Last weekend, we ran a piece on Lovin Dublin about eight habits that restaurants need to cut out in order to vastly improve the customer experience.
It was written from a consumer point of view, but several members of the services industry got in touch with reasons – some more valid than others – as to why many of the suggestions don't really cut mustard when it comes to the real world.
Here's a set of rebuttals from Kim Cody, making the point that such changes are far easier said than done.
Has our foodie-culture fathered a new breed of restaurant goer? With great food comes great expectation. No longer is our brisket-served-on-boards and avocado-on-everything meal enough. The new Dublin foodie expects a certain level of commitment to service; the environment of the restaurant needs to fit in with the new image and style of the Dublin market.
Dealing with these new expectations can, however, be a trial for the average wait-staff – and there’s a lot to deal with, from minutely specific demands to jumping on the till, and from managers who think you’re slacking off to the co-worker that actually does.
It’s a wonder waiting staff have much hair by the time they hit 30. I got out of the game early, but from my past experience, let’s examine the tropes that just won’t quit.
You say: Stop acting surprised when we ask for the card machine
I say: Be patient. I’m getting it.
You wonder why the card machine doesn’t magically appear before you with the bill. Well, of *course* you are going to pay by card. Even if it’s just for your morning coffee-and-any-pastry-for-€3.95 deal.
Which leads us to this point: EVERYONE is waiting to use the card machine. And there might only be one. Take the time to decide how you will divvie up the bill and hang on for the card machine to become available.
Enjoy the free mints while you wait!
You say: Stop making us ask for water
I say: Water, water everywhere – but just enough to drink
You don’t want to have to ask us for water. Well. We don’t make you do many things at a restaurant. Just one thing, really. Tell us what you’d like and we will bring it to you.
From experience, much water that is brought to the table ends up back down the drain again. With water charges coming in (and c’mon, wastage and the environment to think of in general) why should we waste perfectly fine water on customers that don’t want it?
If you experience the kind of panic that only comes from not having water to hand every few minutes, then perhaps servers in the future could OFFER you a pitcher of the wet stuff as you sit down, rather than simply assume you want it.
You say: Stop making us flag down waiters like marooned sailors
I say: Stop. I was with you three minutes ago and you were fine
You might feel like no one is looking after you at the exact moment you need a server. Air-host-style call buttons may be a practical solution for some, but it hardly fits into the aesthetics of most established restaurants.
Restaurants get busy. There are sections of tables to cover for each waiter. Customer semaphore strikes usually when you’re alone on the floor, with several tables to serve and clear. They’ll have their hand raised as you are penning the starters from table one. They cough. “Hello!?”. The foot taps. “I’ll be with you in just one moment!” you call back with a cheery smile and half-raised forefinger.
You finish the order, run to collect a still half-full jug of water that mysteriously needs replacing on your beset-upon customer’s table, speed by two other tables and collect whatever your can carry, dash to the kitchen, somersault over the happy-tempered chefs, pass the plates to the kitchen porter, fill up the jug, dash right back out. Breathe. Smile. Repeat.
Not for the faint hearted.
You say: Stop forcing us to either eat too much, or waste food
I say: But the third bowl was juussst right…
Portion size is a great consideration for any restaurant. Clientele shouldn’t leave feeling as though excessive food was “forced” on them, but neither should they leave hungry. Granted, the phenomenon known as 'Irish Guilt' makes us feel like we need to hoover up everything we see on a plate. Eateries are, at the end of the day, businesses- slave to supply and demand, same as any other.
Most customers are more satisfied with substantial portions. They leave feeling like they had value for their hard-earned dolla. Finding the balance between the right amount and too much is a trial and error process based on the experiences of individual establishments.
Half portions won’t make economic sense depending on the size or business model of an establishment. That said, don’t be shy about discussing the menu with a waiter!
You say: Stop asking us if everything is okay
I say: We NEED to ask you if you are okay
You might feel bothered by waiting staff checking in with you. Well, it’s usually needed. Otherwise you risk becoming the “Everything is awful” customer. Everything. You hate the service. You hate hot soup. You hate tepid soup. You hate moderately-toasted sandwiches. You hate overly-toasted sandwiches. You hate peppers. You hate garlic. You hate strong coffee. You hate weak coffee. You hate coffee. You hate food. You hate me. You hate this place. You hate your Mom. You hate animals. You hate wine. You hate babies. You hate puppies, for Christ’s sake.
I bet you even hate avocados.
You say: Stop making us book like it’s the 20th century
I say: There is an app for everything. But there doesn’t HAVE to be
Have things gone so far that actually booking a table via a human being on the phone is so difficult?
In our 21st Century world, everything is about convenience. I haven’t seen the inside of a bank in months – I can do everything from my smartphone. But what about good old human interaction? It's a restaurant’s prerogative whether or not to use the latest technology, as it is yours to decide whether or not to go there. But eating at a restaurant is more than a bank transaction – it’s an experience, part of which begins when you make a booking.
There are advantages to phone conversations too – we can discuss important things, like special occasions, food allergies, daily specials and indefinite guest numbers. Embrace the whole eating out experience!
You say: Stop blasting us out of it with the tunes
I say: Music to my ears
Music can create all sorts of atmospheres for diners. It shouldn’t be making you feel uncomfortable, even if one man’s ‘ambient’ is another man’s “WWWHHHAAAATTTTT? I’M SORRY? WHAAT?”
If the music is a serious bother, chances are it’s a mistake. Unless you’re in a super-trendy joint that’s trying to make a point, it will be probably make the collective lives of your servers easier too if you want us to tone it down a little.
You say: Stop making us feel weird for wanting ALL the pepper
I say: Don’t be pushin’ your insecurities on US, pal
Some men just want to watch their steak burn.
And that’s fine. Really. There’s no need to feel uncomfortable asking for extra items, like pepper shakers, salt or oil. You like a little extra char, or an obnoxious amount of pepper? Simply say so. If it’s not already there, a pepper mill can be left for you on the table.
You can have TWO extra slices of lemon for your smoked salmon. And THREE pieces of butter for your brown bread. It’s okay, we promise. An experienced waiter has seen and heard it all. Rest easy – you’re in good hands!
But seriously... that’s a lot of salt.