Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NYT article on service

51. If there is a service charge, alert your guests when you present the bill. It’s not a secret or a trick.

52. Know your menu inside and out. If you serve Balsam Farm candy-striped beets, know something about Balsam Farm and candy-striped beets.

53. Do not let guests double-order unintentionally; remind the guest who orders ratatouille that zucchini comes with the entree.


54. If there is a prix fixe, let guests know about it. Do not force anyone to ask for the “special” menu.

55. Do not serve an amuse-bouche without detailing the ingredients. Allergies are a serious matter; peanut oil can kill. (This would also be a good time to ask if anyone has any allergies.)

56. Do not ignore a table because it is not your table. Stop, look, listen, lend a hand. (Whether tips are pooled or not.)

57. Bring the pepper mill with the appetizer. Do not make people wait or beg for a condiment.

58. Do not bring judgment with the ketchup. Or mustard. Or hot sauce. Or whatever condiment is requested.

59. Do not leave place settings that are not being used.

60. Bring all the appetizers at the same time, or do not bring the appetizers. Same with entrees and desserts.

61. Do not stand behind someone who is ordering. Make eye contact. Thank him or her.

62. Do not fill the water glass every two minutes, or after each sip. You’ll make people nervous.

62(a). Do not let a glass sit empty for too long.

63. Never blame the chef or the busboy or the hostess or the weather for anything that goes wrong. Just make it right.

64. Specials, spoken and printed, should always have prices.

65. Always remove used silverware and replace it with new.

66. Do not return to the guest anything that falls on the floor — be it napkin, spoon, menu or soy sauce.

67. Never stack the plates on the table. They make a racket. Shhhhhh.

68. Do not reach across one guest to serve another.

69. If a guest is having trouble making a decision, help out. If someone wants to know your life story, keep it short. If someone wants to meet the chef, make an effort.

70. Never deliver a hot plate without warning the guest. And never ask a guest to pass along that hot plate.

71. Do not race around the dining room as if there is a fire in the kitchen or a medical emergency. (Unless there is a fire in the kitchen or a medical emergency.)

72. Do not serve salad on a freezing cold plate; it usually advertises the fact that it has not been freshly prepared.

73. Do not bring soup without a spoon. Few things are more frustrating than a bowl of hot soup with no spoon.

74. Let the guests know the restaurant is out of something before the guests read the menu and order the missing dish.

75. Do not ask if someone is finished when others are still eating that course.

76. Do not ask if a guest is finished the very second the guest is finished. Let guests digest, savor, reflect.

77. Do not disappear.

78. Do not ask, “Are you still working on that?” Dining is not work — until questions like this are asked.

79. When someone orders a drink “straight up,” determine if he wants it “neat” — right out of the bottle — or chilled. Up is up, but “straight up” is debatable.

80. Never insist that a guest settle up at the bar before sitting down; transfer the tab.

81. Know what the bar has in stock before each meal.

82. If you drip or spill something, clean it up, replace it, offer to pay for whatever damage you may have caused. Refrain from touching the wet spots on the guest.

83. Ask if your guest wants his coffee with dessert or after. Same with an after-dinner drink.

84. Do not refill a coffee cup compulsively. Ask if the guest desires a refill.

84(a). Do not let an empty coffee cup sit too long before asking if a refill is desired.

85. Never bring a check until someone asks for it. Then give it to the person who asked for it.

86. If a few people signal for the check, find a neutral place on the table to leave it.

87. Do not stop your excellent service after the check is presented or paid.

88. Do not ask if a guest needs change. Just bring the change.

89. Never patronize a guest who has a complaint or suggestion; listen, take it seriously, address it.

90. If someone is getting agitated or effusive on a cellphone, politely suggest he keep it down or move away from other guests.

91. If someone complains about the music, do something about it, without upsetting the ambiance. (The music is not for the staff — it’s for the customers.)

92. Never play a radio station with commercials or news or talking of any kind.

93. Do not play brass — no brassy Broadway songs, brass bands, marching bands, or big bands that feature brass, except a muted flugelhorn.

94. Do not play an entire CD of any artist. If someone doesn’t like Frightened Rabbit or Michael BublĂ©, you have just ruined a meal.

95. Never hover long enough to make people feel they are being watched or hurried, especially when they are figuring out the tip or signing for the check.

96. Do not say anything after a tip — be it good, bad, indifferent — except, “Thank you very much.”

97. If a guest goes gaga over a particular dish, get the recipe for him or her.

98. Do not wear too much makeup or jewelry. You know you have too much jewelry when it jingles and/or draws comments.

99. Do not show frustration. Your only mission is to serve. Be patient. It is not easy.

100. Guests, like servers, come in all packages. Show a “good table” your appreciation with a free glass of port, a plate of biscotti or something else management approves.

Bonus Track: As Bill Gates has said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” (Of course, Microsoft is one of the most litigious companies in history, so one can take Mr. Gates’s counsel with a grain of salt. Gray sea salt is a nice addition to any table.)

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