to be treated as a customer.

So having all of this background knowledge of the restaurant business and customer service, it never fails to floor me when a server is rude, careless or simply doesn't give a crap about their job and lets it show. I am also not a fan of being served by someone with dreadlocks or their hair being long and not put up. It is not only a health code violation (or at the very least should be) but it is also a personal phobia of mine. Hair in my food (especially my dreadlocked waiters) doesn't exactly make my artichoke dip all that appetizing. Like my late husband I am not above subtracting $ from their final tip for an unhappy dining experience. Be rude to me or my special needs kid who yes, as a matter of fact does get loud at times (duh, why do you think I ask for a back table?!) and the server, myself and the manager will be having a rather unpleasant conversation.

Most restaurants I am pleased to say do make some effort to train their servers. Since I don't dine out a lot, when I do, I don't usually have huge problems with servers or service. However, occasionally you walk in to a place and right from the moment you are seated, you know you have lucked into the best server ever! We were that lucky a few weeks back. As I said, we seldom eat out but as a treat we went to our favorite restaurant Red Lobster. We usually go to the one on the East side but because we were running errands on the West side, we decided to go there.

The experience was on a roll from the moment we walked in, as we missed the main dinner rush and were immediately seated. When I asked to be put at a back table so David would not disturb any other diners, they opened up a typically unused section at that hour and gave it all to us. Then our waitress came out. Right off the bat she connected with David and as he said "Hi!" several dozen times over, she just laughed and said "Hi!" right back. Girl nearly doubled her tip with that act of class! She was pleasant and helpful and on top of our order from the minute she took it. I really don't think I have ever been served that quickly or that professionally by anyone else.....EVER! Never was a glass less than half empty on our table nor was our biscuit basket ever empty at all. She was the perfect combination of attentive without being annoying. She was pleasant, kind and very good at her job. As I sat there looking at my perpetually full glass of tea and enjoying my delicious shrimp, it occurred to me that this meal could not be half as good as it was and I would still consider this an amazing dining experience. Yes, some of that might be because I never get out of the house, but most of it was because of the wonderful and professional service. Even Z who currently is a fan of no one......ever, was impressed with her service.

The waitress got a well deserved tip of all I could afford that evening and I personally thanked her for being such a great server. Z though, was way ahead of me. As I was walking out trying to push the wheelchair, hold the doggie bags and find my keys, he walked straight up to the manager and expressed how pleased we were with her service and our dining experience as a whole. He even filled out a customer review card for both the restaurant and the server. I too might have done the same thing had I not been juggling and steering trying to get to the car. Show off!

So today.....I don't like bad service anywhere at anytime but especially not at a restaurant where I choose to spend my time once in a very great while. I do on the other hand LOVE....great service especially at a restaurant that I only get to enjoy once in a very great while. Respect my son while you are being great at your job and in my are a keeper! So if you are on the West side of Wichita and are hankering for some Red Lobster, stop won't be disappointed!

Happy Monday everyone!


Kristen Kelly said...

I great number of my friends have been life-long servers at Red Lobster. They rely on supporting their families on tips. They appreciate customers like you!

Anonymous said...

Great blog! I despise bad service in food service whether it is a sit down restaurant or fast food. I have gone off on many a place or server when the service and food were both poor. Finding a jewel like your RL server is always exciting. Thanks for another good read!