Can you keep a secret?

Written by  ,     April 12, 2011     Posted in Business, Restaurant


For years, seemingly forever, in my pursuit to create a restaurant (and then “restaurants”) that were considered excellent, I have taught one overriding service credo. It is this-

“Excellent service dictates that the guest is never in need of anything, and never has anything that they don’t need”

Of course, truly excellent service goes beyond this premise. For instance, a guest rarely “needs” more than a 1/2 glass of water, but we insist the glasses never reach the 1/2 way point. This is but one example. However, the need/need theory is one we hammer home, and although it doesn’t seem that difficult, the more I go out to eat, and examine how my peers are performing, I am too often amazed at how much service is horrible.

It is true, I am spoiled. As I watched Cobblestones operate this past Friday night, and Moonstones the night before, both restaurants with a full house, I felt like I had that “first marguerita buzz” (it happens that I wasn’t actually drinking either night) that came from watching both restaurants hum, with full glasses in front of all guests, fresh cocktail napkins, no extra “left behind” silverware (or ketchup, or cocktail straws) on the tables, etc.

While feeling such pride at how great a job my Cobblestones staff was doing, a regular customer (as though he were reading my thoughts) came over to me to say “You should teach a class on how to hire restaurant employees”. Although I was honored, I didn’t tell him that I haven’t hired an employee for a long time! Managers and Chef’s, well, yes.

So here’s the point that inspired this post. I was in Virginia, then DC, then Baltimore last week over the course of 3 days. (Quick get-a-ways keep me-almost-sane!) Each of the 3 nights, we ate out. 1st, A Buffalo Wild Wings (because people in the South meet after work at chain restaurants, ala The Office), then an independent funky Gastro-Pub with my daughter called Church Key (DC) and then a Gastro-pub, Victoria, in Columbia (outside Baltimore) The wings were good enough at BWW and the beer selection good. At Church Key, there were 76 beers on tap, with $2.00 -4 oz tasting portions (now THAT was fun, and funner which each glass…up to 16!)(But the food was lame) And, at Victoria, we had an incredible bourbon barrel aged beer in a 750ml bottle with a cork (watch for it at Cobblestones!) and decided FINALLY! that “Kobe” hamburger is truly not worth it. Let me say that I/we had a good time at all 3, mainly because of the company…BUT…THE SERVICE WAS AMAZINGLY BAD AT ALL THREE RESTAURANTS.

(Summon Jeff Foxworthy’s voice in your head for this next rant…) If you have to ask for more water, service is lacking. If you have to ask for another beer, service is lacking.  If you are collecting beer glasses like you are at the baseball park, service is lacking. If you have to stack dishes and pick them up and hand them to the server, service is lacking. If you have to ask for silverware for your next course, service is lacking. If you want to pay your check, and you have to wave your arms like you are drowning and the waiter is a rescue boat, service is lacking, etc, etc.

Now that you have read this, watch next time.  Are there things on your table that remain long after their usefulness?  Does your drink get empty before you are asked for another?  Are there crumbs under your table?  Smudges on your menu?

( I apologize in advance if dining out just became a little less funner for you)

**Disclaimer; For those of you mocking me…I recognize that “funner” is not a real word.

Just sayin.

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