WAITER, ARE YOU OUT THERE?
“Hello. My name is Hercules. I’ll be your server tonight.” No one hears his name because we’re all in the midst of our own conversations. And, if we do hear, it’s a sure bet we’ll forget after the first drink.
He brings the drinks on a tray, and then, holding the glass by its rim, sets it down in front of me. I’m about to comment, but opt instead to leave it alone with faith that his hands are clean. Salad is served by someone we haven’t formally met, probably because his job is to deliver, not linger. Please pass the pepper mill! Where is the pepper mill? “Waiter! Garçon!” Where are you? Can anyone remember his name? Oh, well. Eat the salad!
The same server who brought the salad arrives with the dinner, holding the plates with one thumb flavoring the gravy. “Excuse me. I don’t have a fork.” “May we have some ketchup?” “Mustard for the hamburger?” The mashed potatoes are cold and the vegetable is not what we ordered. “Waiter! Garçon! Where are you?” We finally flag down someone who appears to be training for the Triathlon and ask him to find our waiter. “What’s his name?” He asks. “If we could remember his name, we’d stand up and call him ourselves. We don’t have forks, ketchup or mustard; the potatoes are cold and we’ll eat the vegetable.” Hercules appears after the plates have been cleared. “Did you enjoy your dinners?” He asks.
Some restaurants operate on ‘turns’. In and out in 55-60 minutes is the name of the game. These are the ones where the waiter drives you nuts while you’re trying to wind down after a hectic day. He reappears four times in the next ten minutes to request our dinner orders. We finally order out of desperation to get him out of our hair with the promise the chef will hold up on the service. We no sooner get the words out then the salad is served. Halfway through the salad, the dinner arrives.
Then there’s the server who spends ten minutes telling you the ingredients of each item on the menu and how delicious it is. At a restaurant the other night in Orlando, the waitress totally lost herself in poetic adjectives with her description of each item
And, weren’t the house specials of the day originally less expensive than those listed on the menu? When did they become gourmet cuisine? And, shouldn’t a restaurant owner instruct servers to announce the price of each special? After all, the price of everything else appears clearly on the menu.
The attitude of a waiter is tantamount to the meal itself. An unhappy server can sour the sweetest efforts of the chef. On the opposite spectrum, mediocre meals have become enjoyable because of the congeniality of the surroundings. Food itself is so subjective that it is impossible to please everyone’s tastes. Let’s face it: the restaurant industry at its best is the most difficult business in the world. A restaurant is only as good as its last meal.
We all wear two hats; one in which we serve and the second in which we are served. Hats off to those who wait while we fumble through the menu, demand extra attention after being served, send perfectly good food back to the kitchen, and leave a tip based on the coupon discount rather than the original price. Hats off to all those who carry heavy trays and handle hot plates with good disposition. Bon appétit!