Big BUZZ on Twitter:
Apparently, he’s opening a new resto called Wanderers and will be downtown. –> RT @DeRushaEats: Azia Restaurant will close at the end… 2 minutes ago via HootSuite
Holy Twitter Buzzzzzzz #azia 8 minutes ago via UberTwitter
As much as I dislike the food/price of Azia, I wish it wasn’t closing. Tough for that intersection. Still haven’t been able to fill Morales 9 minutes ago via web
- DeRushaJ RT @DeRushaEats: Azia Restaurant will close at the end of July. 31 minutes ago via Echofon
Azia will close 2 days before Wanderers opens. If there’s a delay – Azia stays open. August 7 is target for the new place. 12 minutes ago via Echofon
Azia will be closed two days before opening in new location. 13 minutes ago via HootSuite
- cecilmenk RT @DeRushaEats Wanderers Wondrous Azian Rest will open right after Azia closes. “accessible” menu + prices. http://twitpic.com/23imgt 13 minutes ago via HootSuite
- MrChristopherL AZIA closing as new venue opens?? Sounds like it’s a end of a lease & better rent elsewhere deal! 13 minutes ago via HootSuite
- kareemy I believe he will do just fine. #azia #thompham 14 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone (more…)
It’s definitely patio season, and the PiPress offers a great list of the best ones in town.
The readers’ favorite? Why W.A. Frost, of course.
1. W.A. Frost, 374 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-224-5715; wafrost.com (33.5 percent total reader votes)
2. Stella’s Fish Cafe, 1400 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612-824-8862; stellasfishcafe.com (32 percent)
3. The Liffey, 175 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-556-1420; www.theliffey.com (22.5 percent)
4. Admiral D’s Waterfront Tavern, 4424 Lake Ave., White Bear Lake; 651-330-3101; admiralds.com (8 percent)
5. Manitou Station, 2171 Fourth St., White Bear Lake,¬†651-426-2300; manitoustation.com (4 percent)
See the full story for the PiPress’s top 25 rooftop/terrace, along the water, and neighborhood patios.
Now will someone please tell me why Gabby’s didn’t make the list? I mean, sure, it’s not the greatest venue in town, but the patio is one of the city’s best kept secrets. I’m looking forward to Psycho Suzie’s taking over the location shortly.
Where else? Where else? What are your favorite patios in town?
Ok, so we’ve said it before (more than once) ‚Äî on our Twitter feed anyhow ‚Äî but it looks like the cat is officially out of the bag: Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge will be moving to the much larger (four times as large, to be exact) Gabby’s riverside location this Fall. Too bad it’s in the Fall, though, because the best thing about Gabby’s is the fabulous patio ‚Äî which Psycho Suzi’s customers will likely have to wait a whole year to use. Wait, come to think of it, I guess the smokers may get a crack at it all winter. That’s how Suzi’s rolls.
Now.. it will be interesting to see how the Gabby’s hip hop crowd responds to the Psycho Suzi’s artsy hipster crowd. Predictions?
As I‚Äôm sure many of you have read, this is a tough week for many of us in the restaurant business here in the Twin Cities. The loss of Jon Radle is profound. He was extraordinarily talented, and so very young. Our community has been robbed of his creativity, his passion, and his unpretentious yet truly elegant food. He had what was destined to be a fantastic and prolific career. It was with this loss in mind that I chose to focus strictly on the positive this week, and take a look at the joys of service. I asked my constituents for a few words on why it is that we all stay in this business ‚Äì this is why do we do what we do.
We agree as a community that service becomes a passion, sometimes an addiction. There‚Äôs quick money, and a flexible schedule ‚Äì that‚Äôs attractive to almost everyone. My friend Matt Helgason, Assistant General Manager of Barrio Lowertown went so far as to say, ‚ÄúWhat other profession can you work 3-4 days a week and still live off what you make (when you‚Äôre) really only stressed out two hours a day?‚Äù But ultimately, even those of us who earn great tips don‚Äôt earn a tremendous living. And that flexible schedule isn‚Äôt so great when your friend‚Äôs birthday party falls on a Saturday night. Taking that night off can mean giving up a third of your week‚Äôs earnings! And yet we stay. There are a few big reasons why.
First, as I‚Äôve previously mentioned, frequently your server is really into food and wine. I started my career at restaurants that could only be referred to as simple: My first serving job was for a small Mexican restaurant franchise for which the tagline was, ‚ÄúChips are free, dinner extra!‚Äù Believe me, that line got old reeeeal quick when at least two or three tables a night would remind me they would like more chips since their ‚Äúdeeee-ner would be extra!‚Äù After three or four years in restaurants of this caliber, I followed a young man to Boston for a summer and got my introduction to fine dining service. Ambrosia on Huntington was a French-Asian fusion restaurant ‚Äì one of the first. The restaurant had an elevated kitchen, and the guy standing on the opposite side of the line from the chefs (referred to as the Expo or the Expeditor) would fire our courses when he saw the table was ready. What does that mean? We (the servers) would ring up the table‚Äôs entire meal at one time; first course, salad and entrees would all come to the kitchen on one slip of paper, referred to as a ‚Äúticket‚Äù or ‚Äúchit‚Äù. The Expo would then watch the table through a giant window in the kitchen that looked out over the dining room. He‚Äôd ‚Äúfire‚Äù each course (tell the chefs to start cooking an item) as he saw when the table was going to be ready to receive it. The system was flawless, outside of having to carry hot, heavy plates with artfully constructed towers of food down a flight of stairs. The guests always had perfectly timed dishes, and the food was to die for. I learned everything at this place ‚Äì and began my addiction to service here.
At Ambrosia I tried more food and wine that broadened my horizons than I ever had previously. I will never forget being handed a large piece of raw tuna resting on a bed of squid ink capellini, and being questioned by an incredulous Expo, ‚ÄúDo you even like tuna?‚Äù
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs from Minnesota! She thinks all tuna comes out of a can,‚Äù one of the chefs sneered at me.
‚ÄúThank you, I love tuna!‚Äù I exclaimed, having never eaten it raw before. Thank the restaurant god, I loved it. I learned ravenously at this restaurant: How to stand, what language to use, about wine regions outside of California, and about what real fine dining service meant. That job single-handedly changed the trajectory of my career. Because of my experience there, I‚Äôm a wanna-be foodie (we‚Äôll discuss the foodie movement sometime in the future), a true oenophile, and a service professional. When I left that place, it was like graduating. The ensuing ten years have been continuing education. I could never afford to have dined and drunk the way that I have were I not in this business. My husband, a ten year veteran and current lead server at a hot restaurant in downtown Minneapolis agrees, ‚ÄúAfter both serving and managing throughout my career, my passion for food and wine, and the magic that happens when you put them together correctly, is bigger to me than I ever thought possible. If you‚Äôd told me eight years ago that I‚Äôd be looking for micro-greens at the local farmer‚Äôs market, or that I‚Äôd be writing wine descriptions in my spare time, I wouldn‚Äôt have believed you.‚Äù
So, servers love what they‚Äôre bringing you, what else keeps us in the trenches? There are the people who seriously enjoy the delicacy of providing really good service. My friend Lori and I have worked together at several different places over the years, both as servers and in management of one of the most difficult properties in the Cities. (I won‚Äôt tell you where, but just trust me.) You‚Äôll currently find her smiling face welcoming you to the afore mentioned Corner Table. ‚ÄúI love food, I love (LOVE) wine, and opening people up to new experiences, introducing them to a wine or region they’ve never had before, or getting them to try *and like* a food they’ve not enjoyed before, is just so completely satisfying.‚Äù Anthony Bourdain said once that Mis En Place is his religion. I feel very similarly. There is nothing better than finishing a night knowing that everything was executed with a quiet level of perfection. One of my first dear, lifelong industry friends Shannon Hoh says, ‚ÄúThere is such a lack of great guest service in this country. I feel a great amount of pride and job satisfaction knowing that I show people that you can be treated like a king… if just for an hour or two.‚Äù I couldn‚Äôt agree more.
Even more than administering tremendous service, dealing with the public directly allows each of us to touch the lives (if ever briefly) of our guests. Making someone‚Äôs birthday special, or just their crappy day at work a distant memory, can be the most fulfilling thing in the world! Chris Brawner, server extraordinaire at the Loring Kitchen and Bar, said it simply: ‚ÄúEvery day I get the opportunity to meet amazing people. I get paid to laugh and to make others laugh… it‚Äôs wonderful.‚Äù My dear friend Mark Roberts (whom I‚Äôve previously mentioned) agreed, ‚ÄúChris hit it right on the head. If you are not enjoying the adventure maybe something else might give you more satisfaction.‚Äù He went on to tell me that he‚Äôd be in the service industry until he was no longer able, winking at me that he might even ‚Äúdo this for free.‚Äù Another great gentleman from La Belle Vie, Johnny Michaels told me, ‚ÄúIt’s great when your job is to make people happy, and if you’re successful, you get to see the results. Everyone works hard, and it’s fun to be stewards for their precious good times… the times people live for.‚Äù
More than anything, the people I asked said that it is the bonds with their coworkers they value the most. My friend Erika Olson, who fastidiously works the room at 20.21 (and has for the entire life of the restaurant), gave me this gem: ‚ÄúThe army of hooligan chums I‚Äôve acquired slanging food are hilarious, talented, and ridiculously good looking. We are damn good at kickball and can drink civilians (yeah, that‚Äôs right, we call you civilians) under the table. Take that to your ‚Äò9 to 5‚Äô and sit on it for eight hours.‚Äù The idea that an office existence just isn‚Äôt as fulfilling is pretty pervasive. Barb Gettel (currently pouring your favorite foamy beverage at Brit‚Äôs Pub) agrees. ‚ÄúMore than anything, the people I have met in this industry are some of the most hilarious, radical people and every day I get to go to work and have fun with them and call them my friends. Not everyone that sits in a cube day in and out gets to say that about their job or life ‚Äì in fact I don’t know anyone that can. (Said with experience from the cubical world.) No matter how hard I try to keep an office job I ALWAYS find myself back in the industry; it’s like the biggest, funnest team anyone could ever work on!‚Äù Off the tip of my brain, I can tell you of three couples I know who have gotten married as a result of meeting their spouse through the industry. (Myself included.)
I‚Äôll go back to what I said before ‚Äì your server is most likely an incredible person with diverse interests and aspirations, hobbies and (additional) professions. I currently work with an Expo who has been to Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Tanzania, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico for extended trips. He travels on the money he makes at his restaurant job ‚Äì the same job that allows him to take a month off at a time to pursue his love of travel. How many people do you know who can say that?
I‚Äôm going to leave off with sage words from a bartender. Pip Hanson writes a column about liquor for Metro Magazine when he‚Äôs not consulting for the next new hot property. When he‚Äôs not doing that, you can get a fantastic drink from him at Caf√© Maude. ‚ÄúI like making things with my hands. And I like girls. So my job is great.‚Äù True enough, friend. Now pour me one of those ‚ÄúThinking Man‚Äôs‚Äù chocolate martinis and let‚Äôs toast. To us!
Well hello all, and Happy Friday to you! For the past several weeks, we‚Äôve been discussing service. I have intentionally and deftly avoiding the topic of tipping. You see, I know quite a bit about fine dining, steps of service, the ins and outs of a restaurant, and of course, have been on the receiving end of many a tip. *Thank you.* But that‚Äôs my point, I‚Äôm on the receiving end. I NEVER want to tell a diner what they should leave for me; although I‚Äôm asked about once a week what I think is fair. A few months ago, a gentleman asked me what my best tip ever was, as he was so happy with my service he‚Äôd like to exceed it. Rather than making up some arbitrary sum so he‚Äôd feel obligated to beat it, I told him the truth. ‚ÄúI received $800 one night. But sir, that was a large party. You should tip what you feel is appropriate,‚Äù I replied. He left around 22%, which was kind and generous. But again, I avoided talking about what I thought he should tip. But it seems y‚Äôall wanna talk about tipping, so here we go. (And you thought you disagreed with me before‚Ä¶)
So there are a few important things we have to address first, beginning with the difference between an order taker and a server. If your server simply comes over and asks what they can bring for you, brings your drinks and meal, and presents the check, they are and order taker, not a server. If this person is fast, courteous, and says ‚Äúthank you‚Äù and ‚Äúcome again‚Äù, they are a step up from an order taker. If they take time to explain unique dishes on the menu, yet another step. If they explain the nuances of the wine that you are considering, it‚Äôs another step up. If they guide you through a luxurious experience where your napkin is magically re-folded when you return to the table from a trip to the restroom, there‚Äôs an extra taste of a fabulous bottle your server simply thought you had to try, and the valet is promptly summoned when you‚Äôre ready to leave, without you lifting a finger‚Ä¶ well, that‚Äôs admittedly different, right?
With that out of the way, there are differing views on what is ‚Äústandard‚Äù tipping procedure. It is the very nature of the process (providing a monetary expression of a job well done) that leaves the issue so open to argument. Many people think that ‚ÄúTIP‚Äù is an acronym for ‚ÄúTo Insure Prompt Service‚Äù but as The Waiter points out in his book, Waiter Rant, which would mean you should tip before service has begun. Some of you have argued that you would prefer the methods that other countries employ: Either including gratuity into the price of the item you‚Äôre are ordering, or that restaurants pay the servers a fair daily wage. Saying that the United States should adopt these rules is like arguing that cable TV should be free. It‚Äôs never going to happen. If you‚Äôd like to fight that fight, please address your congress-person, not your server. We didn‚Äôt make the rules. But we love the old adage, ‚ÄúIf you can‚Äôt afford to tip, you can‚Äôt afford to dine out.‚Äù And that, my friends, is why we‚Äôre all so damn caught up in what/how much/how to tip.
Well let‚Äôs get down to it then. If you tip 10%, it means you got bad service. What constitutes bad? Well, having experienced it tonight let me tell you: Our drinks didn‚Äôt arrive for ten plus minutes with no acknowledgement of the late timing. The bread didn‚Äôt come until long after the appetizers; after the salads had arrived. One entr√©e was unavailable, but we were not told at the time we ordered it. One entr√©e was dropped in the kitchen and didn‚Äôt come out with the rest of the table‚Äôs food. When it did arrive it was wrong. The dining room was not busy. The server was hapless, but apologetic and inevitably accommodating. The dropped entr√©e was free, as were two desserts. My husband and I paid $87 for tardy beverages, wedge salads, terrible entr√©es, piss-poor service, and air conditioning beating us up the entire time, even after complaints. So bad, I‚Äôm tempted to tell you where we ate. It‚Äôs inexcusable to get service like that in a place that charges $22 to $29 for an entr√©e.
Adequate service is just that. You got what you wanted. Your service was timely, and pleasant. This level of service deserves 15% to 18% depending on the restaurant, fine dining getting the higher percentage. A fine dining server has a higher skill set, and even if they didn‚Äôt get an opportunity to display it fully to you on this occasion, the restaurant as a whole deserves a nod. Give the extra percentage ‚Äì we‚Äôll get to why in a minute.
If you receive exemplary service, tip nothing less than 20%. Your server has honed their skills to provide you the best experience possible given their surroundings: Be it Bistro or Burger Joint, these folks know what they‚Äôre doing, and showed you a great time. Do them the favor of acknowledging their efforts. If they really blew you away (remembered your drink from your last visit or had that extra side of mayo before you asked for it) throw them a few extra bucks. Anything over 20% tells a server you were really impressed and often a few measly dollars will make his or her day. Think about that. Your gratitude shown with as little as $5 bucks extra gratuity, could make someone‚Äôs whole day. Why wouldn‚Äôt you?
Now, here‚Äôs something you may not know: Servers tip a LARGE percentage of what they make to their support staff. I tip my Wait Assistant (the proper term for bus boy) a point. What is a point? Well, if I‚Äôm worth 2 points, my WA is worth 1. That means that if I make $150, my WA gets $50, and I get $100, get it? (150/3 points = 50) Then I tip the bartender 15% of what I made. Then I tip the food runner (the additional person working for the restaurant designated to get the hot food out to the guests immediately and describe it‚Äôs characteristics at a table when that table‚Äôs sever is waiting on other guests) 10% of what I made. I was tipped $150 throughout the evening, but I‚Äôm walking with $75. That‚Äôs right. Sometimes I walk with HALF of the tips I brought in that night. It is precisely that reason (in a fine dining restaurant, there is often additional support staff) that I suggest you bump the percentage you leave.
Finally, if you receive free anything, tip on it. If you know the bartender, and you get a free drink on your tab, tip as if you were charged. If you have a coupon for a free order of flingers, tip for it. If you have terrible service, but at least the restaurant (be It the manager or your server) attempted to compensate for it, tip on it. It‚Äôs the least you can do for gratis food or beverage. Let‚Äôs go back to the bad experience I described to you earlier. The server recognized that there were several things that went wrong at our table. I have no idea how bad a night she was having ‚Äì if she‚Äôd had a horrible personal day, if the kitchen was punishing her for no(?) reason, if her manager had it out for her, or if it was just a comedy of errors. At least she knew it. She bought an entr√©e, and two desserts for the table. I tipped her for it. But then, I‚Äôve never left 10%. It‚Äôs just not in my nature ‚Äì I‚Äôve been doing this for too long.
Okay. Let the bickering commence.
Back again, to finish off the 12 Things Diners Should Never Do. What? What‚Äôs that you say?! Last week it was only 10? Well, there are a couple of quickies in here that I‚Äôve decided I simply can‚Äôt omit. Call it a bonus! (Also, these articles about service are simply that: A focus on upper level dining and the interaction between the diner and the server. Unfortunately, you don‚Äôt receive this level of service at every establishment. That is a bigger conversation, but one I‚Äôm hoping to inspire. After all, great service improves your experience no matter where you are!)
6) Don‚Äôt say you‚Äôre ready to order if you‚Äôre not. A server has a sequence of service (steps and priorities of service) long before you sit down. Timing is everything, and that frankly is why there is such great potential for things to go wrong. Your server has come to your table because he/she has found the break in the rhythm of service to proficiently and accurately take your order. If you‚Äôre not ready, or rather if you say that you are, and then keep your server waiting for several minutes while you decide, it throws off the entire system. If you have a few questions, that if of course never a problem (as referenced in ‚ÄòDon‚Äôt‚Äô #3), and will likely help you reach your decision. However, if you simply haven‚Äôt looked yet, or need a few minutes to reach your decision, even if everyone else at the table is ready, ask your server to return in a few minutes. Any server who disagrees with this is unprofessional, and doesn‚Äôt truly care about giving you what you want.
7) Please do not attempt to summon me if I‚Äôm at another table. Waving, yelling or (god forbid) snapping at me while I‚Äôm with other guests is just rude. The other guests deserve service too, and I promise, I‚Äôll be right over. If you truly require immediate attention, a simple hand gesture and/or nod is sufficient.
8) Do not be passive-aggressive if you are unhappy with something. If you don‚Äôt care for your drink, your dish, your wine or your server, just tell someone. Being angry about it doesn‚Äôt improve your experience. Simply asking for the kitchen to remake your dish to your liking gets you the meal you want. Sending back your dirty martini because it isn‚Äôt dirty enough is a quick fix, and one any bartender should be happy to make. Requesting a different server is tricky, and I would begin with asking your server for what you need. If he/she is being too chatty, express that you‚Äôre having a more private evening. If the server is hovering too much, mention that you‚Äôre in no rush. If he/she doesn‚Äôt take the hint, or simply is inept, go ahead and ask for a manager. Leaving a terrible tip teaches no lesson, while providing direct feedback does. Once again ask for what you want. Chances are you‚Äôll get it! On the opposite side of the coin, tell someone if you had a great time! It is always appreciated, and may mean a little something extra the next time you‚Äôre in‚Ä¶
9) Don‚Äôt move things far from where your server has placed them at your table. Every night, I reset tables several times throughout the course of service. I set plates, silverware and glasses specifically on the table so as to accommodate the plates that are on the way from the kitchen. I set the fork a certain way to signal to the person delivering the dishes that the table has in fact been reset, and is ready for the next course. Inevitably, guests move the things that I have set down. That‚Äôs fine ‚Äì it‚Äôs your table. However, I then ask you to be prepared to move these things out of the way when the food arrives. In fine dining, the idea is that a guest should never have to move to ‚Äòassist‚Äô in service. We‚Äôve done everything we can to prevent you from having to help (complete with secret signals and all!), but if your bread plate is directly in front of you when your entr√©e arrives, the person with their hands full has no place to set your plate. Thank you in advance.
10) If you are splitting the bill multiple ways, don‚Äôt forget about the tax. So very often, I wait on big groups who just have cocktails, and share some appetizers. I love groups like this because they are nice, sizable tabs from frequent guests who‚Äôve brought their friends – awesome. However, very often when the bill comes people forget the tax, and end up shorting the server. Let‚Äôs say you and a dozen of your girlfriends go out for drinks. You each have two $12 martinis. Each lady assumes their bill is $24, and leaves $30, thereby leaving a great tip, right? Nope. Liquor tax in Hennepin County is 12.5%, so you‚Äôve actually left a 7.5% tip. Your server ends up bewildered, concerned that the service wasn‚Äôt to your expectation, or simply pissed off that their hard work wasn‚Äôt recognized. All when you sincerely meant to tell them they did a great job! With really big parties, splitting a bill into separate checks becomes a real challenge, and it‚Äôs always important to know if this is required in advance. A lot of computer systems won‚Äôt split a bill more than eight ways. However, if you inform your server at the outset that you prefer separate tabs, that‚Äôs normally not a problem. Otherwise account for the tax, and even Uncle Sam is happy.
11) Don‚Äôt treat your server like a second-class citizen. I‚Äôm going to finish up with the golden rule. Your server is fully aware that the word ‚Äòservice‚Äô is within their job title. It is our job to provide you with the best service, and therefore the best experience we can possibly provide. That said, your server has chosen this profession for any number of reasons, and lack of education is (most likely) not one of them. The servers I have known over my 15 years in the business are some of the most unique, expressive, creative and talented people I‚Äôve ever met. We are students and teachers, artists and writers, yogis and foodies, and we love our jobs. That‚Äôs why we keep doing them. The schedule is flexible, allowing us to continue our educations, and travel frequently. Chances are we are dying to try that new exclusive restaurant as much as you are, and we‚Äôve tasted that exquisite bottle of wine¬†you‚Äôre ordering because we have a passion for wine as well. Treat your server like the intelligent, capable human being they are, and you will get the best service of your life.
12) And one last sneaky little addition (by popular demand) is this: If you are the last person in the room, please end your evening. You are keeping at least three staff members on the property: The manager, (most likely) the bartender or host and your server. Even if you‚Äôve paid, your server is required to stay until you leave. I‚Äôve never understood people who insist on sitting in an establishment past closing time. It‚Äôs rude, and you can‚Äôt get anything more to drink or eat anyway. Don‚Äôt you have another drink to find out there in the world, or some important romance to attend to? Don‚Äôt force us to come over and ask you to leave. It‚Äôs uncomfortable for everyone. Thank you.
In response to several of the comments I received on last week‚Äôs article, I thought a look at the perspectives of a diner vs. a server would be a worthy exercise. Last fall, Bruce Buschel wrote One Hundred Things Restaurant Statters Should Never Do, and the restaurant world was set a-buzzin‚Äô about whether or not we agreed with all of the points made. The response was quick and furious, with a litany of snarky servers airing their grievances about the table last night who tipped them poorly. (I myself have never said a bad thing about a customer EVER!) In writing this I hope to bring exactly what I try to provide my guests with nightly ‚Äì a better experience. I may not agree with every single one of the 100 things, generally, I do. It is with that in mind that I would like to present a brief‚Ä¶
10 Things Diners Should Never Do (Part 1)
1) Don‚Äôt be late for your reservation. Remember the last time you were frustrated that you were unable to sit down at the time of your reservation? It‚Äôs because the four parties in front of you were late for theirs. Running the door of a restaurant is a delicate art ‚Äì judging the ebb and flow of diners and accommodating special requests requires patience and skill. Additionally, if you do not have a reservation, it is never beneficial to point out, ‚ÄúBut that table‚Äôs open, and we‚Äôll be quick!‚Äù Just because a table appears to be empty doesn‚Äôt mean it isn‚Äôt reserved, or being held to form a larger table for a group coming in. If there is a possibility of seating you at a table believe me, they will. It‚Äôs their job to get you in! If you are unavoidably running late, simply call and let them know, it will normally not be a problem to accommodate you. Knowing your arrival time is valuable, and makes getting you sat in a timely manner possible.
2) Don‚Äôt ignore your server. This may sound like a silly request, but I can‚Äôt tell you how many times I‚Äôve said, ‚ÄúDo you prefer your martini up or on the rocks?‚Äù only to receive the response, ‚ÄúYes.‚Äù Chances are, the reason your server is talking to you is to help guide your experience, so you‚Äôll enjoy the restaurant to its fullest potential. It will only be a minute and we‚Äôll get out of your way to let you enjoy each other and the food. A server‚Äôs ‚Äúspiel‚Äù as we call it, will normally guide you through the menu, tell you about things that are not on the menu (specials, flights, etc.), and will provide you with a little insight as to best utilize the unique characteristics of the restaurant. And ultimately, your server is a professional who knows the menu, and can help you with your decisions. Which brings us to‚Ä¶
3) Don‚Äôt be afraid to ask questions. Don‚Äôt know what ramps are? Ask! No idea which Italian wine to choose because you normally drink Merlot? Ask! No matter who you are, you are not as knowledgeable about the restaurant‚Äôs food as your server is. They are not trying to be ‚Äúbetter than you‚Äù, it is very simply their job to know these things, and to communicate them to you. And realistically, you have a far less chance of getting something you don‚Äôt want if you ask for menu clarification when ordering. No vegetarian wants to inadvertently get the pasta with pancetta and the squeamish may be unprepared to receive sweetbreads (although you really should try them). A simple question or two easily prevents sending back inappropriate dishes.
4) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DON‚ÄôT FORGET TO TELL US ABOUT YOUR ALLERGIES! I recently waited on a couple whose birthday celebration evening was ruined because they forgot to mention the husband‚Äôs severe nut allergy. It was perhaps the single scariest thing that‚Äôs ever happened to me at a table. Although the ingredient you‚Äôre allergic to may not be listed on the menu, it could be in the dish you‚Äôve ordered. Or (worse) your dish could be prepared next to a dish that contains your allergen, and cross contamination can occur. The very last thing we EVER want is for you to have to go to the hospital because of something we served you. I‚Äôm begging you. Just tell us. (On the same note, not liking something and being allergic to something are completely different. Hating mushrooms and possibly being killed by them are not in the same hemisphere. Please, tell us your aversions so that accommodations can be made, but don‚Äôt lie about allergies ‚Äì they are serious business.)
5) Don‚Äôt say you‚Äôre ready to order if you‚Äôre not. A server has a sequence of service in their head before you sit down. Timing is everything, and that frankly is why there is such great potential for things to go wrong. Your server has come to your table because they want to take your order accurately, send it to the kitchen correctly, have it delivered swiftly, thereby providing you the perfect experience. If you‚Äôre not ready, it throws off the entire system. If you have a few questions, that is of course never a problem (as referenced in ‚ÄòDon‚Äôt‚Äô #3), and will likely help you reach your decision. However, if you simply haven‚Äôt looked yet, or need a few minutes to reach your decision, even if everyone else at the table is ready ask your server to return in a few minutes ‚Äì really, we don‚Äôt mind. Any server who disagrees with this is unprofessional, and doesn‚Äôt truly care about giving you what you want.
Next Week: We‚Äôll finish the list of 10, and highlight a few restaurants with truly exemplary service.