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Okay. What's RIGHT with restaurant service?

I don't eat out very much, but from reading recent posts, I may not want to. A lot of server-trashing goes on ( and in many cases, I think, deservedly). But we rarely talk about GOOD service.

It seems to me that a lot of CH poster are servers, and may want some input to what the dining public appreciates. POSITIVES wanted.

I'll start: Crown Prince (my son) is just finishing the first year of college. While collecting dorm room boxes, we suggested a restaurant meal to cap the night. Crown Prince chose. Restaurant: Great place for food, no real ambience, most entrees <$10. While being seated, my son said, we'd like "that" table, and we got it, no problem. We had exquisitely attentive, but not hovering, service. Water glasses refilled, teapot checked for level and temp (Chinese restaurant), plates cleared in an appropriate manner. At ordering, the server looked at CP and said " Sesame Chicken, right?" (Clearly, my son is a regular, but I know him to be rather - em - frugal. More than 15% is not landing on the table - he's not paying for the attention) Meal was wonderful. Service was wonderful.

Upon paying, the manager said something to effect of "see you soon" to my son. Now, this is a kid for whom $6.95 is a spendy eat-out meal. But he was treated like anyone who was ordering a $22 plate. So were we.

Upon quizzing (I'm the mom of teens - I cannot help but 'quiz') CP about the treatment he/we received, he replied that it is always such, and that's why he patronizes the restaurant . We concurred, as the service was spot-on. It was rewarded, BTW, in our tip. Mom and Dad were paying. :)

Servers, managers, owners, bussers: what you do for a living IS noticed, and even the lowliest (my son with his budget) notice it. He keeps coming back, and he is hauling his parents along. And the next time the parents have an opportunity to go out, we will go to that restaurant. I salute any server who remembers their regulars, any owner who makes people feel welcomed, and anyone who busses a table and is cheerful doing so. It makes the dining experience welcoming. It makes us keep coming back when we can.

So: what is RIGHT in your world of dining out? Let's give a shout-out to those who are very often trashed on this board. What do you love regarding service? Let's ditch the negativity for a moment or two and talk about what's great, service-wise. I realize I am not talking about $500 meals and white tablecloth experiences. I'd love to hear some "everyday-ish" good experiences.

PS: Restaurant was Shuang Cheng in Dinkytown, MSP, Midwest board.

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  1. My wife and I find that the vast majority of service we get in restaurants is decent enough to excellent. Very rarely are we really put off and those times tend to take place in rather spendier restaurants where certain things just shouldn't be happening (still water being repeatedly poured into sparkling water for which we're paying, food being served at wildly different times). Those times are few and far between though. We love our favorite Vietnamese place where our tab is never more than $20 but the service is attentive and enthusiastic. We love our local neighborhood bistro where they remember that my wife can't eat pork and remind us not to share my dish if its got pork in it.

    We enjoy eating out quite a bit and a lot of that has to do wtih the wonderful people who make those experiences happen.

    1. We recently went to a typical NJ diner and our waitress was an older woman from Scotland. I know this because she told us a lot about herself. Even though she was very tired she was extremely friendly and attentive. They work long 12 hour shifts at that diner. We asked for something not on the menu (moussaka) and she immed went to the cook to see if they could make it. They could. She asked what kind of bread would we like as we both chose greek dishes. I couldnt decide quickly so she said she bring all varieties to us which turned out to be 5 kinds. Dessert was another hard choice. She brought us a few different things and we chose those we wanted. Never rushed and she treated us like family. In fact, we talked and chatted like family. I left her a big tip that probably amounts to 35%.

      Another recent experience was in a chain (Houlihan's) where I ordered the crabcakes which the runner brought out but it came with rice and french fries. I thought that strange for a seafood to have 2 starches. Exactly 4 seconds after the runner left the waitress came running over and said it should have come with rice and broccoli and doesnt know how that happened. I said I got someone else's plate who subbed out the broccoli for fries. (How could anyone not like broccoli is beyond me) She asked if I wanted the broccoli and I said yes. She returned 10 seconds later with a large plate of hot crisp steamed broccoli. Perfect. She was very attentive. She immed spotted a problem and immed corrected it. No distractions, no taking another order, no delivering someones drinks until we were happy with our entrees. And she did this cheerfully. Great personality very infectious. Brought us water refills without asking! (gasp!) When the manager came over to ask how things were. I briefly explained my initial entree mix up but that our waitress was quick to correct and she was terrific overall. I mentioned her by name. (I'm afraid he then made a beeline to the runner who misdelivered) Also, as the Mrs was having dessert I noticed the coupon I had expired the day before. I asked our waitress if the manager would still honor it and she said yes noone looks at the dates. 5 minutes later another manager comes over with my expired coupon to thank us for our repeated business. (I initially thought he was going to say no to the coupon) I explained again how wonderful our server was and that we had a nice time. I didnt know which manager was the bigger kahuna so I relayed everything again. She rounded up to the nearest quarter with my change. Nice. Tip was at least 30%.

      1. "It seems to me that a lot of CH poster are servers, and may want some input to what the dining public appreciates."

        Hear, hear! I would love for this board to make me a better server, rather than making me think everyone on CH hates all waitstaff. Will definitely be following this thread.

        3 Replies
          1. re: ctscorp

            Having waited tables all through college, I think it is honestly the hardest job I ever had. However, it taught me about time management, multi-tasking, team work, being cordial (even if you don't feel like it), and how to laugh when you are totally "in the weeds".
            For me, I love a server who will give honest feedback about dishes (c'mon you know what is good) and clues me in to things that are particularly fresh that day.
            As for customer service, attitude will get you everywhere. The service does not have to be 100% perfect, but a smile and a desire to make things right will take youa long way.
            Oddly enough, some of the most consistently pleasant service I receive is at Chic-fil-a! They are always so friendly.

          2. re: jnstarla

            I am continuously impressed by youthful servers in nice restaurants who demonstrate in-depth knowledge of food and beverage, way beyond dilettante level. I wonder how they acquired all this knowledge so early in life, when it seems it would require half a lifetime of travel and experiences. Always a nice surprise, and I leave a little smarter.

          3. I like the bartenders, and owner of a restaurant I go to every Friday night for some drinks, and sometimes some carry-out. Once I sit down the bartender typically has my cold pint of Budweiser, and my shot of Cabo Anejo tequila on the way.

            The owner also stops by, and we chat some White Sox baseball, hunting, and about his plans for a planned outdoor area with a tiki bar, and volleyball pits.

            If a server/bartender/owner remembers me, and better yet remembers what I like to drink, or eat it is appreciated.

            1. Love this topic! Thanks for the opportunity to share the good stuff.

              Working my way up the food ladder...

              McDonald's - I know it's not really a service restaurant but there is one near me where all the teenage employees have been taught to say "have a nice day" and actually appear to mean it. It really does brighten my day.

              Bonefish Grill – Upon being seated, I was asked if I had ever been to the restaurant before and when I said no, my waitress suddenly became the restaurant’s greatest cheerleader. In addition to walking me through the menu she mentioned the most popular items and later in the meal was happy to take time to discuss the preparation of my braised cabbage.

              Oakley's Bistro (local independent restaurant in Indianapolis) - When we entered we were asked if we wanted to be seated near the window and we said yes. The next group that came in also said yes but when they came to the table next to us, they realized it was colder than they anticipated. The waitress asked if they would like to be moved and they said yes please. After she got them resettled, she returned to our table and apologized for not returning sooner. She explained what happened but of course we had seen the entire thing and no explanation was really necessary and certainly not an apology. She gets points for good service at both tables.

              Pier 66 (Seattle WA) –After being seated, my co-worker and I were not acknowledged by any server. After about 5 minutes (which seems much longer than it really is), a server came by and said she was not our server but our server would be along soon. About three minutes later she came back and said “I don't whose table this is but it is mine now.” She brought us a complementary appetizer, did not charge us for my glass of wine (co-worker is a water drinker), and at the end of a meal said that there had been some attacks on women in the area and since we were women alone and walking, she was going to draw us a map to get back to our hotel and wanted us to follow it exactly. Now that's service!

              Thank you for letting me share just some of my good service experiences.

              1. We have twins that are 3 1/2, and generally, they are almost always well-behaved in restaurants. I especially like servers who treat our kids as if they actually do belong in the place. It makes our kids feel more comfortable, as well as mom & dad.

                I especially like it when servers understand & accomodate the requests of not bringing their drinks until their meal comes, and don't make any issue of us just ordering one kids menu item for them to split (they rarely eat a lot when dining out).

                I love it if the server asks if he/she would like it if the kids meal came out as soon as it was ready (& not wait for the entire order). I certainly don't expect this last item, but it really makes me feel like they are trying to accomodate our kids (who really love going out to eat).

                1 Reply
                1. re: LMT

                  We were sitting at a table on the sidewalk on a warm day. We had our dog with us. The server arrived with a bowl of water and a doggie treat immediately. Next she brought us menus and water. Then as she took our order she sat down and rubbed my nervous dog's ears to calm him down. Of course we go back. And yes the food is good and service is as good without the dog.

                  Another time years ago, we wandered into a restuarant that we thought was casual. We had our 7 year old son with us. It was fancy and French. We started to leave, and they said children are fine, please stay. The chef /ownercame out, sat in the floor and explained French food to our son. Our son developed a love for chocolate mousse that night. It was explained that it was just pudding. That was 30 years ago and our son still talks about that night. They made a little boy feel comfortable and important. We went back until the owners retired.

                2. We were on the road and had stopped at a hotel for the night. We walked to a local Japanese restaurant - it was fairly empty, but we were welcomed, told to sit where we desired, and were treated like regulars. Our waitress asked where we were from and talked about a trip that she was planning. It was very comfortable.

                  Then another couple came in and ended-up sitting at a booth behind us. They were obviously regulars, having been greeted by name and ordering "the usual." Our food was served and everything was fine, until the couple behind us started arguing. Loudly and nastily. The waitresses were obviously upset and several people stuck their heads' out of the kitchen to see what was going on. Since we were almost finished, we just signaled for the check, left the money with a good tip, and high-tailed it out.

                  As we were walking across the parking lot, our waitress came running after us, calling out to stop. We did, wondering if we'd mis-paid or something like that. She wanted to return our money! She said that she and her family were ashamed by the behavior of the other couple and wanted us to know that they were very sorry that our evening in their town had been ruined! Needless to say, we didn't accept the money and reassured her that we thought well of her and her family, the restaurant, and the town. We ended-up in the parking lot bowing to each other.

                  Another restaurant (this time a diner-type place) - friendly, efficient service - then a kid in the booth behind us (what is it about booths?!) dumped his soda over my husband's head! EVERYONE (staff-wise) in the restaurant descended on our booth - the manager even brought out freshly laundered kitchen whites in case my husband wanted to change his clothes, offered to have his soiled clothing laundered, and offered to make a run to a local store to purchase replacement clothing - the meal was comp'd (not at our request) and we left what was at least a 50% tip.

                  Odd that in both cases the problem was with other patrons, not the restaurant - but the restaurant staff stepped-in to make sure that everything was okay. Couldn't tell you what we ate in either case, but we've very pleasant memories about the people.

                  1. 1) My family has always enjoyed eating at the Limestone Cafe in Gladstone NJ. One evening the restaurant was very crowded and there were a couple of loud (but not unruly) young children there. At the end of the evening the owner came to our table with free desserts and an apology for the noise. It was nice to see that even without complaining and on a busy night the restaurant was still attentive.

                    2) Cafe Annie in Houston. My father was a frequent business traveler to Houston (to the point where we joke that he has a second family there) and one trip my mother and I went with him. She had recently read about Cafe Annie in one of her cooking magazines so one night we went there for dinner. Apparently my father was a regular there. We arrived were greeted by name and given the best table. The waitress told my father that his favorite dish wasn't on the menu that night, but that the chef would love to cook it for him anyway. Even though that was over 10 years ago, I still remember how good the food was and the attentiveness of the waitstaff.

                    3) Some of the best service that I have received has been at the Ruby Tuesday/Houlihans type of chains. I've rarely had to wait for a refill, the food comes out quick, and the waiters don't hover. If there is a problem with a dish they are quick to apologize and replace it. Once the waitress felt so bad that my father didn't like his nachos she went to the manager (without our prompting), got the dish taken off the check and a comp for a free meal. The food might not be the best, but I have never found fault in the service.

                    1. Great thread. To me, good service is making me and my dining companions feel welcome and as though the staff were glad to have us there throughout the meal. As long as that's happening, an unexpected pause in the proceedings, or a water spill, or other untoward happening, fades into insignificance.

                      At Toraya, a very small neighborhood sushi place where we go often, the greeting when we (or any customer for that matter) walk in the door is immediate and warm. The waitress knows we drink a lot of tea so she gives us the bigger mugs. We like to sit at the sushi bar and get omakase and the sushiya/owner knows all our favorites. He knows my friend GretchenM loves ginger and gives her tons; he knows I rarely eat it and gives me just a bit. If we sit at a table and order, the waitress knows I am allergic to shellfish and if I forget to say so when ordering, she asks, "no shellfish, right?" and she brings the low sodium soy before we even think of asking for it. Now, none of this is remarkable to us now we have been going there so long, but I think it all started happening about the third time we went there. As one friend says, they are so caring it's like eating at home except we don't have to do the dishes.

                      At one good Chinese restaurant we go to, if we fail to order the homestyle egg drop soup (amazing stuff) the waitress will ask about it -- and 9 times out of 10 we do want it, just forgot -- she KNOWS we adore it, and she knows what the kids like to drink.

                      At our other good Chinese place they've started bringing us two pots of tea (see above) and recommend dishes based on what we liked last time (which half the time we don't remember but they do).

                      To me, this is what good service is all about and not one of these places is anything fancier than a neighborhood storefront (albeit with outstanding food, every one). We walk out with warm feelings as well as full bellies.

                      1. I eat out a lot, and have so rarely had a bad service experience I can barely understand what others on this board experience.

                        Personally, I love the service I get at my local favs where the owners know us and say hello when we come in. That happens a lot, now that we have lived in this neighborhood for 10+ years. I love my local sushi place where the chef is the server is the cashier and who always makes sure we get our stuff first, even when the line is long. My favourite diner where the waitresses will kick your @ss if you don't order efficiently but who will save you the last piece of lemon cream pie if you ask. Lots of times I have business lunches and the servers don't come around when they see us talking, that's great too.

                        we get good service almost all the time, frankly

                        eta: Joe's Crab Shack In Tampa -- server was a young man named Michael. Some of the best service ever, friendly, had opinions on dishes and helped me pick, didn't do anything other than be delightful as I sat alone at a 4 top, checked in often he was just fantastic!

                        1. About a week ago, I went to lunch alone on a weekday with my book (I do this a lot when I'm unemployed) to a new Thai restaurant. The prices were reasonable, the portions were good (just a little more than I needed), and the service was great - I walked in and it was fairly crowded (I wasn't expecting this because it was not in the best location and it was new), so I said, "Do you have a table for one?" She said yes and led me to a table that I didn't initially see. She took my order and asked if I wanted anything else to drink besides water. My food came fairly quickly, she checked on me a couple of times as she refilled my water constantly, and she quickly brought me the bill when I asked. I raved about it when I got home, so tonight our family (of three total) went for dinner and plunked down about $35. Same server - I think she's either the owner or the grown daughter of the owner. We ordered pad thai and then mistakenly ordered another noodle dish. She brought it to our attention, so we ordered something else (she knew we didn't want two noodle dishes!). They constantly refilled our water and checked on our meals a couple of times. When my daughter went up to get candy, she went through all the different flavors with her.

                          What I like: my drink refilled without being asked (there's times that I put it on the edge of the table, the server sees it and never fills it); having someone check on us at least one time in the middle of the meal; getting our check and change/credit card back quickly; and not being given an attitude if we share, not order drinks, look or act cheap. The bottom line is that we're really nice people who treat others well. If we spill something, we clean it up. I never yell at anyone and always feel bad when I have to flag something down for ketchup, more sauce, refill. I really think it's better to have us casual looking people who tip 15% as customers than those customers who dress up like they're filthy rich, berates servers like servants, even though they may order more and pay more... but maybe that's just me.