There may be no greater goal a restaurant can achieve than delivering great service. But if you ask a bunch of people to describe great service, you may just get a bunch of different answers. I bring this up because of an experience I just had in a restaurant.
A friend and I are sitting at a bar in an upscale casual restaurant. The food at this restaurant is prepared by very skilled chefs, yet many in the place, including customers, bartenders and servers, are dressed in jeans and t-shirts.
A female bartender approaches us and asks my friend what she wants to drink. She responds and then the bartender turns to me and says, “What will you have, hon [honey]?” After she takes my order and retreats to make our drinks, my friend says to me with an annoyed voice, “That's a bit too familiar!” My friend, a foodie who knows her way around restaurants, doesn't think the bartender is hitting on me, but believes there is a line that servers should not cross. I do, too, but I found nothing wrong with our server's friendly, if casual, approach. “That's because she's cute,” my friend says.
“No,” I respond, “it's because the rules of the game have changed. I'm wearing sneakers and you're wearing torn jeans in a place serving top-notch food. In most cases, even when world-class food is being served, restaurants are decidedly more casual.”
“That may be so, but it's just not professional to address a customer so casually,” she says with a huff.
I've been known to be wrong on a few occasions, so I asked the opinions of two female staff editors, whose names will remain anonymous (Gail Bellamy and Megan Rowe). “I don't like it when strangers give me a nickname. It's presumptuous and overly familiar, even if it's not intended that way,” said Gail.
“If I was in a bad mood and a server called me ‘hon,’ I'd say ‘Excuse me! What did you call me?’” said Megan.
I'm clearly outnumbered at this point, so I turn to two guys on the staff — art director Chris Roberto and managing editor Bob Krummert.
“I don't find it the least bit offensive, but if I was with my wife, I don't think she'd like it,” said Chris.
Bob sided with the ladies. “It's moderately demeaning, like a server coming to the table and saying ‘What will it be, guys?’”
Obviously, the definition of good service and how it's delivered is open to interpretation. I understand that there is an inherent line between the roles of customer and server. I also understand that line is being blurred as restaurants become increasingly more casual. But, with that said, servers can call me “hon” any time if they can expertly take an order, deliver that order with finesse and check back to make sure things are going well.
I'd like to hear your thoughts. Do you think this server crossed the line? Email me.