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"It's Coming Right Out" - Why say it if it is not true?

jfood Dec 3, 2009 06:29 PM

Recently Jfood has noticed that many servers seem to state these words with absolutely no rhyme or reason when asked how the food is doing. Then several minutes later jfood asks that the server check and many times there is a substantial time delay before the food comes out.

This only causes the customer to lose all faith in the server and the server's honesty in future responses.

Jfood is just curious if pthers are noticing this pattarn, but even more curious from the many servers on the boards to give their opinion on if they do this.

Many thanks in advance.

  1. alanbarnes Dec 3, 2009 06:41 PM

    Are you just ranting or do you really want to know? If the latter, servers say "it's coming right out" for the same reason other people say things like "I'll get right back to you" or "the check is in the mail." It postpones acknowledgment that things are not as they should be.

    10 Replies
    1. re: alanbarnes
      jfood Dec 3, 2009 06:50 PM

      jfood really wants to know, not ranting at all. He had a great meal tonight with a great server so it is not a knee jerk reaction at all.

      Why not tell the customer that they will check with the kitchen, then return with an honest answer. Your answers are those one gives on the telephone where the chance of a confrontation shortly thereafter is minimal at best. There is no escaping the face to face with the customer within 15 minutes with the server and the customer.

      1. re: jfood
        o
        otps Dec 3, 2009 07:07 PM

        The servers are at the mercy of the back end. ( kitchen ). I think the servers are being honest with you with the information they have been given.
        I like when an experienced server says that the kitchen is slammed and can I get you another drink or soda.

        1. re: otps
          bushwickgirl Dec 5, 2009 08:03 PM

          "The servers are at the mercy of the back end. ( kitchen.)"

          It starts with the chef or line cook, who probably has said something less than polite to the server, take your pick:
          (expurgated version)
          "It'll be right out, I already told you that."
          "We're slammed, 45 minutes."
          "What order?"
          "What table?"
          "I don't have an order for that table!"
          "I can't hear you."
          "I don't want to see you in here again tonight."
          Blank look.
          Bad look.
          Refuses to respond to server.
          Server is assulted. (Yes, I have seen this happen.)

          So, yes, the servers are at the mercy of the kitchen, but the kitchen is getting slammed because too many customers were seated too quickly by the host. The host was hired by the owner. The owner's parents willed him the restaurant and on and on...back to the server, who politely says, "It's coming right out."
          Servers are just doing the best they can to make a buck and pay the rent.

          Disclaimer: Of course, this is not the case in all restaurants. There are many great, well-managed places with well-trained staff and excellent chefs, conducting their business on a nightly basis without a hiccup. Somehow, though, the bad experiences tend to stay in the forefront of our memories.

          1. re: bushwickgirl
            s
            soupkitten Dec 5, 2009 09:23 PM

            interesting pov. servers and cooks are actually on the *same* team, although some of these posts would seem to put them in adversarial positions. "it will be out in 5 mins/30 secs/momentarily" (when it won't be) is an inexperienced server's coping mechanism-- which actually serves to piss off the customer/self-sabotage the server's own tips more often than not. i don't really understand why inexperienced servers often shoot themselves in their own foot in this way, and then have meltdowns when everyone else fails to drop everything to cover them. . . lying or "guessing" about timeframes in a restaurant isn't polite at all. good servers will check on their tix without bugging the kitchen staff or causing confusion in the boh. better yet, they can be paying extra attention to their tables, because in the event of a delay as a result of kitchen issues, having an attentive server/good service will completely erase any perception of this delay in the minds of the customers. good service does not equal breakneck-quick service, except at denny's. servers rushing around frantically calling for food before it's properly cooked, nagging the cooks, and rushing their tables to hurry up and eat is actually quite bad service, not good service.

            1. re: soupkitten
              bushwickgirl Dec 6, 2009 02:58 PM

              Maybe the short answer is more thorough training. In the NY metro area, often servers are part-time employees, with other full-time career interests. While I think that it's perfectly fine for people to hold part-time jobs to augment their income, from my experience working in restaurants that had good training programs in place, that exra attention to training leads to a heightened sense of teamwork and ultimately a better dining experience for the customer, whether the server works two shifts a week or six.
              Better training certainly seems to be the make/break point of good service.

        2. re: jfood
          d
          danieljdwyer Dec 3, 2009 07:20 PM

          From first hand experience, I can tell you that there's a very good chance that if your server does check with the kitchen, the kitchen will do to the server what your server did to you. Most people lie to avoid or even just delay confrontation, regardless of the situation and regardless of the potential outcome of the lie. Society trains us to do this from a very young age.
          Also from first hand experience I can assure you that most customers are just as eager as the server to avoid confrontation, and will not call them out on the lie. So the server can ask the kitchen, who will probably just tell them, "It's coming right out," anyway, and then be honest will the customer, risking having to give them an answer they won't like. Or, the server can just say, "It's coming right out," by doing so probably not really have to deal with the situation, then hope that once the food comes out the customer enjoys it and accepts an apology for the delay so that the tip is not so badly affected. The server is subconsciously betting on the desire of the customer to enjoy himself outweighing any sense the customer might have that there is something to be rationally upset with.
          I'm not saying it's right at all, but it does boil down to basic psychology of avoidance.

          1. re: danieljdwyer
            b
            Blueicus Dec 3, 2009 08:38 PM

            Agreed, the servers are typically at the mercy of whatever the cooks/chefs say. Sometimes they make mistakes, or the oven's cold, etc. that will change the accuracy of the estimate... sometimes they're under stress from everybody and they just blurt out a panicked answer.

            1. re: Blueicus
              Sooeygun Dec 4, 2009 04:50 AM

              Then there are the times the server has forgot to put in the order, ordered the wrong thing or forgot to say hold the --- and doesn't want to pass on that there is a delay to the customer, because it's the server's own darn fault.

            2. re: danieljdwyer
              s
              Sharuf Dec 6, 2009 03:42 AM

              I HATE HATE HATE it when someone Beee-Essses me! For a waiter to do that will definitely impact on his tip.

              "Most people lie to avoid or even just delay confrontation, .... Society trains us to do this from a very young age." Lordy, Daniel, I must take issue with that. It's entirely opposite to the way I was raised, and to the behavior I can accept.

              1. re: Sharuf
                d
                danieljdwyer Dec 6, 2009 09:41 AM

                I agree completely with taking issue with this. I think dishonesty for any reason, even those little white lies most people are okay with, is a terrible thing. But I also know that this is a psychological/sociological phenomenon observed in most people.
                How we're raised and what we learn through our development are often two very different things - and this can be either fortunate or unfortunate, depending on the case. We start learning long before our parents and elders are able to communicate values to us, and the period encompassing the beginnings of brain activity in utero through about a year old is generally held to be the most formative. We learn from the reactions of other in this period, and this continues to be more influential than communicated values through toddlerhood.
                Children learn quickly that, if they do something wrong that upsets their parent and are faced with an emotional parent, they have a lot to gain by delaying confrontation. If a child lies about it while their parent is angry, and the parent only figures out the truth at a later point when he has cooled off, the child can now be scolded by a far less emotional parent. Additionally, children learn at a young age that lying about something often means that, in the end, they get in trouble for the lying rather than the initial misbehavior. While the initial misbehavior may have angered the parent, most people react to a discovery of a lie with cooly rational disappointment rather than anger. Even if the child's punishment is more severe for the lie, children are likely to choose a longer time out over being angrily yelled at.
                So, while the parent is verbally teaching the child the value that lying is worse than the initial transgression, the child is learning that they can create a more favorable situation by using dishonesty to avoid or delay confrontation. If they actually get away with the lie and escape punishment entirely, you've probably got a liar for life on your hands. One incident in those formative years can shape a person's whole personality later in life, and take years of therapy or personal reflection to correct.
                That's why waiters lie to customers. They learn as children that it's likely to be the easiest solution to an uncomfortable situation. Avoidance is a powerful component of human psychology - it has even been observed in other apes, and I think many dog owners would say their dogs do it too.

        3. c oliver Dec 3, 2009 07:02 PM

          I used to be in sales and I think the cause of my greatest credibility was when I said "I don't know but I'll check and get back to you." That "robot" answer means nothing after the first time, does it?

          2 Replies
          1. re: c oliver
            q
            queencru Dec 4, 2009 06:28 AM

            I think sales is not comparable to serving in this case. If I ask if the soup of the day is made with vegetable stock, I want the answer with certainty. If the server has to go back and ask the chef, I'm happy to see her being honest with me instead of making something up that may very well be wrong. This is even more the case with food allergies that could be life threatening.

            I think there are cases where the server makes mistakes and forgets to put an order on the ticket. When that happens, I do get annoyed when the server fails to admit the mistake. However it's extremely obvious when you get your main course and no appetizer/salad has arrived beforehand. There have been times when I mention it after waiting a certain time and the servers act like they already put it in. If the next course is ready to be served at that point, I would rather be told about the mistake so I could decide whether the app is even worth it.

            1. re: queencru
              b
              Blueicus Dec 4, 2009 06:51 AM

              Oh, thanks for reminding me... that is most certainly my most favourite "challenge" servers routinely give cooks,

              (just as everything's ready to go up)

              Server: "I forgot to punch the steak well done in, can I have it on the fly?"

              Cook gives the server "the look"

              Cook: "Okay, that'll be ten minutes"

              Server: "But I really need it now"

              Cook: "Fine, so you want me to butterfly it and throw it in the deep fryer?"

              Server: "Sure, whatever"

          2. Azizeh Dec 3, 2009 08:57 PM

            As a server, I'm not given any exact answers. I can go to the expeditor, the cooks, the guy on the grill, and no one will say "6-8 minutes." They'll tell me it's coming and make it clear that I'm pissing them off.

            Best I can really do is go and see where the ticket is on the board and note if it's up next or if there are 5 checks ahead of it. Also, managers would be upset if we were making promises we can't keep. Saying 5 minutes and then not living up to that makes both myself and the kitchen look bad. It's better to be vague.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Azizeh
              meatn3 Dec 4, 2009 07:04 AM

              "They'll tell me it's coming and make it clear that I'm pissing them off. "

              I think this is the primary reason. Most cooks where I have worked get very, very po'd with server inquiries. I've seen some of the less evolved mess with the order (further delay, etc.) to punish the server.

              Azizeh is stating the best (for customer and server) action of quietly checking on the lineup of tickets and staying out of the cooks way.

              Vagueness from a server usually has more to do with restaurant internal drama/ego's than with the server/customer dynamic.

              I'd rather fudge and say it is next in line than open a can of worms by telling the truth that:
              "If I ask, the cook will blow his top, get everyone in a tizzy and then storm off, take a smoke break to cool off and delay everyone's experience by another 12 minutes."
              IMO vague is just better all around...

              1. re: meatn3
                h
                HDinCentralME Dec 4, 2009 09:06 AM

                I don't consider "it's the next ticket up" vague and unresponsive. I consider it a valid, honest response (if true). In that scenario the server did actually go to the back and check on the order's status rather than give an on the fly, meaningless "it's coming right out".

            2. haggisdragon Dec 4, 2009 08:38 AM

              Thats a good question jfood. As a former server and manager I would say that its lack of experience coming into play. I used to say it occasionally, if I was in the weeds, but I learned that its better to be honest and specific. A good server learns never to make promises that they can't keep, because they know from experience that it will only make things worse. You're completly correct in your comments about losing faith in the server. Nothing is worse, people can become enraged very quickly over this.

              I can't say I've noticed this pattern in the places I've dined lately, but I don't eat out that often.

              1 Reply
              1. re: haggisdragon
                haggisdragon Dec 4, 2009 08:47 AM

                I will also add that sometimes there's a tricky dynamic. Sometimes the chef is the server's boss. If the chef/boss is an incompetent asshole with communication problems then the poor server can be intimidated and mislead into relaying false information to the diner.

              2. h
                hsk Dec 5, 2009 02:45 PM

                I've never noticed this because I never ask how long food is going to be when I'm sitting there. If I'm in a hurry I'll ask if they can accommodate my time frame before I sit down, and I'll accept their recommendation on what to order. If I'm not in a hurry I wait as long as it takes, usually when I go out to dinner I'm socializing so it's not that big of a deal if the food takes a while.

                If I sat down after they said they could accommodate my time frame and they don't, I pay for whatever I've had to that point and leave.

                If I were to ask, though, I'd agree with jfood, "it;s coming right out" to me means right away, it's being plated as we speak - so if it didn't show up within 2-3 minutes I'd be quite annoyed.

                1. bagelman01 Dec 5, 2009 03:41 PM

                  Last week, I was taken to dinner at a fine Fish restaurant in Massachusetts ($35 average entree excluding lobsters)...
                  The second time the waiter told my host the food was coming right out (15 minutes after the first time), the host said we're leaving. He stood up, gathered his coat and threw a $50 bill on the table to cover the drinks and headed for the door.

                  The MOD asked what the problem was, and my host told him that he did not liked being lied to. 'Coming right out doesn't ring true when it isn't out in 15 additional minutes.'

                  The MOD apologised and said waitstaff is not supposed to give times, but call a manger over to expedite. My host said he'd heard enough excuses and had lost his appetite.

                  We left. I wasn't happy with the restaurant, BUT I refused to take the host on as an account, I wouldn't want to be held to his whims in business.

                  BTW, from placing the order until leaving was more than one hour, it was a Tuesday night at 8:30 and the restaurant was less than 30% full.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: bagelman01
                    h
                    hsk Dec 5, 2009 04:44 PM

                    An hour for entrees in a fine dining restaurant isn't unusual, that's why you order apps. I can't imagine being antsy for food in a business situation, usually there's so much to talk about you don't even notice.

                    1. re: hsk
                      bagelman01 Dec 5, 2009 05:38 PM

                      An hour for grilled fish on a dead Tuesday Night in a mostly empty restaurant might have been acceptable, but as I posted it was MORE than an hour (actually 75 minutes) and it still wasn't ready then,

                      1. re: hsk
                        s
                        Sharuf Dec 6, 2009 03:54 AM

                        According to Bagelman's post, the host stomped out not so much because of the delay, but because he was lied to. That would have flipped my trigger too. I wouldn't call host's behavior a "whim", I would call it a "principle".

                        1. re: hsk
                          babette feasts Dec 6, 2009 03:13 PM

                          Yikes, where do you eat??? Nobody who wants to stay in business would spend an hour on cooking entrees. About the only thing I can think of that would have a fire time of more than 20 minutes is a whole roast chicken for two at a popular local bistro that clearly states a 45 minute wait for it to be cooked to order. App and desserts generally have a shorter fire time, like 5 to 10 minutes. So yes you would get your app faster than if you had just ordered an entree no app, but you should not have to wait an hour for said entree.

                      2. shaogo Dec 5, 2009 05:24 PM

                        I am extremely careful about what I say to customers who ask that I check on their order. "Coming right up" or "right away" lasts for only about 3-5 minutes. After that, it's a lie. I look at the position of the customer's order on the line and that gives me a clue as to what to tell the customer. Checking on the line also ensures that if the check's been misplaced or "bumped" I can rectify the situation.

                        When one is hungry and waiting for food, time seems to pass ever-so-slowly. All the more reason that a diner's "wait time" be carefully estimated at their request.

                        1. Caroline1 Dec 6, 2009 07:08 AM

                          The cut-to-the-chase answer is that servers say that because they're pretty sure that if they said, "Look the kitchen is swamped and it's probably gonna be at least another half hour before you have a prayer of getting your food," you'd get up and walk! Walkers don't leave tips. Bottom line.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Caroline1
                            b
                            bibi rose Dec 6, 2009 07:27 AM

                            I'm assuming you are asking because you've waited too long and/or suspect that something has happened to your order. If so, they may say it because they really believe it. They may say it because they've had so many people asking the question after an unreasonably short period of time and they no longer take the question seriously-- that's wrong of them, but it may be why. It may be that they know a more acceptable response would be to walk right back to the kitchen and check on your order, but they are under the gun to get something else done. Again, not optimal but you're asking why and that may be it. They may be afraid (rightly, in my opinion) to give an estimate in numbers of minutes because that is so often wrong and to miss a deadline infuriates people even more than an indefinite wait. Doesn't matter why they say it if you don't like it.

                            You might get better results by asking a more pointed question. "It seems like my order is taking a long time. Could you go back and check on it?" If that is what you mean, of course. You could even tell them how long it's been; if they are busy, they may not be sure and may think it's not been as long as it has.

                          2. rockandroller1 Dec 7, 2009 09:32 AM

                            While I was a pretty good server, there were a few times when I was so weeded, I did forget to put in an order. Then the table looks antsy with nothing to do, or at worst, asks on the status of their food, and in a panic, you realize you forgot to put the damned order in, punch it in quickly with a "fly it" note to the kitchen, run back and tell them of your screw up, they groan but do their best to accommodate it, but it's still going to be at least 10-15 from that point.

                            What would you have me do, seriously? Say, "Oh, I am so freaking busy because Jane called off and I have to pick up her tables as well as mine, and they sat e a party of 20 people to assist with in part of my section so I'm helping them too, and I just plain forgot about you and your family wanting to eat tonight? So I JUST NOW put your order in and it's going to be awhile yet." Yeah, I'm sure that would please the customers a whole bunch, and result in a big, fat tip. However, what did I used to say in this situation? Not, "It's coming right up" but instead, "I'm so sorry, the kitchen dropped one of your entrees and they have to re-make all of them so they'll be fresh."

                            You do the best you can out there but as has been pointed out, there are a lot of internal politics as to why the food is taking so long. Usually, it's not the server's fault as in my example above, but really, what do you expect people to say? "Oh, I can't ask because that pisses the chef off and then he'll just stall your food." "Half the kitchen staff is gone because they went out drinking last night and most of them called off tonight, hungover, so all the food is taking forever." "I can't check because the expediter is a control freak and if you get near the pass, she screams at you."

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: rockandroller1
                              bushwickgirl Dec 7, 2009 03:26 PM

                              Been there, seen it, ah, the internal workings of a restaurant!

                              1. re: bushwickgirl
                                rockandroller1 Dec 8, 2009 12:14 PM

                                Seriously, people just have no idea. It's better to say something mild and placating, like "the kitchen is quite busy tonight" or whatever. People don't REALLY want to know why the food is taking so long, they really, really don't.

                                1. re: rockandroller1
                                  f
                                  foodseller Dec 9, 2009 03:07 PM

                                  I think honesty is always the best answer. The truth might hurt but its very disrespectful to lie. Our servers are told to come to a manager if there is a issue that might affect the customers meal so that we can let the customer know of any possible delays. People dont mind waiting as long as they know whats going on.

                                  1. re: foodseller
                                    c oliver Dec 9, 2009 07:12 PM

                                    Ah, you have servers at your airport concession I didn't realize that. I thought it was a counter-type operation.

                                    1. re: c oliver
                                      f
                                      foodseller Dec 9, 2009 07:35 PM

                                      No servers at airport. Our outside location is a sit down restaurant. Tip jar only at airport. I put it in a couple years ago after requests from customers wanting to tip the cooks. I dont have any signs on it cuz I think its tacky to ask for tips. The customer wanting to leave a tip will always ask if this is the tip jar. PS Management keeps none of the money.

                                      1. re: foodseller
                                        f
                                        foodseller Dec 9, 2009 07:37 PM

                                        Im sorry, thought I was on the tip jar thread.

                                  2. re: rockandroller1
                                    d
                                    dump123456789 Dec 11, 2009 02:35 PM

                                    I have to agree.

                                    To me, "the kitchen is busy tonight" implies that the server sympathizes with the customer's (my) situation, and sometimes, that understanding is enough (assuming the comment isn't made dismissively).

                                    "It's coming right out" (when it really isn't) implies that the server doesn't care and just wants to brush me off. I will definitely factor that in when it's time to calculate the tip.

                              2. wonderflosity Dec 9, 2009 03:19 PM

                                I serve in a restaurant where the times are really inconsistent. Food can be ready in 5 mins or 25, depending on how many bills, take outs and how many chefs and who is on the line. To shield myself from this sort of thing happenning too often, I tell people who order a la carte (we also have a very popular buffet) that the entrees will be at least 15 mins, and ask them if they would like to order an appetizer or have another drink while they wait.

                                That way, if the food takes awhile, they were duly warned... If it's up more quickly, they are impressed and excited.

                                This approach also tends to help me sell more drinks and appies (which are usually deep fried and come up in about 6-8 mins).

                                I also have the added challenge of working with an East Indian staff who have a different concept of time. 2 mins can mean 2 minutes or it can mean 5... I've been learning to identify meals in the pans at various cooking stages so I can tell customers my own guestimation of how long their food will be as well.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: wonderflosity
                                  s
                                  soupkitten Dec 11, 2009 07:26 AM

                                  great post. over and over again in tipping threads on chowhound we see diners who have some sort of kitchen screw-up, and it is understood that it isn't the server's fault if the kitchen misfires the meal, or there is a kitchen-related delay--and the server's tip should not be penalized for things that are out of her/his control. as long as the server gives good service to the table, as you describe, and attend to every detail of the diners' comfort, the server should get a good tip.

                                  it's when the server is MIA-- hanging on at the pass in the kitchen (as if this makes food cook faster), or worse, literally hiding from her/his tables in the wait stations or in boh-- that the tables feel neglected and anxious. the server's tip gets dinged in these situations not because the food was 3 mins "late" or 5 mins "late"-- diners don't actually have much of a concept of this, unless they are sitting there neglected with their water glasses empty. after all, they are presumably otherwise having a nice, relaxing conversation and enjoying the ambiance and being waited on. if there is a kitchen-related delay for any reason, the server and other foh staff should simply step it up and give the best possible service to the tables to ensure everyone is having a nice time until the food comes out. as you have stated, this situation often leads to some extra bev or app sales, if the server is on the ball enough to be offering these to the tables. for the server it can be a win-win.

                                  i was a bartender for 10 years and served food to people sitting at the bar. sure there were occasional kitchen-related delays, but i never told the 5 minute lie. i just made sure all my customers could see me right there attending to them. everyone got their food served to them as quickly as possible-- sometimes if the kitchen was slammed or there was an error, there was a delay, but the customers took in stride just as the staff did. as long as they saw us all working on their behalf, they were fine.

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