How to get good service

Jill Schleiden

It’s rather annoying. You go out to eat, expecting a relaxed atmosphere and a good time, and instead it’s a monumental hassle. Your water is always empty, your food takes 45 minutes to arrive and then it’s cold, you feel rushed by your waiter.

Getting good food service can be tricky. But some of it is luck, while some of it actually depends on you, the customer.

As a server, I (like half the student population) know what it’s like to be on the other side of the table, so to speak. And most of us in the restaurant business want your meal to go well, too, and not just so we get a good tip. There’s a joy to be found in making people happy with good food and impeccable service.

The quality of your service could be happenstance. Sometimes your server is new to serving or to the restaurant where you’re eating. So it takes him a few minutes to remember to bring you breadsticks before your salad but after you order or after the appetizer.

And it takes awhile at a new job to know how long it takes for the kitchen to cook a certain meal. Veal marsala might take 14 minutes at 2 p.m. but 22 minutes during a busy Friday night. And while you don’t want to wait forever for food, the server doesn’t want to accidentally deliver your salad, appetizer and entrée all within five minutes of each other.

Sometimes the server has no control over the speed with which your food is delivered. They’ve timed the orders just right, but the cook forgot to put the pasta in the water when he started making the sauce, or the ticket with your order fell and nobody saw. These things aren’t the servers fault- especially as kitchen staff hate to be harried about every single meal, so servers hesitate to try to hurry them.

Quite frankly, you could also get a server on a bad day. He’s hungover, or tired from studying all night, or just plain forgetful. Just like you occasionally forget you have a lunch date with a friend or space out while you’re studying, a server can make mistakes, too.

But, there are some cues that help servers give you good service.

When you’re ready to order, close your menu. If you’re short on time, tell your waiter so he can tell the kitchen to hurry. When you’re finished eating and are ready to have your food boxed up, put your silverware on the plate and your napkin on the table.

All these things tell servers what to do.

Another way to get great service is to be…nice. Crazy, I know. But, from my experience, it seems people forget that there’s a real live person waiting on them and not a foodslinging automaton. Say thank you when your server refills your water or brings your food out. If you need something, say excuse me or wait for your server to return to your table. As long as you’re friendly, your server will almost always be happy to know what you want and take care of it.

Finally there’s the issue of tipping. It’s a touchy subject. But to be frank, a tip should be 15-20 percent. If your server keeps your drink full and everything within his power (i.e., not the time it takes for food to come to the table) is done well, tip well. Servers make about two dollars an hour, and that’s how meal costs stay low.

There’s no excuse for giving a dollar on a $40 tab, unless your server was hitting on your girlfriend and whispering racial epithets in your ear as you order.

P.S. Servers don’t spit in food or pour bar goo in your drink or do anything else disgusting you’ve seen in the movies.

[email protected]