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Hiring "SERVERS", the posting said. But where do you find the good ones- in this generation?


Where has all the 'personality' and hard working servers gone?
Seems it wasn't until the recession hit, that servers started getting friendly.
Not to mention, where have all the good ones gone? Are they out there any more?
I used to chat with my patrons and knew how to juggle a room full of others wanting the same attention. It was like a dance, and I loved every minute of it.
I made a lot of money. it was a gratifying job.
It seems now, only once in a while, you'll get that real personality behind the uniform, the ones that laugh and smile, share stories; not the "I have to be here' attitude, or texting their friend in the back of the kitchen.
Servers? Have your really found the right one?

  1. I used to hire people differently. I looked for the "best qualified" or those that had the best resumes, or could handle the interview better than others, etc....not anymore.

    I have learned to only hire people that NEED the job. It makes all the difference. Note: of course, they need to be qualified too.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sedimental

      Your right, if they NEED a job, they have a different attitude. As long as it isn't desperate, because then you may have someone that has no clue about the restaurant business and that there is real work to do. But that you can enjoy it as well.
      Eat Life!

    2. I think the answer to some of your questions can be found in the topic headers on the board "not about food". Things like:
      "Tipping Practice Questions- On Tax and on Discounted Meals" Hint they are not asking how to tip More..
      "Tipping at the bar vs tipping at the table"
      "Should we rethink tipping?"
      "servers commenting on how much we ate - rude?"
      ""How is everything" and how to reply" That one is now locked
      "Servers - Personal Life Chat" Didn't like ones with good stories
      Maybe the customer is now different, personality, names and chatting are not seeming to be wanted nor tipped, just my food, now, right and leave me alone.

      IMHO, I think you are right, an OK place with OK food can be a wonderful experience because of a great server.

      43 Replies
      1. re: Quine

        Yeah, t just seems that most 'servers' these days are working for what? Tips?
        I realize customers can be difficult, but its that great server that knows how to get around that, is completely into using their section as a business and treats it like they are one of the owners too.
        Eat Life!

        1. re: Quine

          "Maybe the customer is now different, personality, names and chatting are not seeming to be wanted nor tipped, just my food, now, right and leave me alone."

          That's certainly me - and always has been. What you describe is excellent, indeed perfect, service. Take order, bring food - get tip (assuming it's the cultural norm to tip in that country). I do not need (and do not want) chatty servers or ones who ask me if everything is OK (assume it is unless I say otherwise). Perfect service is all but invisible. Luckily most places I go to, here or overseas, work to this high level of service.

          1. re: Harters

            *Grin* Actually Harters, I was thinking of you. But I do know there are cultural differences. Us folks here in America do like to get a whole bit more chatty and many sorta expect it on some level. I know, if I was suddenly to receive the perfect service as you described, I would feel as if there was something that I did wrong (start looking at things I might have stepped into, forgot to put on, etc.).
            I know that you would abhor Hooter type places (tho' great food sometimes).

            There is also the excellent or indeed, perfect customer. I am sure that on your part, you are clear, articulate, respectful. You would not be demanding, disagreeable nor bullying to look or feel impressive or powerful..

            1. re: Quine

              I think it's personal preference as to if you want a chatty server. I'm American, and certainly agree with Harters that I do not need or want a chatty server. I'm certainly not rude or dismissive of the server and if they get chatty I'm certainly not going to cut them off, but I'm also not going to attempt to engage them. Much like I'm not looking to be chatty with other people who I interact with throughout the day (i.e. sales person at clothing store, insurance claims agent, florist, the guys who work at my neighborhood liquor store). Exchanging pleasantries is well and good, as are discussing relevant things (i.e. what is in this dish? have you tried this new beer?) but I'm not looking to get schmoozed or hear details about someone's day. I think it's more than possible to be polite (both customer and employee) without being chatty.

            2. re: Harters

              I could not agree with you more. "Seen, but not heard" After taking my order, service should flow seamlessly, place food plates, fill glasses, remove empties, don't interrupt until it's tme to offer coffee and dessert. AMy conversation and social interaction is for my dining companion(s), not the restaurant staff.

              Unfortunately, in America, no class distinctions makes service personnel feel that they have entree to interact freely with the dining patron. There are restaurants that we no longer patronize because the staff is overly familiar, interrupts too often and spoils our evening out.
              (This standard does not apply to coffee shops, dining solo at the bar, etc. where more casual standards apply).

              If I wanted to spend the evening interacting with the server, he/she'd be my guest at the table and someone else would be serving us. Years ago, My wife, parents and I got up and walked out of a restaurant, when a server sat down at our table (uninvited) to take our order.

              "My name is XXXX and I'll be your server this evening" is not something that interests me. I'll be happy to read your name on your badge. Most offensive is when a server has checked the reservation list and addresses me by first name.

              1. re: bagelman01

                "Class distinctions"? Are you insinuating that someone who waits tables is somehow of a lower class? I don't know if you're aware, but waiting tables can be an extremely lucrative career (as can most tip-based industries, if one is good at his or her job.) Or, do you not mean class in an economic basis but rather in a cultural way? This would imply that waitstaff are somehow less cultured or educated than those who are on the receiving end of the service. It may surprise you to learn that some people *choose* to wait tables because they enjoy it, not because it's the only job they can get.
                How could someone calling you by name be offensive to you? A server is not a small child who should only speak when spoken to. Would it make you more comfortable if he or she stared at the floor when you speak to them as well? You don't have to care about your waiters name, but acting offended when he or she offers it reeks of entitlement, superiority and a basic lack of human respect.

                Edited to add that I hope your attitude doesn't peek through in your actual interactions with waiters. It never ceases to amaze me how people can be so rude to those who are preparing and handling their food behind closed doors.

                  1. re: CarmenR

                    >>"Are you insinuating that someone who waits tables is somehow of a lower class?"<<

                    I think the preceding post goes well beyond insinuation. Servers are by definition of the servant class, and should know not to converse with their betters as equals. Similarly, a shopkeeper who's a millionaire is still a merchant, not a gentleman.

                    It truly does ruin an evening when one's social inferiors are overly familiar. It's almost like they expect to be treated as human beings. The nerve. Oh, for the good old days when those of lower social, ethnic, and religious groups knew their places. Off with their heads!!!

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      And, of course, they should always leave the room walking backwards so we would never have to see their backs!

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        I always enjoy it when my servers enter the room on their knees, balancing plates on their heads. If direct eye contact is made, the meal is ruined and so is their tip, which wasn't going to be much anyway. The mode of exit should be much the same, only backwards, still avoiding eye contact with the likes of me and mine.
                        That being said, I worked as a server in college while my low class impoverished self was struggling through a double major. It's a wonder I could find my way to the car and drive it to school, much less make it all the way into a classroom without completely spazzing out. And actually serving a plate? It's just a wonder and a tribute to the power of large motorskills.
                        I think (really, no jest) that servers who treat their jobs as an end, and not the means to it, are better servers who understand that the nature of service work is not to be pathetic and servile, but to be correct, prompt, and efficient. Friendly doesn't hurt either. It is an art, and it is not easy.

                      2. re: CarmenR

                        I believe bagelman01 was replying to me knowing that I am British - and working to an assumption that socio-economic class distinctions are more pronounced in the UK than America. I do not know if this is true nor do I know if this is what accounts for the different type of service I generally experience in America to the general type of service I experience in the UK and the other European countries I visit. But that there is difference in service style between America and Europe, I have absolutely no doubt.

                        1. re: Harters

                          I believe what bagelman is referring to is a lack of interpersonal boundaries.

                          Because I teach, students will tell me details of their personal lives to explain why they need an extension or exception. However, they don't just stop at "I have some legal stuff to take care of" or "my grandmother passed away". They proceed to tell me about the conditions of their parole and how they feel about their parole officer, the details of the fight they had with their siblings that resulted in their parents calling the police, how horrible it was to find grandma lying on the floor after her colon ruptured.

                          Some of my students just don't seem to understand the concept of boundaries, and I think that's what bagelman is referring to with respect to some servers.

                          I'm also not a fan of being referred to by my first name just because it's there on the reservation, unless I introduce myself that way. It's like when I used to use the Club Card at Safeway, and the cashier would then refer to me by the name they had on record. I don't know the cashier and they don't know me, so it's not necessary (and frankly, Big Brother-ish) to refer to me that way - "thank you" and "have a good day" are quite sufficient.

                          1. re: dump123456789

                            I certainly hope that is what he meant. If so, I completely agree. I dislike it when servers (or other strangers) use my first name, tell me too much information, try to get personal without my permission, assume things about me, call me an "endearment" or decide that THEY would like to chat.

                            Being good at your job in any customer service job means paying attention to your customer and taking your cues from them....not hoping for the other way around. I get increasingly annoyed when the grocery checker or wait staff wants to carry on a full conversation with me after I have given polite (but obvious) cues that I don't feel like chatting. Then THEY border on being rude, IMO.

                            1. re: sedimental

                              thank you for understanding the gist of my post. Not everyone I come in contact with is part of my poersonal circle of friends or family and I do not choose to discuss personal things with what are really strangers. Just because you serve me dinner at a restaurant once a month (or week) doesn't mean that we discuss personal things.

                            2. re: dump123456789

                              I've oft thought of changing my first name, which is a nickname they decided to give me from birth.
                              When someone addresses me using my legal first name, it sort of jars me, even after many decades.

                              1. re: dump123456789

                                You should give them a lesson about boundaries so they will understand the concept. After all, you are a teacher. My solution seems much more reasonable than just complaining about your student's shortcoming's on a website.

                                1. re: Robinez

                                  I already did. And I have it to do it every single quarter, since apparently their parents have completely abdicated that responsibility.

                              2. re: Harters

                                Yes, the reply was specifically to you being British. The USA is a classless society by definition and law. We have no nobility, and no family traditions of going into service or trade.

                                Having lived in the UK and a number of former British colonies, I became very aware of those in service and the lack of personal interaction with those being served.

                              3. re: CarmenR

                                The reply was specific to Harters who is in the UK. We don't have class distinctions in the USA and I worked as a waiter while in college, as well as bartender, pizza delivery, and kitchen and deli help. My late father also worked his way through college as a waiter in the 1930s.................

                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  I agree that delving into the personal lives of complete strangers is not exactly what I'm looking for from the people serving me dinner but I do like it when they're cordial. To that end, I find it remarkable that you would be offended by someone addressing you by name. Oh well, sounds like if Sir is preferable, just imagine how much better Your Royal Highness would be.

                                  1. re: mtr

                                    Well, for me, I don't like it when any stranger reads my first name off my credit receipt or reservation (or gets it in some other way) because I didn't give my name to them...and I don't wear a name tag...so it feels intrusive to me. It feels in-genuinely personal, or falsely intimate....or, just "icky" to me.... so does calling me "honey" or "sweetie" etc.
                                    If I strike up a conversation with a stranger (wait staff), and we both "like" each other or share a commonality- then we introduce ourselves- that is very different. It needs to be two sided, not one-sided. I also don't like to call a wait staff person by their first name (like on their name tag at a diner) for the same reason. I usually just say "ms" or "sir". It has to do with personal preferences-nothing to do with being arrogant.

                                    1. re: mtr

                                      No, if the server checked the resevation list and addressed me as Mr. Bagelman that would be fine, but addressing me as "Joe" is not acceptable. Use of my first name is for my friends, neighbors, relatives and those I have either been introduced to by first name or invited to call me by first name. It is not appropriate for any non-friend to assume that they have permission to call me by first name. that said I am in my late 50s and think a 20 something server addressing me by first name without my persmission or invitation to do so is way out of line.

                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                        Wow, I am almost out of my 50's and never took offense at someone using my first name. Different stroke for different folks I guess.

                                        It is sorta weird tho when I do hear people use my first name in only that I gave myself a nickname while on my 20's and only my family and work calls me by it now.

                                        1. re: Quine

                                          My late father only used his nickname (except on legal documents). Growing up, if the phone rang, and we answered and someone asked for him by his given name we knew it was a fundraiser who bought a list, not anyone who knew dad.

                                      2. re: mtr

                                        So, if one prefers being called "sir" or "Mr Smith" by servers, to being called "John", then that means they're complete snobs who'd actually prefer to be called "Your Royal Highness" ?

                                        Sorry, but some of us were raised to call strangers "sir" (or "ma'am") by default - as in "Excuse me, sir, I think you dropped this" when addressing people in the post office, library or supermarket, even if we're not employees there. And no, I'm not from the south, and I'm not an old fart.

                                        1. re: dump123456789

                                          I.m not from the south and only a middle aged fart, but I aplaud the way you were raised.

                                          1. re: dump123456789

                                            As referenced before, I am an old fart, and ALWAYS refer to people who I do not know as Sir or ma'am and only use their first name when they give me leave by their introduction to use it.

                                            And again, if anyone uses my first name by whatever means they got it, I am never offended. Weird huh?
                                            I have even taken QA "dings" because my work wants me to call customers by their first name and I *still* will say Sir or ma'am.

                                            1. re: Quine

                                              Quine - the use of sir and ma'am is one of the great politnesses of American English. We dont use it in the UK nor, I think, generally in other major English speaking countries such as Australia. It means that whilst I have words to address a stranger in, say, French or Spanish, I do not have them in my own language.

                                              1. re: Harters

                                                This is one of the wonders of the US classless society. Any male can be addressed as sir and any female may be referred to as a lady. Just a polite means of address or reference, not an honor bestowed by the monarch,

                                                I certainly agree that the romance languages have better means to separate the stranger from the familiar (close family, not simply friend). ET TU BRUTE?

                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                  No, I didnt quite mean the stranger/familiar thing but the words that one would use to address a stranger - - madame, senora, mevrouw, etc - in the same way as ma'am would be used in American English. We dont have that level of courtesy in English English

                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                    At one time you could have addressed that adult female stranger as "Mistress" but the current denotation of the word would probably bring a poor response, I imagine the male adult stranger could be called Mister.

                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                      I assume you mean at least one century ago and not in the US?

                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                        Correct, as mentioned many times Harters is in the UK

                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                          Using dump's example above of "Excuse me, Sir, I think you dropped this", in the UK, we would say "Excuse me, I think you dropped this". It works well enough as a matter of politeness and courtesy but I have a rather fond attraction to the American use of "sir" and "ma'am".

                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            I love to hear an American male call another "Sir." And I love to hear an American male called a female 'ma'am."

                                                            From Shenandoah Valley, VA

                                                2. re: Harters

                                                  I had this experience when we visited London last year. I called the woman working the counter in a coffee shop ma'am (I am Southern, so the drawl was also a factor), as she was a good bit older than I. She was stunned and asked me what I had said. So I will definitely agree that it is a cultural gap.

                                              2. re: dump123456789

                                                Of course simple courtesy is the way to go when dealing with strangers and you don't need to be from the south or an old fart to be polite. Having a sense of humor sometimes also helps, but apparently not always.

                                              3. re: mtr

                                                I prefer "Madame Princess of her own personal Universe."

                                                1. re: mamachef

                                                  I m Supreme Empress of the Universes, Known and Unknown, but you can call me Em for short.

                                                  1. re: Quine

                                                    I want to get mamachef a tiara and Quine a royal staff :D

                                                    1. re: TheHuntress

                                                      LOL Huntress, I know you are right in there with us. :-)

                                                      1. re: Quine

                                                        Only in my finest regalia. One doesn't get to be a knight without the shiniest of armour :D

                                    2. People who work in the customer service industry get burned out. Its not easy putting on a smile and biting your tongue in a day where everyone feels they are entitled. "the customer is always right" is the worst phrase ever invented! I know its only a matter of time before I flip out on some customer who wants to use a coupon and wants a senior discount and then complains about the size of FREE water. Its not an easy job

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: joe777cool

                                        Shy of laughing- your completely right! That is another perspective for sure. I hope you get to work with more exciting patrons, and not for all the over 60 crowd.
                                        By now I'm sure you have a great script! I know I do.
                                        Keep your head up and laugh on the inside.
                                        Eat Life- Off The Beaten Palate!

                                        1. re: ma_offthebeatenpalate

                                          My husband and I are both 60+. We tip very well, are friendly to the waitstaff, don't take or make calls on our cellphone while dining, never have used a coupon, don't expect a discount and usually order 3 courses plus wine. So don't lump us into that crowd waiters should avoid---, waiters love to see us come in.

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            this will sound very stereotypical, and probably is, but it seems to me that 95% of elderly patrons fall into 2 groups, your best friend or your worst enemy.

                                            1. re: joe777cool

                                              The pain of you calling me "elderly" is something you may not understand until you are "elderly."

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                you are 100% correct, I had no idea that "elderly" was a hurtful term! No disrespect was intended.

                                            2. re: escondido123

                                              Your part of the beautiful people that enjoy life. Spread it around!

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                Thanks, escondido 123. Same here.
                                                A couple of days ago we had a lunch and the waiter told us he was going to a wine class the company was holding. We did have a great discussion about wines from around the world, even though there was probably 50+ years difference in our age.

                                                I must say, though that I'm usually asked, can I bring you something to drink, some tea?

                                          2. "It seems now, only once in a while, you'll get that real personality behind the uniform, the ones that laugh and smile, share stories;"

                                            You might think that makes a good waiter but I would hate it. I'm not really in a restaurant to have a conversation with my waiter. I don't need them to have a 'personality' and I sure don't want them sharing stories.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: melo7

                                              I suppose it just goes to show the fickleness of us consumers and how difficult being a server is. I love bantering with waitstaff, having a chat and sharing stories. For me it's not only part of a fun evening out, but I have actually developed a sincere friendship or two from this. You can't always tell what the customer wants and there is no pleasing some people, no matter how hard you try.

                                              I agree with joe777cool above that the worst phrase ever invented is "the customer is always right". In Australia service is entirely different, waitstaff are paid a living wage and we do not have a tipping culture - in some ways this is good, in other ways it's not so good. But as a plus for the server you don't have to bend over backwards to satisfy a customers feelings of entitlement and then be stiffed on a tip. I worked in hospitality for 6 months many, many years ago when no other work was available. I enjoyed it on rare occasions I would NEVER go back. It certainly takes a special person to be a server and to excell at their job.

                                              1. re: TheHuntress

                                                The best way to hire servers is to promote from within.

                                                This practice is less common than it once was.

                                                Bussers are not promoted even though the weight of plates, physical layout and customer preferences are known to them. Part of this is discrimination as immigrants often have busser positions and while many venues have made a cult of "diversity" just as many have a glass ceiling.

                                                Additionally, the wide practice of hiring for personality has grown far more prevalent here in the 21st. Century while plate skills have atrophied noticeably.

                                                As bad as the server situation is bartending is even worse as Bar Mgrs. who are behind the stick monopolize opportunities.

                                                1. re: postemotional1

                                                  Ah yes, I fondly remember Hector the busser who went from our 50's style diner to end up as a head waiter at a high end steak house. Man, I never could convince the owner to promote him. What a short-sighted bias. He busted his hump every night; dependable, reliable, family guy with no addicitions except to learn, develop and do better. He probably owns his own place now and I am no longer in the biz.

                                                2. re: TheHuntress

                                                  I'm with you Huntress. That's why my husband and I used to sit at the bar at our favorite restaurants--ok it was also the best place to get drinks! But we had a couple of places where we knew the bartender, they were interesting people, and we enjoyed spending an evening with them eating and drinking. We tried that at a few local places here and it was impossible to have a conversation....so now we sit at a table.

                                                3. re: melo7

                                                  part of being an exceptional server is knowing who and when to bring out the personality, and when to keep it in check - sometimes even with a regular customer who has different needs for that particular meal.

                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    This is a great point, and really indicates another part of why the job can be challenging.

                                                4. I've done a fair amount of hiring (restaurants and other businesses) and I always look for personal attributes. Experience is nice, but you can teach someone skills. You (as an employer) can't easily teach attitude, work ethic, how to prioritize, communicate effectively, manners and common courtesy.
                                                  Hiring someone with the desired attributes and taking the time to train, pairing them with an experienced person and giving them the tools and feedback to develop can and does work.

                                                  Unfortunately many businesses don't feel they have the time to invest in training. Knowing they do not have a staff that can accurately read most situations the company provides "script" and that gets us to the perky, shallow silliness that defines way too many service experiences.

                                                  There are many terrific servers, both younger and older. There are just fewer places that allow them to shine.

                                                  1. In NYC, with all the out-of-work actors in search of a role, I've never had a bad server, women servers, especially.

                                                    1. You're absolutely right. The younger generation has no idea how to perform well in any job, let alone a job as a server. I think it was best summed up as follows:

                                                      "I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint"

                                                      - Hesiod (c. 700 BC)

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                        Wiser words could not have been spoken alanbarnes ;)

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          Rarely, at any point in history, were there un-frivolous youth.

                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            Now why did I think that one was attributable to Ross Perot, the squeakanista?

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              To additionally add a bit of lightness to this thread
                                                              PLease check out today's (3/24/2011) Mother Goose and Grimm:


                                                              1. re: Quine

                                                                I saw that this morning and had to laugh! Perfect!

                                                                1. re: tracylee

                                                                  Makes me think The Cartoonists are CH!

                                                                2. re: Quine

                                                                  I REALLY needed that laugh, Quine. Thanks!!

                                                              2. I don't expect my server to chat with me or even smile. I do expect them to not be dour or unpleasant. But I honestly usually don't look my servers in the face very often unless I find him/her to be exceptionally attractive. I don't care if they text in the back as long as I don't see it and they don't leave my food waiting on the pass.

                                                                74 Replies
                                                                1. re: jaykayen

                                                                  Why do you not look your server in the face? I used to find that somewhat offensive as a server when guests brushed off my "hi, how are you?" or refused to look at me. It's disrespectful and dehumanizing. You're saying to that person, "you're barely even worth acknowledging." I'm sure you probably don't feel that way or intend to make that point to the server, but I just thought I'd inform you of how that might be portrayed by the person serving you.

                                                                  1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                    i know my opinion exactly. They want me to understand each and every no matter how subtle nuance, but I must be a a serv*toid!*

                                                                  2. re: jaykayen

                                                                    Wow Bagel! You're a tough one to please, eh?

                                                                    Servers are usually instructed to say "My name is _____ and I'll be your server this evening." That's a standard introduction and usually mandatory to their job. Telling you their name isn't to make friends with you. It's just a practical thing to do to make communication easier. You're still welcome to call them Miss, Mrs, Ma'am, Mister, or Sir if that's what you're more comfortable with.

                                                                    Servers are also instructed to check on you within the first couple bites of your food to make sure everything is okay with your meal. It's part of their training. That way if something isn't right, they can correct it as swiftly as possible.

                                                                    People are different. Their styles are different. The most accomplished server will adapt their personality to suit their guest's style, but it's not always easy to pick up on subtle cues. I think people just need to lighten up. If you're dining out, just try to relax and enjoy yourself instead of nitpicking everything to death. And feel free to speak to and look at your server. They're human and welcome being treated like one.

                                                                    I'm not a fan of servers sitting down at the table with us, either, but I find it far ruder to get up and haughtily walk out. Is it so hard to be tolerant of people acting a bit naive?

                                                                    1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                      I'd be far happier if the host/hostess, Maitre D who seats us tells me that 'Joe' wil be serving this evening than listening to the canned speech.

                                                                      When dining out at a high end/high cost establishment I prefer formal (old fashioned, even stuffy) service. While the server at a mid priced casual dining establishment may be instructed that he/she must check back within two minutes to make sure everything is okay with my meal, I find it annoying. I am an adult and I am more than capable of calling the server or captain (remember that staff position?) to the table and pointing out anything that is not satisfactory. I don't want my intimate time with my wife, or business time with my client(s) interrupted. I desire seamless, unobtrusive service.

                                                                      There is a small fine dining restaurant about 10 minutes drive fom my home that we used to frequent weekly. My wife finally asked that we no longer dine there as the staff and owner constantly interrupted or meal to make sure everything was okay. I'm talking about 6-8 intrusions in 90 minutes. A good server does his/her job professionally, swiftly and is unobtrusive.

                                                                      As to not tolerating a server who sits down at our table uninvited and walking out. That is my perogative. If I am the host and spending my money, I get to choose who sits at my table. I am in the legal profession and much of what is said at the table when dining with clients is confidential, and there may be documents on the table that cannot be read from a distance but should not be viewed by an uninvited party.
                                                                      It is not rude to walk out when an employee makes a decision to sit univited at my table. This was an employee taking the order, No food or drink had yet been served. The management did a poor job training the server, my guests were horrified by the nerve of the server to join a private group. This was not a counter at a luncheonette where anyone is free to take an available seat. There is nothing Haughty about exercising my choice not to have univited persons join my table.

                                                                      I am propably older than you, I certainly am more old fashioned than you and make no apologies or excuses for it. PLUS, I started waiting tables in restaurants, hotels and catering more than 40 years ago and am fully syphathetic to the plight of servers. It's hard work, but be a professional and earn a good living. It's possible, I paid for an Ivy league education that way.

                                                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                                                        Okay, my work in the food service industry (and the Ivy League / legal education it paid for) are a decade more recent than yours, so maybe I should defer to your curmudgeonliness, but...

                                                                        It's a significant - and not uncommon - problem for a server to disappear after food is served. In a perfect world, a server wouldn't have to ask whether everything's satisfactory, but would be nearby and attentive to any potential issues. But this isn't a perfect world. Requiring servers to check in with guests is a good way for management to make sure that those issues are promptly addressed.

                                                                        Your claim that you, as the host, "get to choose who sits at my table" is incorrect. There are places that instruct their employees to sit down at the table with patrons while taking their orders. I agree with you that it's bad form, but the server isn't choosing to sit there - it's restaurant policy. Whether you choose to patronize such places is, of course, your decision.

                                                                        As far as whether the host tells you your server's name or whether the server tells you him/herself - seriously, who cares?

                                                                        If you want your meals to conform to a stuffy nineteenth-century model of service, then you're probably better off hiring a butler and a cook and a scullery maid and dining at home. If you seriously expect to see that kind of service in a typical modern restaurant, you're just asking for disappointment.

                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes


                                                                          There are clearly differences between Europe and America. Over here, the style of service which bagelman describes (as did I I upthread) is the norm in "typical modern restaurants" in the UK (where I live) and other European countries I visit regularly (Belgium, Cyprus, France, Italy, Ireland and Spain). Not in casual chain places which are trying to mimic an American style, of course - but mid-range bistro and upwards. These are places that are confident in their cooking and service and, equally, confident that customers will speak up if something is needed or is not right - it's what we do. For example, we recently spent 2 weeks in Spain - there was not a single night when a server introduced themselves or did the "check back". There was not a single night when the experience was other than faultless (except for a couple of poor menu choices, but that's down to us). Unobtrusive service is what we would regard as "good" service and I'd reward it appropriately.

                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                            I agree that ideal service is almost unnoticeable. And I'll have to take your word for it that it's common in the UK and Europe.

                                                                            My point was a little different. The style of service at mid-range to fine dining establishments in the US has changed over the last few decades. Using the "check back" as an example, many restaurants - even some fairly nice ones - require servers to check back with diners. Servers who fail to comply with this requirement are subject to negative performance evaluations.

                                                                            Reasonable minds can differ on the question of whether this style of service is desirable. But it's the status quo, and bemoaning it isn't going to do any good. And holding it against servers who are merely doing their jobs as required by their employers is fundamentally unfair.

                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                              I can tell you that I work at a high end restaurant where we didn't have to do a check back when I started (many years ago) and the policy was changed to having to do a check back in two minutes. The problem is, if you don't ask people how things are there are people who get really upset about it. Generally, it's because they didn't like something, and since you were there filling their water, but didn't ask how everything was, they weren't willing to say anything about it. I have been told that my style of serving is more European, because I only chat with those I have waited on numerous times and I defer to them as to the length of the chat. Luckily, we do not give people our names. I have had to retrain myself to not take offense when people ask for it. If someone asks my name I much prefer them to offer theirs as well. At any rate, I know there are many people who prefer servers who are interested in why they are dining and what's that they are looking at, etc. Just not my style.

                                                                              1. re: Missmoo

                                                                                we went out for dinner last night to a fairly high end place and here's what I noticed.

                                                                                I had made a reservation and specifically asked NOT to be sat at the side of the building which is where they first took us to. We were seated in the area we had asked and as we were looking at the menu they came back over and asked us to move because they needed our table later to merge with another for a larger party.

                                                                                Our server came over and immediately hit us with the all American question which I think is always too fast - what would you like to drink? We had only just started looking at the cocktail menu. We ordered margaritas and she said would you like well tequila or Patron, shall I put you down for Patron? we said no thanks we'll just go with well liquor. She then pushed and pushed us to order an app before we had even started to look at the menu.

                                                                                Again she pushed to upsell everything, suggesting the most expensive apps and entrees, quoting the menu like a script and reading off the specials (no prices for specials were told).

                                                                                She checked back numerous times as did the Gen Manager and we were constantly interrupted with questions about the meal. It was a birthday romantic dinner and we got fed up with the questions.

                                                                                I agree with Harters up above, in the UK it is very rare to be interrupted with check backs. Waiters are more likely to stand back and be aware if a table needs something with a signal from a diner. Seamless service is awareness not constant questions. I was back in London a couple weeks ago and ate out a few times and felt much less hassled than I do in the US.

                                                                              2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                Oh, I'd never hold it against a server who did a check back, although I do bemoan the restaurant policy that required it. That said, there is line that can be crossed - it's probably a server sitting down at the table to take the order.

                                                                                Presumably, from what you say Alan, the service in American "mid and up" places used to have a style of service more akin to what I'm used to here in Europe. Is there anything that accounts for the change? Customers wanting a more casual style? Restaurants just thinking they do? A "dumbing down" of the experience? Something else? Whatever it is, I hope it doesnt arrive here much more than it already has.

                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                  I live in Northern California, where what I think of as old-fashioned formal service is, for all intents and purposes, extinct. The tone between servers and patrons tends to be informal and conversational, even at places with Michelin stars.

                                                                                  I don't think of it as "dumbing down" so much as fostering a more egalitarian environment. And I personally prefer it, although I'm certain others feel differently.

                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                    I like good service; unobtrusive but available and pleasant. What I do NOT want is a server who's freaking out in his/her head over whether the handle of the teacup I ordered my tea in is facing at directly 4 o'clock. It matters not to me what "time" that handle's at: only that I get my tea, IN a cup, and that it be properly brewed and HOT.

                                                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                                                      Even that appears to be too much to ask. But that's a whole 'nother thread.

                                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                                        The type of service you described in your original post is anything but "unobtrusive".

                                                                                        1. re: melo7

                                                                                          Well, it wasn't my OP in the first place, but if you're referring to my original comment on this post, it was entirely tongue in cheek, completely not serious.

                                                                                          1. re: mamachef

                                                                                            Darn. And I had such a great mental image.

                                                                                      2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                        There're 2 types of egalitarian - "we're all equally smart" and "we're all equally dumb". Excessive check-backs and interruptions, forced good cheer and inappropriate familiarity fall into the latter category.

                                                                                        1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                          Egalitarianism does not presume that everyone has the same level of intelligence (or lack thereof). Rather, it is founded on the premise that the worth of an individual is not measured by his or her parentage, profession, or bank account.

                                                                                          I know that's a radical idea, and there's even a post to this thread expressly claiming that it's "unfortunate" that we lack class distinctions in the US. But the doctrine of egalitarianism is one of the fundamental premises on which the United States was founded. ("We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...")

                                                                                          It's true that the gentry and the aristocracy are more comfortable when the "lower classes" are servile and know their place. (Well, up to a point anyway - ask Marie Antoinette.) But wouldn't it be better for servers to do their jobs exceptionally well without the necessity of being relegated to the status of second-class citizens? Seems to me that's something to which we all can aspire.

                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                            Here Here! Raise a glass to alanbarnes!
                                                                                            For sure as truth we are all equal, and here at CH, together because we love the wonder and delight of food and come here to share.

                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                What I wrote before was not meant to be taken as literally as your response suggests.

                                                                                                When I encounter a server of Harters' European style, I get the sense that they're working in the field of their choosing, and that they're confident of their ability to execute their responsibilities well. Good servers of this style do NOT come across as "servile and know[ing] their place", nor as "second-class citizens". They come across as professional (as long as they're not snobbish or aloof). This fosters a sense of smart egalitarianism - "we're all professionals, and we're all good at what we do".

                                                                                                Nothing makes me more aware that I am being SERVED than when the server behaves in a way that other professionals would not. In interactions with people in other professions, it is not normal for them to engage in the behaviors described in my previous post. In fact, the overt attempts to seem more "egalitarian" instead bring more attention to the difference between the server and the served.

                                                                                                It's like the difference between the good students who are (overly) eager to please versus those who simply do their work well, ask only very specific (and pertinent) questions and are otherwise quiet. The former come across as younger and less self-confident, the latter more mature and thoughtful. I am more aware of the teacher-student difference with the former students than with the latter.

                                                                                                The same applies to servers. If you want to foster a sense of egalitarianism, act as a professional would.

                                                                                          2. re: Harters

                                                                                            I think it happened sometime around when suburbia adopted tracksuits as their formalwear.

                                                                                            1. re: Cachetes

                                                                                              Gosh, I would love to see a return to a more formal attire. I love dressing up for fine dining and it always makes me feel a bit sad when you see a few people wearing polo shirts and jeans. It makes me feel like they couldn't be bothered putting in an effort for their partner. I know the aim is for everyone to be comfortable, but I love dressing for an occasion. I imagine it all ties into what alanbarnes and Harters is saying about customers wanting a more casual style and egalitarian environment. Each to their own, it's certainly not my place to judge.

                                                                                              1. re: TheHuntress

                                                                                                See, I'm just the opposite. I love good food, but loathe "dressing for dinner." If I never have to wear a dinner jacket again it will be too soon. Even a suit is asking too much.

                                                                                                It has nothing to do with whether someone can be bothered putting in an effort. Frankly it isn't that hard to put in a set of shirt studs, and putting on an unstructured sport coat requires precisely the same amount of effort as climing into a dress jacket with tails. it isn't an issue of the amount of work that's required, it's merely a matter of convention. And I have little use for old-fashioned conventions that strike me as elitist and ostentatious.

                                                                                                Of course things can swing too far the other way. Conventions should be observed, and I believe that the dot-com zillionaires who go to a place with white tablecloths dressed in ratty jeans and hoodie sweatshirts are behaving inappropriately. But I welcome the fact that conventions are changing, and can't think of a single restaurant where I've eaten in the last ten years where a sport coat and an open-collared shirt would be inappropriate attire for a man.

                                                                                                The days of the house jacket and the paper tie are gone. As far as I'm concerned, good riddance.

                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                  I'm certainly not advocating a return to the full dress jacket with tails - for one it's way too hot where I live, but I'm definitely for what you suggest as being appropriate attire. A collared shirt and sports jacket is simple and looks good. I don't believe in people being uncomfortable in their attire - and believe me I have suffered (by choice of course) in many of my outfits (part of being a woman who likes clothes I guess).

                                                                                                  We're quite a casual bunch in Australia, you would be hard pressed to find men (who are not lawyers or consultants) who actually wear a tie for an occasion aside from their own wedding. I really am talking about the ratty jean/hoodie mob, especially as my ex was inclined to dress that way. I remember when I started dating for the first time after we split up - I was so grateful to those lovely men who actually wore a nice collared shirt and dress trousers.

                                                                                                  And I will happily continue to dress up the way I do because I like it. I will use any occasion to put on a party frock and as far as I'm concerned a meal in a nice restaurant is a good enough occasion to do so.

                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                    I will not go to places that require jacket for men. It says to me things about the place that makes me not want to go. Mercifully, such places are few and very between in the UK - I can only think of. literally, a handful of top places in the country that still so old fashioned as to require it (only two of our four Michelin 3 stars and a couple of the 2* ). Otherwise, everywhere seems perfectly happy declaring dress code (if they have one) along the lines of "smart casual".

                                                                                                    1. re: TheHuntress

                                                                                                      You're lucky that guys are wearing polo shirts and jeans. I've sat next to ones wearing Tshirts with obscene words on front and back or shorts, tank top and disgusting feet slid into Tevas.

                                                                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                        I don't care how people are dressed ever. I do find t-shirt statements to be offensive if they are in-my-face. I like to leave these thoughts at home when I "dine."

                                                                                                        1. re: Rella

                                                                                                          I don't either, Rella. And I think it's a little misguided (and perhaps a bit arrogant) to point out the attire of a group of inconsiderate people. Their clothing has nothing to do with their attitude towards other people.

                                                                                                          1. re: Rella

                                                                                                            I had to laugh when I saw your post, Rella, it reminded me of something Fran Lebowitz wrote, which went somewthing like "People generally don't care to hear what you have to say. What makes you think they want to read your clothing?"

                                                                                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                              Yes, I was well aware of that quote of Fran's when I wrote it, That was the fun of writing it.

                                                                                                          2. re: escondido123

                                                                                                            i totally agree with you escondido. I think the entire i can wear what i want attitude is extremely offensive in many situations. ratty jeans and t-shirts have a place at times, in a dining establishment, it is wrong, IMO.

                                                                                                            I think bagelman's characterization of such an attitude was spot on - classless.

                                                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                                                              Is it not a matter for a restaurant to state a dress code?

                                                                                                              If they do, then it is incumbent on diners to dress accordingly and the restaurant to refuse a table to customers not dressed accordingly.

                                                                                                              Such matters are hardly difficult. For example this from one of my favourite places near home (where I would feel entirely comfortable and not out of place wearing chinos and collared shirt) - "Whilst many gentlemen choose to wear a jacket and tie in the restaurant in the evening it is not obligatory. We welcome gentlemen wearing smart clothes, but trainers, t-shirts, tracksuits, shorts etc are NOT acceptable."

                                                                                                              And one of my favourite places in America (where I would feel entirely comfortable and not out of place wearing chinos and collared shirt) "Business casual. It is recommended that gentlemen wear jackets, but it is not required to dine."

                                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                Nice H. I always love those little guides.

                                                                                                                "but trainers, t-shirts, tracksuits, shorts etc are NOT acceptable". It is unfortunate that we need restaurants to teach basic manners and social interaction.

                                                                                                              2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                Thanks J, I was wondering when you were going to chime in. Although Mr Barnes has some of the same background he takes issue with my desire for decorum, etc. It has gotten to the point that there are clients I only take to a private club dining venue which has a strictly enforced dress code and well trained staff with seamless unobtrusive service.

                                                                                                                I'm not advocating a throwback to the days when women could not dine in the main dining room for lunch on weekdays (Mucho Gordo would remember this from the Colonial House in Hamden ion the 50s and 60s), but a sense of civility, decorum, hushed tomes and privacy is very important during a lunch recess from court.

                                                                                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                  too many time zones over the last few weeks.

                                                                                                                  i am afraid that our children will have to carry the swords of proper etiquette into the next generation. I am glad that most of their friends have been taught proper manners as well so all is not lost.

                                                                                                                  i actually watched a young colleague shove chocolate cake on top of her entree in a take-away box at a client dinner. I could only hang my head in shame.

                                                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                    for shoving the cake on the entree, or was just taking a box from a client dinner shameful enough.

                                                                                                                    In law school, each semester I ran a mini course on dining ettiquette, so students wouldn't make fools of themselves during interview situations. The school wanted it for foreign students, but it was the American students who really needed it. No clue as to which utensil to use for each course, etc.

                                                                                                                    We also taught them not discuss client business when a server was nearby as it can break the attorney/client privilege shield.

                                                                                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                      "We also taught them not discuss client business when a server was nearby as it can break the attorney/client privilege shield."

                                                                                                                      This thought has really bothered me, so today while I was speaking with my lawyer, I presented the idea of discussing attorney/client business at lunch/dinner outside their law offices. He was aghast that anyone would think to do that.
                                                                                                                      That was what I was thinking, myself. The only way that my attorney (whomever they may be) can insure privileged discussion was in the office. If my lawyer felt that discussing my business in a pubic place, even a private club was appropriate , they would no longer be my attorney. That is the service standard I hold.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Quine

                                                                                                                        sure hope no attorney would discuss my business in a pubic place unless I was married to one!!

                                                                                                                        1. re: Quine

                                                                                                                          Just to go a little OT for a moment, I still think it's a good thing to teach / stress (I do agree that these things shouldn't be discussed in public btw), in any profession that involves clients.

                                                                                                                          I am in a similar field and have been working with clients in some capacity for several years. Client confidentiality is very important to me for several reasons, and I avoid talking about that even in an anonymous sense while in public. There is always some chance that there is someone seated nearby who recognizes who it is you're talking about, even if you don't use names. And yeah, when a bunch of people get together from a workplace, people start doing it. I don't like it.

                                                                                                                          I think it's still important to stress because a lot of people seem to lean towards "well it's not illegal" as the benchmark for discussing things like this. I have seen more than a handful of people on public internet forums giving an example of some case they, or someone they know (aka lawyer's g.f. talking about case), were working on or some client issues with great detail (and not on profession-related boards either). As in "there was this one guy who.... " Legal or no, imho this is territory that shouldn't be entered into, and you never know how it could backfire.

                                                                                                                          1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                                                            Great response, I was thinking similarly. I teach, and immediately thought to myself that I'd never discuss confidential matters (legal and beyond) with a student except in the privacy of my office.

                                                                                                                      2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                        proper manners is a moving target. to ask them to carry 18th century manners into the 22 century doesnt do them any favors

                                                                                                                      3. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                        Decorum is all well and good, but its definition is inherently subjective. One person's "decorum" is another's stuffiness. And if you have to resort to private clubs because you can't find the "decorum" you expect in a single place of public accommodation, I'm pretty sure that your definition of the term is well outside the mainstream.

                                                                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                          I disagree A.

                                                                                                                          The enforcement of the social contract against the slob in the corner is much harder than the membership contract.

                                                                                                                          Pretty funny, me interpreting legal issues with two lawyers.

                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                            I disagree. It's extremely easy for a restaurant to decline to seat a patron because s/he's dressed inappropriately (and there's a lot less potential liability than accompanies the ejection of a member from a private club). We can have an honest disagreement about the optimal dress code for a particular class of restaurant, but the real problem is that so few places enforce any dress code at all.

                                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                              I would diagree about easy, but would agree to they have the right until someone sues them for discrimination.

                                                                                                                              There has only been one case where I saw this occur. Commanders Palace in NOLA would not allow us into the restaurant because my daughter was wearing a nice pair of madras shorts in the summer (i.e. >90 degrees). We went back to her house, she changed into slacks. Upon seating the table next to us had 2 teenagers in ratty pants, t-shirts and baseball hats. That was OK but madras shorts were not.

                                                                                                                              Yes, a restaurant can enforce any requirement they would like, rarely do so, but my point is that the way many view the dining experience is one step above the bleachers at Shea Stadium.

                                                                                                                              Nor do I think that the restaurant needs to teach proper etiquette, that's the parents' job and that is the failing I see. There is no care in the world about the social contract, it has become an I will do what the heck I want, when I want it and if you do not like it, screw everyone else.

                                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                Reading these posts I am reminded of a particularly fond memory of standing in line for tea at a famous hotel in Victoria, B.C. I had flown in by sea plane previously and wanted to relive the experience with DH. I recall I had a nice very long Cashmere navy coat, but I had a pair of jeans underneath. Then we were told that I could not come in because I had jeans on. I had no idea before we went that jeans were not allowed. We didn't have time to return, but I do recall with more happiness a tea at the Pennisula Hotel in Hong Kong. After a long trip to Nepal, I probably was not up to the dress code, but no problem there.

                                                                                                                                I wonder if that B.C. hotel still has a dress code for tea.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Rella

                                                                                                                                  Ah, the Empress; Barb and I stayed there on our honeymoon. They've relaxed their dress code for tea - jeans and shorts are now permitted, although they ask for "no ripped jeans, short shorts, cut off pants, beach wear, flip flops or baseball caps."


                                                                                                                                2. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                  So long as the dress code is consistently enforced, a restaurant shouldn't have to worry too much about discrimination claims. The tricky part is in making the decisions required for enforcement.

                                                                                                                                  A dress code such as "smart casual" is inherently more subjective than "jacket and tie required." Strictly enforcing a rule against shorts just seems silly in the circumstances you described. Banning denim is an option, but why turn away a woman wearing dressy jeans with nice flats, a button-up shirt, and a blazer while seating a guy wearing rumpled khakis and a golf shirt?

                                                                                                                                  Is it that restaurant owners are so desperate for business that they'll seat anybody with a pulse and a VISA card? Is it that they want to avoid the unpleasantness of refusing to serve an inappropriately-dressed individual? I'm not sure, but while we might disagree about exactly where the line should be drawn, I completely agree with you that there is a social contract in place.

                                                                                                                                  I also agree with you that parents should teach their kids to dress and behave appropriately. And I'd go a step further and argue that it's incumbent on any adult who hasn't had those lessons to become self-taught. But not everybody got that memo, and I wish more restaurants would exclude those whose dress is better suited to mowing the lawn than eating dinner.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                    I must say that 'smart casual' is probably the hardest dress code to pull off. It means so many things to so many different people and like you say can usually be interpreted to a persons will.

                                                                                                                                    Having been raised by wolves myself I had to teach myself about dressing appropriately for the standard of restaurant in which I wished to eat. Not hard for me as I love to dress up and now I have the pleasure of teaching the chowpup these standards. For some reason he loves getting dressed up and he knows that a restaurant that is not the Italian family place up that road demands a collared shirt and nice trousers rather than his usual attire of board shorts and a tshirt.

                                                                                                                                    I really hope by teaching my 6 year old these kinds of standards and manners that maybe some of his friends will pick them up also in the future. I am hoping that I can make a minor contribution to slow the dumbing-down (as mentioned by bagleman and Jfood below) that is also occuring in Australia.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: TheHuntress

                                                                                                                                      "Smart casual" is by its very nature hard to define precisely which is why many places add to the description to clarify their intent. That said, I still reckon it's sending a message which most customers will understand. I go to some "smart casual" places and am perfectly happy in jeans and polo shirt, others I feel happier in chinos and collared shirt.

                                                                                                                                      We went to the Fat Duck (world's 3rd best restaurant) for my 60th birthday last year. They specifically state they have no dress code and there were customers in jeans, others like me in chinos, still others in suit and tie. The staff, of course, are all dressed formally. And not a single person looked out of place. Everyone was there to enjoy the food and the experience.

                                                                                                                                      A few weeks before, we'd been to two Michelin 1* place near home. Formal service on both occasions. "Smart casual" dress code - not a single jacket being worn in either place (except, again, staff). In my view, this relaxed nature adds, rather than detracts, from the experience.

                                                                                                                                      Another place I know - quite formal restaurant in a smartish hotel - declares "Please dress as you feel is appropriate for your occasion". Folk get the message about the style and ambiance of the place - I have yet to see anyone interpret this as shorts, t-shirt and baseball cap

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                        I confess, I am completely jealous - I would love to do The Fat Duck. Anyone who can combine science and food is a hero in my world.

                                                                                                                                        I think the collared shirt and chino look is smart and more than sufficient for majority of occasions. I think when I say 'return to formal' I am definitely saying it from an Australian perspective where many people view formal attire as being jeans, a pressed t-shirt with your choice of slogan and closed in shoes for men and as miniscule a dress as possible for women. Maybe I'm just voyeuristic and enjoy seeing nicely dressed people?

                                                                                                                                      2. re: TheHuntress

                                                                                                                                        I guess now is the time to ask as my eyes locked onto "nice trousers and chinos."

                                                                                                                                        Have you noticed, have they been ironed with a crease?

                                                                                                                                        Since I'm rural and haven't seen anyone "dressed-up" except in Washington D.C. where they might be related to government workers, I'm curious as to creases.

                                                                                                                                        I bring this up because DH got a pair of pants out of the closet that must've not been washed and it had a crease in it, and I said, "That must've been put away new."

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Rella

                                                                                                                                          Ah, I'm not one for creases...

                                                                                                                                          However, each to their own, eh? :D

                                                                                                                              2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                Protecting my client's interests is of prime importance. About three years ago there was a small scandal in a neighboring city when a couple of servers at a restaurant near the Superior Court were busy peddling 'overheard' info to both reporters and opposing counsel...
                                                                                                                                All themore reason not to have constant checkbacks, interruptions and hovering personnel.

                                                                                                                                Furthermore, as stated earlier, b ehavior/manners in a fine white tablecloth establishment should be for formal/correct than at a casual restaurant/chain/sports bar.
                                                                                                                                This is not a function of price. I've eaten at Peter Luger's for more than 50 years and it is casual and expensive, a place for comraderie and jovial good times, as opposed to the refinement at the Four Seasons.

                                                                                                                                There is a time and polace for different behavior, but I resent the dumbing down of America.

                                                                                                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                  "There is a time and place for different behavior, but I resent the dumbing down of America"

                                                                                                                                  Add me and mrs jfood to this list.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                    The best way to protect your client's interests is to limit conversations about sensitive and/or confidential matters to places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. An open dining room is not such a place. Just because a server is unobtrusive doesn't mean s/he's deaf.

                                                                                                                                    What I resent is the characterization of the style of dining I (and the vast majority of others) prefer as "dumbed down." There's nothing inherently intelligent about ostentation and elitism. You prefer one style of service; more power to you. Is it really necessary to disparage those whose preferences are different than your own?

                                                                                                                                    If there were pent-up demand for extremely formal restaurants, there would be plenty of restaurateurs rushing to satisfy it. But given the average age of the patrons I tend to see in places that feature ultra-traditional service, it probably isn't a viable long-term business model.

                                                                                                                                    People grumbled when full-on Victorian service gave way to the more casual model common in the mid-20th century. (Business suits at dinner in a fine restaurant? The horror!) By the late 20th century, neckties became optional at most fine-dining establishments. That caused significant consternation at the time, but posters on this thread seem to believe that it isn't the end of the world.

                                                                                                                                    The folks who objected to business suits in the dining room and those who objected to open collars a few decades later have one thing in common - most of them are dead now. Change happens. I'd like to think that when I'm 75 years old I'll be having fun and looking forward the next new thing instead of living in the past and grumbling about how the world has gone to hell.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                      OK maybe it is not "dumbed down" but it is surely "slobbed up."

                                                                                                                                      Heck how many posts crucify people for having a quiet conversation on my cell phone, or leaving 15% tip or dinging the server because the kitchen screwed up. I just deal with it.

                                                                                                                                      Likwise many resent overly perfumed people, loud people, smelly people, people on cell phones, people reading books, people taking picture, people speaking about sex, people telling off-color jokes, fat people, skinny people, ethnic diversity, on and on. All of these will have a majority and a minority. Isn't math wonderful.

                                                                                                                                      Maybe I will be in the minority on this one, a position I have grown accustomed to since my youth, but I do not want to throw the whole etiquette thing out the window.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                        I'm not defending the slobs or the loud / smelly / drunk / otherwise obnoxious types. My point is that the rules are constantly changing, not that there aren't any rules.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                      it shouldn't really matter if you are at the four seasons or at an applebees-- if you *really* want a confidential conversation, it won't be an 100% safe proposition in the middle of a staffed dining room open to the public.

                                                                                                                                      it also shouldn't matter (four seasons or applebees)-- if any customer wants more privacy and fewer checkbacks, it should be as simple as stating to the server at the get-go: "hey--we'd like more privacy and fewer checkbacks. i'll signal you if we need you." ime simple, upfront communication beats expecting the server to read your mind nearly every time.

                                                                                                                                      the fact that service models are now built around accommodating folks who expect periodic checkbacks and the ability to order a la carte anything, any time, according to whim, isn't necessarily a bad thing for the overwhelming majority of customers, who obviously prefer this. if a customer wants to go to a restaurant in order to ignore the food and service and instead focus on a conversation for whatever reason, business or romance--that's fine, too, but it's certainly outside of the norm, and the nicer the restaurant the more outside the norm it is. imo the customer bears some responsibility for giving the server some clues-- hey, this interaction may go against restaurant policy and the server's own training, but we don't want very much attention-- it's our preference for how we'd like to spend our time here.

                                                                                                                                      not communicating basic preferences with your server but expecting her/him to magically know that you are actually the most important person in the world and that you prefer russian imperial service, rather than this no-tablecloth crappy new american presentation. . . yeah, it really does seem off-base and arbitrary and unfair. it does sound as if you have found one or two places that fit the mold of your expectations, so you're set for the moment. assuming that in future you enjoy better longevity than these restaurants or their service models, you may want to think about trying out interpersonal communication in the years to come, just as something to fall back on.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                        if a customer wants to go to a restaurant in order to ignore the food and service and instead focus on a conversation for whatever reason, business or romance--that's fine, too, but it's certainly outside of the norm, and the nicer the restaurant the more outside the norm it is.
                                                                                                                                        This is what I have been thinking this whole thread. Maybe it is just a West Coast thing...but it is my experience that most folks go to a coffeehouse (or even a bar) to focus on "other things" more important than food- like typical relationships issue talks, cell phone conversations/scheduling, clients, reading, and various other "non food focused" things. Why would anyone expect the staff at the restaurant to know your exact need for any of those "other" things? Go there and eat, converse as appropriate for any other public place where strangers can listen to you, then...be respectful and leave on time, other people are waiting.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: bagelman01

                                                                                                                                        I'm not saying it's right to purposefully spy on others' conversations in any way (although sometimes it seems the only way not to is to plug your ears with cotton balls) but isn't that the risk you take when discussing confidential information in public? Better safe than sorry. As a client, I think I'd prefer doing business in an office or in my home or somewhere else completely private.

                                                                                                                                        Edit: sorry for being redundant. I hadn't noticed others have made this point.

                                                                                                                                        And I still don't really get the big issue people take with others' clothing. Considering many people don't have the extra cash to burn, it seems that restaurants should count themselves lucky if patrons choose to spend money at their establishment rather than o on a shopping trip to own the "proper" uniform for a restaurant they won't have money to go to.... Dress wasn't something that my grandparents, or my parents, ever taught us as etiquette. We were taught to behave well, be considerate of others, be polite, work hard, be generous, etc. And none of those things have anything to do with what we're wearing on our bodies. In a world where there are so many legitimate gripes, this one seems quite small and meaningless.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                                                                                          thank you for your latter paragraph. americans have such divergent lifestyles and schedules and workplace dress these days that it seems very arbitrary to assume that everyone should be dressed the same when they happen to wind up meeting at a restaurant. perhaps this was different at one time, in parochial areas and in other eras, when folks were expected to wear very specific clothing to work (9-5 mon-fri wow what a joke) and (very set, scheduled) worship-- the established restaurant dress code then would effectively exclude members of other social classes/professions/religions/genders, all at one go, how pleasant (for some).

                                                                                                                    2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                      "There is no care in the world about the social contract, it has become an I will do what the heck I want, when I want it and if you do not like it, screw everyone else."

                                                                                                                      The social contract, in my mind, is about how we treat each other, not about dressing to appeal to others' tastes. As long as you're a decent human being, treating others politely, respectfully and considerately, and contributing to society, very little else matters. As far as choice of attire goes, I appreciate the "I will do what the heck I want, when I want it and if you do not like it, screw everyone else" mentality. If someone has a problem with what I'm wearing, that's their issue and not mine, and they probably have way too few problems in life to be worried about the fact that someone else is wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

                                                                                                                      Etiquette schmediquette. I'm too liberated for that!

                                                                                                                      1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                                                                        You're quoting me as saying something I never said. Does your "liberation" go beyond what you wear and give you the right to make up facts, too?

                                                                                                                        1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                                                                          Twas me who coined that phrase and I stand by it 100%. I could guarantee that I could come up with a scenario in which others would bother you in a restaurant. Here are a few off the top of my head which might hit the mark:

                                                                                                                          1 - Talking loudly on a cell phone
                                                                                                                          2 - Not taking a shower in 2 weeks
                                                                                                                          3 - Putting a half a bottle of musk on their bodies
                                                                                                                          4 - A T-Shirt that states sexist comments about women, or abortion, or pro-life (depending on POV)
                                                                                                                          5 - Two ladies at the next table fawning over a man, cutting his food and peeling grapes for him
                                                                                                                          6 - Other

                                                                                                                          For me, visual assaults on my eyes are as hurting as those who complain about cell phones on their ears, or smells on their noses or their hot button on someone's attire. Everyone has a line they wish not to cross.

                                                                                                                          And I am not sure whether being liberated is a pre-cursor to "Etiquette schmediquette". Mrs J is about as liberated as all hjeck and she is also about good manners and etiquette.

                                                                                                                          Different strokes for different folks.

                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                            "5 - Two ladies at the next table fawning over a man, cutting his food and peeling grapes for him"
                                                                                                                            Lol, tell me you've really seen this one! Okay, that would make my stomach turn, as well. But, my point is, why shouldn't they do that just because someone else doesn't like it? That one is amusing, but not impolite or inconsiderate, imo. The others you posted I agree with. Those are examples of inconsiderate or rude behavior. I don't equate etiquette with manners. One has to do with how we interact while the other has to do with what are considered social guidelines. A person can wear a pair of sweats out to a restaurant but still have impeccable manners. Just as someone can wear a tux and still be rude and offensive. I say "etiquette schmetiquette" because I don't care what society wants me to wear or whether I'm using the "correct" utensil to eat my salad, but I do care how I make others feel by the way I treat them. Perhaps I should have said I'm too rebellious for that instead of liberated, but rebellion can often feel very liberating!

                                                                                                                            1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                                                                              So words you do not like on a T-shirt are rude and inconsiderate, but ratty clothes and t-shirts without sexist words are completely acceptable. Somehow the inconsistency of this entire reasoning is baffling.

                                                                                                                              Time to move on.

                                                                                                                              1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                                                                                My apologies if I misunderstod the words, "The others you posted I agree with. Those are examples of inconsiderate or rude behavior."

                                                                                                                                All of the examples I gave I consider rude, so yes I see, know and am well above the dimwitted standard to know the difference. :-)

                                                                                                                                My point is everyone has a set of lines in the sand that they have a personal feeling that when crossed the behavior or actions becomes rude. Some are with cell phones, some with smells, others with stupid or sexist slogans on shirts and others wearing their jeans so low that the underwear sticks out.

                                                                                                                                You and I have a different line and that is cool, I take offense when someone shows up with ratty jeans and a t-shirt on a saturday night in a nice restaurant. I do not expect everyone to agree with me as everyone will not agree with the other side of the argument. Likewise you and I disagree about the boxing of a meal at the table. It is not my preference but you seem to accept it as an OK event.

                                                                                                                                There are just differences in perception. If there were no differences, this board would not have any discussions.

                                                                                                                                C'est la vie.

                                                                                                                        2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                          It's interesting--in my perfect or ideal world, I don't picture service to be unnoticeable. The fact that I have something to drink and something to eat is quite noticeable, and I don't pretend it just appeared in front of me out of thin air. And I can't imagine ever being annoyed at a server asking me how my food is. It's very interesting to hear about the different styles of serving in different areas, and people's different expectations of it.
                                                                                                                          I guess that's one great reason to be more tolerant of serving styles that don't quite fit one's personal preference.

                                                                                                                          I definitely prefer this American style. And I'm glad to know how it is in other countries, because otherwise I could end up feeling offended or neglected when, really, there's just a different mode of operations to follow.... I wonder if the servers in those countries prefer that style, as well, or if they're just following social preferences?

                                                                                                                          1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                                                                            Nobody's pretending the food appears magically. Think of it like the set transitions when watching a play. Some people prefer that the stagehands not be visible, because it breaks the spell. Others don't notice. Some material benefits from making the stagehands explicit. Other material would be ruined by it.

                                                                                                                            And it seems to me that those who advocate modern service are less accepting of the traditional formal service than vice versa. The traditionalists seem to understand that there's a time and place for each. The modernists don't seem to acknowledge that at all.

                                                                                                                            1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                                                              I'm not so sure there is a generally proper time and place for each, so I guess you're right, I don't acknowledge it, but I acknowledge that that's how others feel about it. It wouldn't bother me if a server anywhere told me their name, or asked me how my meal was, and I would (and do) say thank you for anything that's brought to the table.... That's what I mean by unnoticed. If it's unnoticed, that seems to imply you didn't acknowledge the person who brought it to you. It just seems more civil to me to say "thank you" for refilling your water, or bringing you something you asked for, etc. I'm not sure I understand why fine dining, from what I'm reading here anyway, seems to contradict basic human civility.

                                                                                                                              1. re: MichelleRenee

                                                                                                                                You're presuming a lot, and much of it incorrect.

                                                                                                                                I say thank you when things are brought to the table, my water is refilled, or a service request is satisfied, no matter the restaurant.

                                                                                                                                However, when I'm paying $50 a plate at a romantic, dimly lit restaurant with my husband where the tables are far apart and we're dressed to the 9's, I don't want the server asking repeatedly how everything is, acting all chummy and calling me by my first name. At that price point, I'm paying for the atmosphere, the food and the privacy, not to be chatted up by a stranger. In those situations, I prefer my server to act like my lawyer or my bank manager, not like my hair cutter.

                                                                                                                  2. This is my view from the outside looking in... I think managers are allowing the bad servers to stay on. If I were running the front of the house, I'd be peeved at people texting in the back. I'm paying them to work not text.

                                                                                                                    Also, I wonder if restaurants are slacking on the training to save money. Lack of training is another reason.

                                                                                                                    I may be an old curmudgeon, but I don't want servers sharing their stories with me. I'm on a date with my wife, not the server.

                                                                                                                    1. I think it is also helpful to consider, at least in the US, both regional differences and differences in service among top tier restaurants, middle level and very casual. If it is a special night out with my husband and we'll drop close to $200, I expect top of the line service...what many might call "European" or French. But if I'm going down the street for a burger and fries at a place I've been to a dozen times, I would be upset if staff treated me like a total stranger.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                        That is why I noted that I expect a more relaxed/familiar type of service at a coffee shop/luncheonette. If you serve me coffee and my eggs every morning at a neighbor breakfast joint with paper placemats, etc. I don't expect the same detached service as at a fine white linen dinner restaurant.

                                                                                                                      2. I don't know which generation you're accusing of being incapable or unwilling to work, but I don't think the problem is generational. I am a member of generation X, and I was an extremely hard working and capable server for many years. I teach members of the Millennial generation. They're like every other generation. Some have great work ethics, some less so.

                                                                                                                        I would say that if you want to consider generational differences and they ways in which people might think of their jobs you might want to consider the fact that very, very few serving positions come with health insurance benefits these days. There was a time when health care costs were not so astronomical and going without health insurance was livable. This is not that time. It's hard to become a professional, i.e. a career server, and spend the years and efforts needed to do that when you know that your not going to get benefits. Instead, for nearly all servers, the job is what you do while you're in school for something else, or as a second job to get by.

                                                                                                                        Finally, some of the things you want in a server--laughing, smiling, showing personality, sharing stories--are not what others want in a server. There have been countless threads on these boards that demonstrate how divergent diner expectations are. So you might not be seeing what you want, but those servers might be giving a different diner what he or she wants.

                                                                                                                        1. Knock off with the infighting, y'all. Alanbarnes said it best. We are a class-less (and I don't mean that in the negative) society that ideally doesn't breed those archaic ideas anymore. There is no "right" or "wrong" answer here - once again, it's all about opinion. Nobody's going to win this one.

                                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                            Have to say, as a foreigner looking in and visiting America periodically over the last 30 years, a "classless society" is most definitely *not* how I see or think of the country. Divisions based on class are as obvious and blatant ( and perhaps more so), than the same divisions here in the UK.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                              Harters, I said, "ideally." I know how it appears. And there's much truth to what you say. But it ain't how it spoze to be!

                                                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                It is true that there are significant distinctions in the US based on income and wealth. And as income inequality increases and wealth becomes more concentrated in the hands of the very rich, these distinctions become even more - well, distinct.

                                                                                                                                But social class has never been institutionalized here to the extent that it was older societies, and it is at least supposed to be anathema to our founding ideals. I don't dispute for a moment that the US is stratified by socioeconomic class; I just disagree with the notion that this is a good thing.

                                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                                  exactly. we clearly have stratification. however, in theory at least, travel between the strata isn;t proscribed.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                    Ever read "Graven Image" by John O'Hara?

                                                                                                                                2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                  I had a very interesting course in college (American Dreams\American Nightmares). One basic take away these many decades ago? America is a casteless, not a classless, society.

                                                                                                                                  I semi-agree with Harters, divisions *can* be obvious. But generations move up and down those classes without impediment.

                                                                                                                              2. It seems like everything there is to be said on this subject has already been said, and now the conversation is just going in circles, and growing increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock it now.