Those stories always make me wonder why people stay in jobs they obviously hate. If the job pays a zillion dollars a year, I could understand it. But…waiting tables?
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Yeah, but asking a server what to order is a clear sign of a diner who is a completely useless total fuckwit. At best, you are going to get the “Everything is great” response. At worst, you are going to get the fish that really , really, should have been used up two days ago.
Zoe’s point, of course, is that servers should be treated as fellow human beings. As she says " treat the staff as you would a member of your family who was bringing you some food" Good advice.
I have never asked servers what their favorites are, because tastes vary. But if nothing on the menu definitely calls to me, I HAVE asked what the most popular dishes are. I didn’t realize this is annoying.
These articles piss me off. But they do highlight how hard it is to find good wait staff, so keep the ones you find.
If this writer were mature enough and had enough perspective they would see how the opening shows how little consideration they have for their customers (pushing dessert wine they know the people don’t want) but hey “that’s my job” - and something they wouldn’t do to family - now let me complain how you don’t treat me like family … grow up already.
You must have missed the comment she made that the waiting job was in 1991 (when she was 18). Her actual career has been in journalism. Her columns this month have included ones critical of the government’s social care policies, the recent decision in Parliament about equal rights in Northern Ireland and the abortion situation in Alabama.
It didn’t take long to realize this was not int the US, although I imagine what you expect and is expected, varies from one location, and one restaurant to the next.
I do most of my dining that involves wait staff in SF and Napa, and there seems to be a great deal of mutual respect. I usually resort to asking wait staff their opinion when I can’t decide between two things, or if I wondering if I’m ordering too much ( because I can’t decide!), and their answers are usually helpful.
My family does like to joke about the latest way wait staff are asking if they should take your plate. Lately it’s been “are you still enjoying that?”, and after they leave we make up witty responses. Okay, not my family, just me.
ETA; looked it up, and seems “server” is more correct than wait staff. In SF it seems men have a lock on the places with the biggest bills.
I wonder if I’d have more sympathy for her if she’d had a different voice or tone? I have no doubt about the reality she describes. But when you deal with the public you necessarily meet all kinds of people. I imagine that each of us has some trait that, unbeknownst to us, is gratingly annoying, even insulting to others, And we have no idea because it would be rude or impolitic to point it out to us.
Absolutely. In my experience, there are considerable differences in restaurant culture and expectations between America and Europe. I think America’s restaurant employment practice (as it effects servers) goes a long way towards creating the culture, although I think there are probably other cultural issues at play as well.
I work part-time in a wine bar that has 70+ wines available for tasting and by the glass. I’ll sometimes get a guest who asks me to pick my favorites for them to taste. I’m OK with it if there’s OK with my asking a few questions about what they like. If they insist on me just choosing for them without any input I find that awkward.
I think you nailed how this sort of thing can go either way.
I used to wait tables. Once in a while you’d get a customer who was incapable of decision making. Not deciding between A or B but decision making period. It reminded me of a very young woman on a first date who possess no self confidance. She’s intimidated, wants to make the “right” choice and the whole thing is just making her paralized. But this is an adult. And this situation could go on for hours. I really disliked when the person would just tell me to order “my favorite”. So I’d try to get a little info. Do you want some thing light or a heavier meal. Do you like spicy, any diety preference…They never would give an answer. It just a passive agressive way of dumping responsibility on someone else. And no matter what you order for them they are not happy. So I nipped it in the bud and began saying that staff didn’t get a chance to eat off the menu. I would mention that 2 dishes were popular and that I’d give them a few minutes to decide. Fortunately, this situation didn’t come up that often.
I don’t drink alcohol but my partner does. That usually means wines by the glass is the way she wants to go. Most dinners out that’s a glass of the Viognier followed by a Syrah. She finds tasting menus a struggle to pick her own wine so will usually go with the restaurant’s pairing or, if not wanting that much to drink will rely on the sommelier’s advice. And, as you say, anyone member of staff worth their craft is going to ask questions rather than simply picking something. We were at a reasonably upscale place earlier in the year and she only wanted a white and a red. The guy asked questions, then brought three whites to taste, then poured the glass of her choice. Same later with the red.
The only times I ask a waiter “what should I have…” (I might not use these exact words but I’d assume the question falls into this category)
1 - I’ve never been there, haven’t researched anything, and am asking if the restaurant is “known” for anything
2 - It is a limited menu and nothing sounds particularly good. So I’m hoping that some dish gets ordered a lot or that customers tell the servers “that was really good” (or something to that effect)
I will occasionally tack on a “I’ll have ‘x’, unless you tell me I shouldn’t”. I can only think of 2 times the staff has said - “I wouldn’t order that, it is the one dish that occasionally gets sent back.” Those waiters got a great tip.
A few weeks back, Mrs H took her mother away for a couple of days. They stayed in a hotel which has a restaurant with a decent enough reputation (so research indicated). MiL orders steak to be told by the server that she shouldnt order it as it’s usually tough.
Once in Paris I ordered pig’s feet. The waiter stiffened and said in French, “No, not for you, madam.” I asked him why. Weren’t they good? He shook his head and said, “Not for you”, thrusting the menu back in front of me, turned on his heel and left. DH said “If you want them, order them. It’s your choice, not his,” So dude returns, smiles and asks for my order. “Pig’s feet”. He snatched the menu and retreated quickly. I never saw him again. My pig’s feet came, and while not the best rendition I’d had, I cleaned every last morsel from them, leaving only a pile of pristine bones. But decided that I really don’t like roasted pig’s feet. Very greasy. Pickled are much better!
I got sort of that in a Thai restaurant in Queens. I was sick and I really wanted a soup that would cut through the gunk. What I ordered was spicy (but not overly so) and kind of sour, and the waitress really, really did not want me to order it. I did end up finishing it even though it wasn’t my cup of tea, partly because it was helping my cold and partly so she couldn’t say “I told you so”.
In Thailand Mark ordered something untranslated on the menu. The waiter kept insisting he wouldn’t like it, so finally Mark asked what he should order. The waiter said “X” (I don’t remember what it was), and Mark said okay. Two minutes later the waiter came out: they were out of X. Mark asked for what he originally ordered and liked it just fine.
I will never forget my first experience with an all-in-French menu that had been duplicated with that smudgy purple ink. I couldn’t read most of it and couldn’t understand much of what i could read. Our wonderful waiter stood at our table and as I pointed to the menu, he pointed to the body part, using himself as a model. He was slightly boggled by one meat, what I learned later was a delicacy consisting of lungs and most of the other innards that are not usually sold separately. I ordered tenderloin of roe deer, rare, and it was sublime. Friends were joining us. When they arrived, I went through the menu and translated for them. The husband repeatedly said, “I don’t eat that.” I finally came to andouillette. He asked what it was and I told him sausage. "I LOVE sausage!’ he says and orders it. I was exhausted by then and just let it be. He did comment that it was the strangest sausage he’d ever had. Our waiter was a better person than I.
If that was Andouillete de Cambrai, then “strangest” may be the biggest understatement and politest description I’ve read on this board. As I have mentioned before, it smells like shit and tastes what I imagine shit to taste like.