"Waiter, the bill please!"Tuesday, 23 September 2014
Because I am in the food service business, I am constantly watching food spaces, whether it be cake displays, cappuccino froth, food plating or menus. However, the constituent of food service (apart from the food itself) that is the most crucial is the waiter. They are the key communicators between the customer and the kitchen. Over the years diners have developed higher expectations of waiters. This may be attributed to our informed new age knowledge of food and drink. Coffee appreciation has become a craft or hobby. Flat whites, decaf, espresso-on-the-side, double-shot. The prevalence of food allergies has increased not only due to our ability to better identify them but also to the change in composition of our daily bread. Whether it be bread, milk, sugar, cereals or meat – they all come with Noddy badges. GMO free, gluten-free, soya-free, no preservatives; one must avoid these cancer causing, mutating ingredients at all costs. So when it comes to placing orders people know what they want and don’t want. Managers have had to teach waiters a whole new set of food terminology and kitchens have to be flexible to accommodate these non-menu specific requests. If the kitchen can’t comply the customer won’t stop by. And if the service isn’t up to speed the customer is easily insulted, particularly in instances where a loyal customer has taken friends to their favourite spot only to be let down. The restaurant of choice is a reflection on the choices made by the now insulted chooser. Lazy waiters watch out.
We took the BB staff to lunch at a nearby restaurant a couple of weeks ago and Nue, our head waitress, was watching the waiter with the utmost scrutiny. Herself not always the epitome of efficacy (although she tries hard and we are constantly trying to coach on ways to improve service), took pride in knowing what good service entails. Perhaps we are all just too well informed, well dined and well fed. The other reason I think we expect good service is that making the choice to dine somewhere is a privilege to the chosen eatery. With so many choices available, we expect restaurants to be fighting for customers by displaying impeccable service. Good food doesn’t come cheap and when we do part with our money we want to feel good about it, not tricked out of it.
So if you haven’t noticed how you have become more particular about where and what you eat compared to ten years previously, take a moment to think about this. The cafe culture boom has changed our social habits and expectations. The modern day waiter or waitress is more informed and must work harder for a tip. Food is not just food, it is nutrition, taste, experience and creativity on a plate. That is why we must respect the way that it is served. I’m happy to see that more and more people can appreciate this. It helps us to keep up our standards.