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What I love about good service

It has been depressing to read some of these threads that completely bash servers and the industry as a whole. I have been in this business for nearly nine years and have seen (almost) it all, but never have I seen such comments that make me feel like what we do will never be good enough. I understand that some service warrants visits to management, and lower tips. But anyhow....

I want to see what other people value as good service. Not just water refilling, but what makes your dining experience wonderful and special. Something small but memorable that made you feel like you were the only diners in the establishment. Or something big!! Happy thoughts!!

Here are a couple of mine:

We drove four and a half hours to go to a special restaurant (will not mention the name but it has a impeccable reputation in the Bay Area) for my boyfriends b-day. When we arrived to the restaurant the servers chatted nicely about the weather and eventually we mentioned our long trek. Moments later, the owner came over and thanked us for traveling such a ways to dine at his establishment. It was so wonderful to be recognized as a customer, and to see the owner take the time to thank us. In addition, the service and food were spectacular.

My BF and I order lunch to go a couple times a month from a certain Mediterranean rest. We are creatures of habit, so most of the time our order is the same. My BF calls it in and after the second time the gal on the receiving end recognized his voice (plus he begins every order the same way) and repeated our complete order before he could finish. Even the modifications and extra garlic sauce!! From then on she always knew it was us just by his voice. I thought it was wonderful that she remembered and cared about our order.

What are your happy thoughts?

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  1. I love it when a server looks directly at me and smiles. Amazing what a smile and eye contact can do.

    I was at a Chinese restaurant recently, it was my first time there. My waitress, who spoke broken English, took the time to patiently go over the Chinese menu with me, telling me what was in things, asking what I liked and making recommendations along the way. It made the meal special and she was so pleasant and sweet the whole time. We left her a huge tip.

    Went to a restaurant once with the family for my birthday. The waitress heard in passing that it was my birthday and brought over a large piece of cake for me, and then didn't charge us for it.

    I had a friend who was sick for a while. Before he got sick, he and I used to order Chinese food from the same place, delivery, on a frequent basis. When they hadn't gotten an order from him for a few weeks, they became concerned and called him to see if he was ok.

    There's a local Mexican family-owned restaurant here. The daughter, who works the counter, is always so pleasant. She will always explain dishes or ingredients to me, without acting annoyed. As a matter of fact, she's happy to help.

    Again, a smile, eye contact, and just being pleasant make for great meals. Perhaps I'm easily pleased!

    1 Reply
    1. re: QueenB

      QueenB, there's a mexican place by me with the same deal. A girl in middle school who'll chat you up while her mom cooks food (fresh!) because she thought what she had out looked old.

    2. What really make the chowing experience special for me are chowhoundish and knowledgeable waitstaff who take pride in directing people to the best stuff on the menu and who can tell you why they personally like a dish.

      1. Service makes a place for me. Even if the food is so-so, I might go back if the service is great. Here are some things that make a normal evening great:

        Know me: If I'm a regular, smile, say hi, and even better, know my name. I went to a place I hadn't been to in 4 years (moved away) and when they saw me come in they came over and greeted me like I was a long-lost friend. I will always recommend the place.

        Recommend the best you have to offer: Tell me what you eat and I will probably enjoy my meal more. Don't recommend what's on special unless it is the best.

        Treat me as you would like to be treated: If it's casual, have no fear of being friendly. If it's formal, be professional and make sure i like how things are going.

        1. The other night when my wife and I went to the one place in town where we can really be conisdered regulars at this point (we've only lived here for about 9 months :) ) the waiter came over and the first thing he said was "I'll be right back to talk to you about drinks, but I wanted to let you know that we've only got one order of the scallop special left, would you like me to hold it for you?"

          I was thinking how much better an experience that creates than just doing the normal course of things which would have been come over, take drink orders, go get those, come back to find out about wine and appetizers, etc etc by which time he's likely saying "First, let me tell you what we're out of tonight."

          So, that adapting to the course of events for the night and not following a script...I like that about good service. It plays out in a lot of ways.

          1. I appreciate it when a waiter will suggest that I not order a dish (because another would go better with my meal, it hasn't been well received that evening, if I'm undecided between 2 options, etc.). I like it when they don't complain when I don't take their suggestion

            I love it when a waiter tells me the dessert specials and/or shows the dessert menu at the beginning of the meal so I know if I need to save room

            I love it when a waiter doesn't bat an eye at my sometimes unusual requests (just a plate of mashed potatoes, 2 desserts and a 3rd to take home, etc.)

            When I was a child (even now sometimes) I loved it when a waiter showed me the same respect as an adult. My worst dining experience was when I was about 8 @ a B&B in Scotland. I was always a curious eater so for breakfast one morning I ordered black sausage, something that I had read about in a book and seemed interesting to me. I only ate one bite of it, but finished everything else. The next morning I ordered kippers, something that I loved. The waitress refused to give them to me because she said that I was a child who wasted food and that she didn't want me to waste the fish. It didn't matter what my parents and I said, she wouldn't budge.

            And like others said, eye contact and a smile

            1. I love it when a restaurant will be super nice, with no other motivation. I went to Montreal and wanted to dine at this one Ethiopian resto. They were full, so when we said thanks and turned to go out, they called after us and said their other resto on the other side of the street had an opening. They were so nice!
              I was pretty known by some of the waitresses at one place, when we went with a buddy and the tip got confused for the bill (we thought he was paying with CC + our cash, he thought we were leaving tip in cash and not on CC). The manager came out, and I handed him cash! Omg, I was so embarassed b/c the ladies treat me like family there. The next time I came in a while later, she still recognized me and said I hadn't been in for a while and still gave me great service.
              I don't care about the wait, I just want the people there to be nice and not look at me like I'm a tip. When I waitressed, I gave people as much as they wanted, because I did really care about their experience, not turning tables and upselling (oh, how I hate upselling). I also like it when the server notices the credit card is in my name and not my fiances.

              1. Great topic! I love great service. I went recently to this little place where I just love their service, food is good but the service makes the food great. I ordered my steak tips med. or med. rare but I wasn't that hungry. These were huge steak tips and when they came they were really really rare and of course my waitress (on schedule) came by only seconds after I got my meal and noticed the color once I cut into them. She insisted on taking it back to recook it saying "that is very rare, I want to take that back and have them cook that for you" but I had to convince her that I really wasn't going to eat it all and it would actually heat up very nicely the following day being that it was nice a rare (wouldn't dry out). She was still concerned and sent over the manager. She cares, they care. I always feel that I'm so important to them. I love this place. Customers are sooo important to them. From the minute you walk in, they greet you with a smile, you are in their care until you leave, again with a smile. Their goal it seems - that for the time I'm there, they want to make my stay a great one - food and spirit. :-)

                1. I'm from the school of "not too friendly" service is friendly enough for me! That is, I want someone who is damned efficient and doesn't want to chat or show me pictures of his or her children. Extra points if they don't know my name--or don't use it if they do know it. About 20 years ago, I used to frequent a dive of a diner where the punked-out, Annie Lennox-look alike of a waitress was perfect at this. No kowtowing, no b.s. I loved her, and, as I was also a waitress, I tipped big.

                  More recently, at a kind of upscale-ish diner, the flawless service was capped off by the waiter asking my friends if they were from Japan. Yes, they replied. He said he had something to show them, and, rolling up his pantleg, revealed his kanji tattoo. They began to laugh. Translated, it read, "Stupid foreigner." He explained that it wasn't a mistake, but the result of a young Japanese tattoo artist, who, sick of hakujin with bad, meaningless kanji tattoos had offered to tattoo volunteers with kanji tattoos for free--but they had to let her choose the sentiment. My friends, yuppies to a one, loved his tattoo and the story. They all whipped out their cameras and took pictures. Talk about a uniquely American memory of a meal. They're still talking about it!

                  1. I almost always get good service and I‘m not a big tipper. The few instances of really bad service are what stand out more clearly in my memory. Great service is pleasant and professional. Besides the basics of when to bring and remove the servings, it’s knowing the menu to explain what the heck the stuff is in the preparation that I’ve never encountered. Some of the best service was on the Crystal Cruise. Our waiter took about one night to size up each individual in our party of six. Besides being an absolute professional, whenever one of us had something outstanding a sample showed up immediately for everyone else. Great Service! It was fun to watch him work. Sometimes in our small rural corner of this state, we laugh and wonder if the server has ever eaten at a restaurant before, let alone been instructed as a server. But that doesn’t constitute bad service if they are trying to do their best.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: BN1

                      I remembered another outstanding serving experience that I would like to share. One time in Mazatlan at Pancho’s in the Zona Dorada, the servers moved a table down onto the beach for my wife and I. We ate dinner on the sand with a full moon rising over the lights of town across the bay. It was no special occasion or request and I still don’t know why they did that. Guess what? I like Pancho’s.

                    2. A friend and I used to go a lot to a restaurant, nothing fancy, mostly just pizza and lots of beer. We frequently got a fabulous waitress there named Rebecca, who always knew her stuff, gave really good advice on their large and varied beer menu, and was just all around great. Once we were sitting in another waitress's section, and when she was taking our beer order, she said "Rebecca told me to tell you that you should order X beer." Now that was good service! Helping us out even when she wasn't our waitress at the time.

                      1. I'm not really surprised by the lack of response here compared to discussions about "bad" service. I believe it's because most elements that make up good service (personality being the exception) go un-noticed -- they're things that you only notice when they're NOT done properly. It's too bad there's not more appreciation for good service...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Kbee

                          I love good service, but sometimes a restaurant will go above and beyond that they have to. Many years ago my wife and I were in Annapolis, MD for a concert. We had a lot of time before the concert and decided to try to have dinner at a sushi restaurant that was down the block from the place where the concert was being held. The person at the door said that it would be about 30-40 minutes until they had a table available (the place was packed and now I know why) but if we would like to walk up the street to have a drink, they would take our name send someone up for us when our table was avialable. (The susahi restaurant does not have a bar.) We did, and sure enough about 30 minutes later a young man walked into the bar and told us that our table was ready but to take our time and finish our drink before coming to dinner. We did and ended up having one of the best meals in a very long while. Now, whenever we are in Annapolis we go to the restaurant, and every time we get fantastic food and service.

                        2. Thirty years ago, Andre Soltner was chef and owner of Lutece, the most famous restaurant in NYC. I've seen shy, polite out-of-towners arrive, very very nervous about their first night in the big city. He would visit their table and make them feel like celebrities. To me, that epitomizes good service. It's a sort of noblesse oblige... though if truth be known, Soltner valued those out-of-towners far more highly than a whining, petulant table full of the most famous movie stars in Hollywood.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Brian S

                            There are some lovely stories that reflect that in his cookbook - including two young musicians who played on the street to raise money to eat at Lutece - I think he asked, and they gave him, the sign they had posted while playing!

                          2. There is a restaurant in Atlanta where they do everything they can to make sure you are treated like a "regular". They call you Mr. or Mrs. so and so through the whole meal. They have a computer program that keeps track of what you like to drink and how you like your steak. The computer program also keeps track of birthdays and anniversaries so they can celebrate your occasion. Everything is well thought out. No wonder this restaurant does over 600 covers nightly and has been around Atlanta for over 25 years.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: chickstein

                              This "computer program" you speak of is called Open Table... a wonderful guest management tool, IMHO.

                              1. re: Kbee

                                Um ... just curious, but do you know for a fact they're using Open Table?

                                Yes, Open Table does allow you to track patrons' orders, preferences, special occasions, etc., but how do you know they're not using ProHost Reservations, for example, or aren't using a custom database template?

                                1. re: mclaugh

                                  I do not know that for a fact, although a large number of Atlanta restaurants do use Open Table. It's entirely possible that they're using any of those programs you mentioned, but the jist of what I'm saying is the same. There are many tools available to help restaurants provide excellent customer service.

                            2. What does jfood love about good service?

                              It's what jfood experiences 99% of the time. And when do you expect it? From the gyro jfood loves from the Raffiqi street cart to the best resto he goes to. What does it entail. A pleasant evening, with no bullying or pushing from, or to, the server, no food on the body or clothes, an attentive staff, a thank you and smile from everyone on the staff as well as from the jfoods.

                              That's why those rare occassions when someone slips is so distressing. You sorta get used to a flow of service and when that flow is disturbed then the brain cramps, the stomach tightens, the experience decreases and the meal is not as pleasant as expected. But if this were the norm, jfood would just cook all the time.

                              And with a 99% success rate jfood thanks all those servers on chowhound fopr their continued dedication and devotion to making jfood's dining experiences a wonderful memory.

                              1. Same thing as you're describing: Being welcomed, remembered, and attended to with just the right amount of attention/follow up. Generally, my husband and I enjoy excellent service at the restaurants that we frequent. I can't really think of one place that we go where the service is poor.