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The Importance of Evaluating Good Restaurant Servers

Updated on February 16, 2015
Sallie Mullinger profile image

Sallie is a retired mother and grandmother who has written short stories for most of her life. Her stories are from her heart to yours.

It isnt rocket science to treat customers well, but you might think that it is considering how many don't.

Its not such a big deal to have bad service hit you square in the face. Really, it isn't. Not when you stack it up against world problems.

But still...there is that nagging uneasiness when you've spent decent money for a meal at a restaurant and you leave feeling dissatisfied, disenchanted and very much cheated by poor service.

Poor service can range from the quality of the server to the quality of the food. Neither is satisfactory and both, either separately or on their own, can ruin an outing.

So I have become, if you will, more than a food critic and definitely a critic of service in general.

I expect to be greeted the moment I walk into an establishment. I expect to see a smiling face and an overall demeanor that says "welcome! We're glad you chose us!" What I often, sadly, get is no one there to greet me at all and if there is someone there, a lifeless, smile-less and definitely bored, perfunctory greeting.

Not exactly the best way to start the meal.

A good greeting sets the standard, really, for the rest of the meal. For me, it is the standard for which the rest of my visit to an establishment is measured. It also doesn't matter if we are talking about Fridays or a 4 star restaurant. Although suffice it to say if this were a 4 star restaurant it should go without saying that a warm and welcoming greeting is the norm.

Once seated, everything else should happen like clockwork. But the real star of this outing, aside from the food, is always going to be the person who serves you.

I am resentful and actually dislike intensely, the fawning, over-nice, sickeningly sweet, pander-to-me sort of server. I see thru that instantly and it turns me off instantly. Please don't insult my intelligence with that approach. Most people are keenly aware that you've gone thru some sort of training where being nice/pleasant/warm/welcoming somehow translated to you as gushing/saccharin/offensively phony.

I much prefer a professional who smiles when they greet me and welcomes me to their restaurant but then gets on with the business he or she is supposed to get on with.

I don't want to know about your children. I don't want nor need for you to comment on my hair or my purse or my nails or my outfit. It comes across as smarmy and ingratiating.

Im not interested in hearing your opinion on: The current world crisis...or who is going to win the Super Bowl/World Series/Indy 500/Kentucky Derby. For the record, I barely talk sports with my family so it's a given that I wont with you.

I don't care what you think about the weather. You arent a weather expert and even the ones who truly are, are annoying because they seldom get it right. And haven't you noticed? EVERYONE talks about the weather when they have nothing else to talk about, so add lack of originality to your already poor showing.

I don't care how many people called in sick today and Im not interested in how long it took you to get to work because there was snow/ice/traffic/your car broke down.

Its truly amazing to me that there are restaurant servers, whom I have had, who actually think that embarking on this sort of dialogue will somehow guarantee a large tip.

I don't really need to spend valuable time listening to whatever you have to say about trivial things that really don't matter to me when my entire intent was to have food prepared and brought to me in a timely manner, in a relaxing atmosphere.

And almost worse than anything else is the server who acts as though he or she is doing me a favor and that the last place they want to be at that moment is in that restaurant waiting on me. Its easy enough to spot. Standing in front of me, looking bored, chewing gum, showing no interest at all in me or the job you are supposed to be doing, is going to pretty much get you reported to management and not much, if any, of a tip.

So please, from the outset, Greet me warmly with a smile, Present yourself, inquire if I would like a drink or a starter and answer any questions I might have. There is no need to comment on my choice of drink. Do you think I really care that you also like iced tea with lemon, no sugar and lots of ice?

Chatty Cathy was a doll from my childhood. I don't need you to reenact her for me.

My point in all of this is that as a consumer of restaurants and restaurant food, I choose an establishment to do something for me that I don't want to do for myself. That is to cook a meal and have it served to me and cleaned up for me. And for that, I am willing to pay your price but expect to be completely satisfied.

Its a very simple format and one would think, a no brainer of sorts.

Realistically, there are impossible customers and some who simply cannot be pleased. But I believe they are the minority. I feel as though the expectation of having a considerate and knowledgeable, caring server shouldn't be thought of asking too much. I am almost of the belief that a good server can actually take away the sting of the meal not being 100% perfect and in fact, there have been instances where that has happened.

Good servers can make a restaurant and just as equally, bad servers can break a restaurant, in my opinion. I absolutely love a server who has done his/her job and made me smile and when all is said and done and the meal is over, accepts my compliments graciously and is willing to engage with me. At that point, they have done a great job and they know it because I, the customer, am telling them so. Whereas at the outset when they come on with that over the top, overbearing pandering, you cannot help but feel they are angling for a good tip. A good tip is almost a given if a server proves himself during the entire course of my time at the restaurant and not because the server told me I have a nice smile.

Just this past weekend, my husband and I had lunch at a local Applebee's. Not a 4 star restaurant and as so many of these sort of restaurants are all alike, there was nothing outstanding to distinguish Applebee's from a Friday's or a Chili's or any other sports bar type place. However, we weren't looking for the WOW factor as much as a decent meal in a nice setting and reasonably good service and food.

We were immediately greeted by the hostess with a huge smile and a welcome and an appropriate response to my commenting on how cold it was outside.

But what a refreshing and pleasant surprise when we "met" our server!

Danny was everything a good server should be. He would be a customer service trainer's dream come true and if were to be that trainer, I would consider him a resounding success and hold him up as a model for all to emulate.

Just the facts ma'am, pretty much summed him up. No nonsense about who he is or what's important to him...but a complete and total interest in making sure that my husband and I were well taken care of, well served and overall pleased and happy. And we were. The food was OK. Nothing more than I expected for an Applebee's. However, Danny made it all so much more special and we told him so. Our drinks were refilled without us having to ask. Extra napkins were provided, again without us having to ask.

In short, we felt well taken care of and there wasn't one thing I would have criticized him for.

THIS is the hallmark of a good restaurant and good customer service training..and sadly it is also what so many restaurants do not realize and do not do.

There is a need to remember in the day to day hustle and bustle of business and getting it done, that the customer is THE most important person in that day. Without the customer, you have nothing and consider how many people leave unhappy, dissatisfied and yet you never hear from them.

Yes. You never hear from them. And you will never see them again either.


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