When good service can be viewed as a bad thing

Recently, I experienced service in a local restaurant that was good. Too good in fact. The interaction went from on par to way over the top before we even got our drinks. The sharing of information, life stories, menu suggestions with back stories and even recommendations were so over the top that it annoyed me.

We live in a world where bad service will be noted on social media before any restaurant professional notices that the problem exists. I would argue that society as a whole is waiting for a mistake to happen just so that we can tell people about a bad experience. At the risk of sounding like that person, here are some points where good service can be viewed as a bad thing.

  • We did not come to the restaurant to see you.

While I love people who are polite and excited, I am here to eat with the people that are sitting at my table. Tell us about the specials, anything that you may be out of and even things you are trying to sell, but do not get into a life discussion unless you are prompted by the guest.

In my recent experience, I can tell you where our server worked before his current job, at least one thing he likes to do in his free time, what he uses most of his money to buy, his favorite wine that is not on the menu and where he lives in relation to the restaurant. That is way too much volunteered information that no one at our table asked him to share.

2) You do not know what we know or our background.

I love getting the wine and spirits “talk” at the table. I almost never bring up my background in the beverage industry, but I do get a chuckle when a server talks as if we have never been out to eat before.

In this particular case, our server described a mid-level pinot noir as “phenomenal.” I quickly forgave him because it may be just that to him. Then, he mentioned a low-level pinot that was not on the menu and told us that we would love it. Well, the people at the table know good pinot noir. We knew that the wine he was suggesting is a $10 bottle at the grocery store, one in which we buy and drink regularly. Tired of his rant about mediocre wine, we just nodded him away to get the bottle we ordered.

The point is that you are better served asking questions than word-vomiting a sales pitch about things that may/may not be true to the people you are talking to. Servers are salespeople and need to find out what the people they are talking to know before they assume that they know nothing.

3) Never forget the person who orders water.

This is really simple. If someone at the table orders water or if it is the restaurant policy that everyone gets water, do not forget to deliver those glasses.

We were delivered, poured and talked to before my wife got her glass of water. She was not drinking wine, so the oversight was blatantly obvious. Now, mistakes happen, but forgetting someone entirely at a table of four is borderline poor service. Our server quickly fixed the issue and we carried on with our experience.

The severity of the mistake is that he has time to over share about his own life, but no time to get the drink order for 25% of our table.

4) Kids.

Kids are a delicate subject at restaurants. However, if you take care of the kids, you will make the parents experience much more enjoyable. Asking if you can bring the kids entrees with the appetizers, if they would like drinks or even simply acknowledging that they are there.

The only misstep in our service was that the server cleared a tray of plates with the tray being held directly above my sons head. There was no incident, but he was blind to the fact that if that tray falls, it falls on the head of a toddler. Good luck getting any money out of me if you drop a tray of plates on my sons head.

When we got there, our server did suggest that the highchair be placed out of the aisle. That was great. He was on top of it. Thus, it surprised me when the attention to his position at the table while clearing was disregarded later in the meal.

Overall, we had a lovely time. The food was good and I would definitely go back. However, there were moments when I was uncomfortable at the length of the conversation that was interrupting our table talk. I also questioned the sincerity and knowledge of the server based on the information that he was giving us about wine.

Service standards for large restaurants groups are the same from table to table. The real genius in great service is reading each table and knowing what they want from their server. We wanted a smile, the things we ordered and to chat with the people we came with. That was difficult during times of our meal.

This would not be a Facebook rant situation, but, rather, the dividing factors between good service and great service.