Over-servicing in a restaurant
There's a white tablecloth restaurant I like for lunch, but I need advice about how to feel less rushed. The bus staff refills the water every time my glass gets less than three-quarters filled and they want to clear my plate before I'm finished. There aren't patrons waiting so it's not like they need the table and I want to be able to enjoy my conversation without saying 'no thank you' every few minutes.
Any advice as to the most effective and polite way to be left alone? I draw my water glass closer when I see them ready to pounce and try not to make eye contact until I'm ready to have them take my plate, but this whole dance is feeling distracting.
In their defense, if it's lunch, they're probably used to people being in a hurry. Maybe mention that you aren't in a hurry and things will change. I would imagine they are just trying to make their guests happy. Contrary to popular opinion, most restaurants really DO want to make their customers happy. It's the point of the business.
Regardless of lunch, or dinner, I agree - communicate. Many restaurants cater to, say the "theater" crowd, and I do appreciate the staff asking me, I will tell them how I like the pacing. NYC, Las Vegas and London (especially near Soho, or the West End) are good examples. If we do not have a theater seating, and only want a wonderful dinner, letting the staff know, is important, at least to me.
As we enjoy a leisurely dinner, in most cases, I do not wish to be rushed along the way, and appreciate a few moments to "breath," between courses, of which there will likely be many, along with wines for each. Please do not rush me, and please do not ignore me.
Communicate to them that you are not rushed and would like to take your time. The first time they come to refill your water glass, tell the person that you'd prefer if they waited.
Communicate. With a smile.
What has worked for me with an overambitious wait staff is to explain that when I am through with a plate, I will set it aside and then they can remove it. If it's still in front of me, let it be. The wait staff seems relieved at something so clear and simple, and I don't have to eat that last perfect bite of salad until I'm ready! Everybody wins. '-)
There's a restaurant near my workplace (a little pricey, so it's a "treat" ) that I really appreciate for two reasons:
1) They ask if you want to be seated in the casual pub or the formal dining room (menus are the same; wine lists differ)
2) They ask if you're "time constrained." If yes, you can still get a full meal, including coffee and dessert without feeling rushed. If no, you really have to empty your plates and/or signal you're finished with each course
"Service" in a restaurant can be from either ends of the spectrum - too little, or too much.
Ideally, a diner should want for nothing, but should never even know that there were servers involved - transparent to the Nth degree.
In my life of dining, I have experienced most of it - the good, the bad and the ugly.
I love service, but want it to be seamless, and not really something that I am aware of. The restaurants with really great service are just that - everything is just done, silently, seamlessly and without interruption. It's like a great wedding photographer. When one recounts the ceremony, and they look at the album, the questions should be, "you had a photographer? I never saw them."
I hate being ignored, when I have needs, but also hate having a staff hovering over my shoulder, intruding on every aspect of my meal.
For the "ultimate in service," I would cite Restaurant Daniel (NYC), and Restaurant Michel Rostang (Paris). Restaurant Guy Savoy, Joël Robuchon (Las Vegas), Blackberry Farm and Campton Place are very close.
OTOH, I have had dining experiences, where every server was hovering, and intruding, on even the basics.
There can be too much, and also too little. It IS a delicate balance, but IS important.
I understand that at lesser restaurants, catching the patrons, mid-bite, and asking "is everything OK?" is what is taught, but seldom appreciated.
Now, if I had to pick between "too much," vs "too little," I would go with the former, but then, my question would be "why?"