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Jun 21, 2007 04:18 PM

"How is everything?"

In Danny Meyer's book "Setting the Table" he repeatedly says that he is against servers asking "how is everything?"
I tend to agree with him. As a server I come to the tables often, make my presence know and sometimes will ask "is there anything else I can get for you right now? - once the food has been on the table for a few minutes.
On the other hand, I know that some people are less apt to speak their mind about their steak being undercooked or salad being overdressed if not asked first.
I would rather the customer leave happy with their overall experience (food and service) then suffer silently about something.
Just wondering how the CH public feels about this. Do you like it when a server asks if everything is alright? Is it irritating or does it give you a chance to state your potential problem more easily?

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  1. unless you are in Florida where the servers ask 'Is anything alright?' :0

    1. How is everything works for me right after the food comes out. If I get it 2 or 3 more times then I feel intruded upon. But once shows me that the server is available to solve any potential problem. What I find a little irritating is when I get "Hi my name is Chad. I'll be taking care of you tonight." Isn't that obvious?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Texchef

        Ditto the above. Asking the question about 3-5 minutes after food comes out works for me, which gives me a chance to have an actual answer. I certainly dislike "Chads", though.

        1. re: Texchef

          The best one of these I've heard was back when the dot-com bubble had just flamed out and lots of technical people were waiting tables. We had a waiter say "Hi. My name is Bill and I'm going to be your food transport service engineer tonight." Big tip for Bill.

        2. I'm fine with "how is everything?" Really, the only thing that bothers me is when the server is nowhere to be found. If there is a problem with a meal, I don't want to have to flag down someone to help me.

          5 Replies
          1. re: manraysky

            Always happens - every single time - never to me, but my sister. (!)
            The waiter, after serving the meal, will come back IMMEDIATELY afterwards and ask, "How's everything?" - to my sister, with a MOUTH FULL of food!!! LOL

            1. re: aurora50

              I'm in the same group as your sister, I've never once been asked unless I have just taken a bite of food.

              1. re: Scrapironchef

                Some waiters use the "two bite rule", after 2 bites the waiter asks if "everything is alright" and after that just give me some freakin' eye contact every once in a while! I know they're busy, but give me an acknowledgement if you see me staring you down (I know they can feel it...). They can easily give some body language, a finger up (index finger that is!) to say, "I'll be right there, just a sec".

                1. re: Lemonii

                  Yes, eye contact - that's my preferred method of getting a server's attention. And yes, sometimes they purposefully avoid my looks or gestures - sometimes I've even been known to wave my arms, airplane-style!!! LOL

                2. re: Scrapironchef

                  That's because you're in a restaurant to eat! A server would never be able to talk to a table if he/she tried to wait until everyone had nothing in their mouths. Yes, it's awkward and embarrassing for you and the server but there aren't a lot of options. I've had servers joke about it and say "It's an interview question at every restaurant to make sure we can ask questions as soon as a bite is taken" I thought it was a cute response.

            2. As a server I prefer saying "Are you enjoying your (specific dish)?" I try to do this within 4-5 minutes of serving food. I find it to be more personal and to the point. "Everything" may be OK but your"insert dish here" is fabulous/terrible and you're more likely to tell me if I ask about it specifically.

              14 Replies
              1. re: kimmer1850

                I can see that working with a table of two, but much more than that and it starts to get time consuming and cumbersome. Seems brilliant to me when i'm out with my wife because it ends up being something like "how are you enjoying your salmon?" followed by "and how is the steak, sir?" Beyond that, though, I have no issue at all with "how is everything" which I always read as an invitation to express any concerns about the food, ask for another drink, for water refills, etc.

                I agree with jfood below that being asked "how is everything" just as the food is being set down doesn't work; in that case "is there anything else I can bring you right now?" would seem more appropriate. Same deal if someone else brings the food out but the main server shows up to check in before anyone has had a chance to finish a bite.

                I actually think that coming to the table to do the check in and asking "is there anything else I can bring you right now" when you're really doing the check on whether the food is satisfactory would discourage anyone speaking up and so may defeat the exact purpose you're after.

                Pet peeves of mine are calling everyone "guys" and being offered "fresh cracked pepper" before I've had a chance to taste the salad/soup/pasta/whatever it may be added to.

                1. re: ccbweb

                  Oooh I hate the "guys" thing too! I am clearly not a "guy", but I will add that calling me Ma'am is way worse. I am too young for that please.

                  1. re: momof3

                    You and my wife are in complete agreement there. I find both terms to be fairly useless and best avoided.

                    Meant to add to my previous post that any server that is thinking about such things in the way you are (and excuse me miss often does) is clearly going to be an effective server and very easy to have at a I wouldn't worry much about the specifics.

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      I can't stand the "guys" thing either. I don't give a rats a** if it's thrown around in a sports bar, but it's ridiculous to me that it's ever used in what purports to be a nicer restaurant to address my mother, who is over 80. When did this get started and why is it so widely used now?

                      1. re: wontonton

                        We also deplore being called "you guys." My husband and I think it's because these young folks do not know that "you" can be both plural and singular, so they want to make sure we are both being asked after. I don't mind being asked ONCE how the food is, but this is such a perfunctory query that if there is something we want to ask about or mention, the server looks blank. They have been told to waft by and ask this question but have no idea why. While I'm ranting - what's with the servers who think it's cool to sit down in an empty chair at your table?? My European friends are appalled at the lack of professionalism in American waitstaff.

                        1. re: porches

                          I've never seen the sit down thing unless it's a gimmick on the part of the restaurant to be cute about bad service, which is bad enough. But if it's for real, whoever, plus manager oughta be in another line of work.

                          1. re: wontonton

                            I have never seen the sit down thing, either- but have heard it mentioned many times on these boards. Is it a regional thing, maybe?

                          2. re: porches

                            how about when they bend down and put their hands and face at table level,or even on the table? this is meant to make the customer feel more comfortable, but i think it's just weird. please, do not tell me your name unless you're a server in a great restaurant where we'll be spending lots of time together. if you're giving us the in n' out treatment in chili's (and we see you for a total of 1 min.) i don't need to know your name is chad. and please don't try to act like my new best friend.
                            in answer to the op's question, i find it very intrusive when the server asks "how's everything." usually i am eating, and must nod dumbly. or i am in the middle of a conversation and the server is interrupting.
                            i really like the earlier suggestion of asking specifically "how's your salmon?" if it's a large table, then i suppose it's more normal to ask a number of times, can i get anything for anyone.
                            it seems like "how is everything" smacks of chain restaurants. "everything" but my food is fine. it's not really a correct question. sort of like "you guys" which i think is yes, a symptom of a younger generation. we say it so often i wince when i say it in a professional environment.

                            1. re: fara

                              servers in Toronto have a habit of saying 'cheers' everytime they leave the table- e.g. they put a drink down, you say 'thank you', they say 'cheers' and walk away; however, they don't only do it for drinks but for everything.
                              Makes me WILD, i just hate it.

                            2. re: porches

                              I've found that service is generally much better in the states than elsewhere on the planet. Where are your European friends from? My experience with service outside of the US required a lot of patience and handwaving.

                      2. re: ccbweb

                        I totally second the thoughts about offering pepper before being able to taste something - it gives me the idea that they assume I'd rather have it over-seasoned, but I haven't even had a chance to try it yet! It would be like me making dinner for friends and then plunking a huge pepper mill on the table, as if to say "You're gonna need this" :-)

                        1. re: gyozagirl

                          See... I always thought that the pepper thing is like the parmesean cheese thing when you get a pasta! I never thought it was truly for seasoning! Of course, I never want pepper in anything, so I always say no, but again, I'm enlightened about the pepper.

                          1. re: boltnut55

                            I think you've just explained to ccbweb & gyozagirl why good restaurants offer pepper immediately upon serving something. It has nothing to do with a lack of proper seasoning in the kitchen. Some people just don't like pepper, some (like me) almost can't get enough of it. Offer it at the table and everyone is (or should be) happy.

                      3. re: kimmer1850

                        Kimmer1850: As a server I prefer saying "Are you enjoying your (specific dish)?" I try to do this within 4-5 minutes of serving food. I find it to be more personal and to the point. "Everything" may be OK but your"insert dish here" is fabulous/terrible and you're more likely to tell me if I ask about it specifically.

                        Kudoes, this is the way to do it! :D

                      4. jfood is fine with anything cordial when being asked how the food is. the only requirement is to give jfood a chance to eat a bite or two. disturbing is servingthe dish with the left hand and asking the question simultaneously.