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How Waiters Read Your Table - WSJ

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Interesting article from the Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001...

Highlights:

The Signals You May Be Sending

If a waiter reads the needs of your table correctly, you're likely to end up with a good experience. Inadvertently giving off the wrong signals can doom a table to service that's too rushed, too slow or just off kilter. Here, how to work the system.

If you're chatty... A waiter is more likely to assume a friendly, chatty table is there to party. Get ready for more offers of drinks, dessert and a talkative waiter.

If you act moody... You may get better service. Several waiters said they are more careful to get every detail right when they believe a table is already in a bad mood (a couple fighting or a tense business meal perhaps).

If you say 'It's OK'... To attentive waiters, saying food is 'OK' is a red flag that you aren't happy with your meal. The waiter or manager might dig for more information to fix the problem.

If you ask about the menu... Food questions are a sign that you either like learning about everything you might eat or you feel lost and need guidance. One menu question could lead to a long, full menu description. If you seem overwhelmed, the waiter might try to steer you toward a particular order.

If you grab the wine list first... Expect the waiter to focus wine explanations and questions about refills to you.

If you're early and fancy... Diners who are dressed up and have an early dinner reservation may lead waiters to suspect they have another event that night and serve them at a fast clip.

If you're wearing a suit at lunch... Diners who look like they just stepped away from their cubicle, whether in a suit or business casual, are bound to get speedier service. The exception: If the waiter realizes the boss or valued client wants to set a slower pace by asking for more time before ordering or pulling out papers for a sales pitch.

If you act like the ring leader...
A waiter will try to determine who is in charge at the table through body language, clues in conversation or by who made the reservation, and defer to the wants of that diner.

If there's no obvious leader...
If no take-charge person emerges at the table, the waiter may struggle to figure out whether to be chatty or invisible and whether to make the service quicker or more leisurely.

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  1. Spot-on, spoken as one who has been there and knows. And that's not bringing into the equation "reading the party", e.g. a table of businessmen is likely to tip well, but a party of women on a shopping trip is NOT. Sorry, I'm no chauvanist, but it's the truth. Oh, and a man trying to impress a date is likely to tip well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mamachef

      My girlfriends and I always drank too much with lunch and way overtipped because it was easier than doing the math tipsy. (back when I had extra time and money instead of children). But I think we'd all waited tables at some point too, which I think makes one a better tipper.

    2. Most of those observations seem fairly obvious. But that presumes that a waiter is even paying attention in the first place.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rockycat

        But that presumes that a waiter is even paying attention in the first place.

        ~~~

        i really don't know where people eat out and have mostly terrible service. i don't eat at chains. if i get really lousy service someplace, i simply don't go back. if they are friendly and trying, i can understand and give them some more leeway. but i don't paint 99% of waitstaff with one big fat brush of hate.

      2. I usually go to a restaurant to relax and enjoy myself, having to worry about how a waiter is reading my body language and how to treat me is BS. They need to treat customers with courtesy and respect. If they can't do that, well??? No wonder I don't eat out very often anymore,

        2 Replies
        1. re: dolly52

          A large part of their job is "reading the table" te get a handle on their expectations and hopefully be able to anticipate their needs. You can't behave the same to every table.

          1. re: dolly52

            having to worry about how a waiter is reading my body language and how to treat me is BS. They need to treat customers with courtesy and respect. If they can't do that, well??? No wonder I don't eat out very often anymore,

            ~~

            wow! exhale. i have worked in fine dining for all of my adult life, over 20 years. part of what we do to facilitate your night is try to read the table. it's not something you need to worry about, jeebus. if a couple is fighting, you can bet a million bucks i am not going near them except when necessary. if a couple is laughing, having fun and engaging with me, my behavior will be a 180 compared to the others.

            if you're having an intense business meeting, you don't need your server joking around and cracking wise. if you're a table of 6 men grabbing a steak before a hockey game, vs. 3 generations of family on easter, it's a whole different dynamic.

          2. I found the article to be an absurd puff piece of no redeeming value.