Serving Is a Verb

We’ve managed to be at restaurants three times over the past 8 days. That’s quite unusual for us even in the best of times. Given that lately we’ve been held to a restaurant visit once every couple of weeks, it’s absolutely extraordinary.

We start on Easter with the She and the He families hitting separate emporia for a holiday buffet. Oddly enough, even though we were eating out, He had to still bake a ham and boil some eggs to have leftovers throughout the week. We may have to revisit that someday. We ended the week at a Sunday brunch at a well-known television chef’s restaurant. A bit of a modified buffet with an antipasti bar up front and a dessert bar to finish with served entrees in between.

Now what can you say about serving at a buffet? Keep the patrons’ glasses full of their preferred beverages, keep the tables clear of empty plates, and generally make certain they guests feel welcome. Admittedly there are some servers for whom even buffets are too much of a challenge, just as there are some restaurants that have difficulty meeting the buffet challenge. But these were upscale establishments with professional servers and their mission was to make you want to go back for a full service meal and go back soon. Mission accomplished.

But then we had the meal in between. It was at one of our favorites that had been much neglected by us. Neglect isn’t the right word. Due to uncontrollable circumstances it had been much un-patronized by us. That’s better. During our absence they changed the menu just a tad, changed the drink sizes a wee bit, even changed the portion sized of the side dishes a touch. Nothing dramatic. Just enough to make you go hmm when the courses came out. We are certain had we had one of our regular servers we would have been forewarned of the changes. As it was, we were waited on by one we had never met and were as new to her as she to us.

It started quite positively. We stood at the hostess stand where the host greeted us and immediately sat us at a table for two. And a good thing it was that we weren’t two minutes later because the next party of two ended up with a 45 minute wait for a table. But we didn’t and we immediately sat and were almost immediately greeted by the new waitress. She welcomed us, didn’t say a word about the day’s special that were scrawled on a chalk board on the other side of the waitress stand, but did take our drink orders and told us she would be right back. And right back she was our complimentary basket of chips and salsa. After ascertaining we weren’t yet ready to order she said she would be right back with our drinks and indeed was right back with half of our drinks and a promise to be right back again for our order.

What seemed like just about when the couple behind us finally got their table did our waitress return for our order. Either she realized it had been about 20 minutes since she said she would be right back again or it was He’s inquiry of the host as he walking by if our server had left a forwarding address before she left on her vacation that prompted her return. But back she was and she took our order and even managed not to have the appetizers and the entrees come out together. A big plus in our world.

The plusses continued until we got to the end of the meal. Even with the newer portion sizes there was, is, and probably will always be too much for one seating and she offered take-out containers for our leftovers. Two boxes came out, one for each of our leftover entrees but nothing for the appetizer that was still on the table and still had a ways to go before one could consider it gone. Regardless of how many containers came out, that would usually signal the end of the evening for most restaurant patrons, leaving nothing left to do but pay the check and make one’s way through the parking lot and then home. All of that self-paced except for the paying of the check, requiring a check to pay, that the waitress claimed she would be right back with. Eventually it made its way to the table, cash was plopped in the little leather book and then there it sat. And sat. It may still be there for after a while we moved on to the self-paced portion of going home and went home.

Will we return? Of course we will. We’re getting used to the fact that there are fewer restaurants with professional servers. We would prefer that of those who rely on whomever they can get to be the face of their establishments stress upon those faces that serving is a verb. It’s not just carrying a plate from kitchen to table. If you’re looking for that kind of job there are plenty of them in one’s own home.  If you should find yourself in that position, smile, go out of your way, make yourself memorable in a good way, and remember, “I’ll be right back” has its limits.

Now, that’s what we think. Really. How ‘bout you?

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