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How to handle customer requests hospitably

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In the December issue, editor Michael Sanson discussed a scenario where he tried, on two occasions in one night, to buy friends a round of drinks in a restaurant, and both times the attempts failed on some level. He asked readers how they deal with requests from customers who want to buy other customers a drink. Here are excerpts from letters we received.   

I am an owner/partner of the 101 Café, which has been in business since 1928. As an owner for the last 27 years, I’m aware of our guests buying meals for other customers. Our community is adjacent to Camp Joseph Pendleton, a large Marine Corps Base. It’s common that we’ll have young military men and women come in to enjoy a meal. Our wait staff has been taught that when a customer wants to pay another table’s check, they should specifically ask the payer if he or she would like to be identified. While we also comp meals for the military, it’s very gratifying to see how many people step up for our young service people.

John Daley
101 Café
San Diego, CA

As a career server, I am appalled at the service you received. The first thing the server or bartender should have done was approach the guest and let them know that you were buying them another drink or round. That said, it allows the guest to accept or decline at that time. Either way, I am sure they would thank you for the kind offer whether they accepted or declined. At that point, your bill would have been charged or not.

Christine Hill-Ackerman
Bellagio Hotel
Las Vegas

In the November issue, editor Michael Sanson discussed bartenders who fail to greet customers in a reasonable amount of time and bartenders who fail to measure ingredients for sophisticated cocktails. Here are some excerpts from reader responses.
Your comments regarding bartenders reminds me of my encounter with the worst bartender ever. The scene was a beach restaurant in southwest Florida. I approach the empty bar midafternoon to order a couple to-go drinks to take to the beach. The bartender is in the corner of the bar eating a cup of soup. I stand at the bar waiting for her to approach and greet me. Nothing happens. She continues to eat her soup as she looks at me. I think to myself that two can play this game: I stand and wait, but finally I give in. I say to her: “Usually the bartender will say ‘Hi’ and ask what they can get you.” She replies, still eating soup, “Usually the customer will tell me what they want.” If I had owned this place she would have been terminated on the spot. It’s a sad hospitality story, but great for training purposes.

Mike Eastwood
Retired Restaurateur
Kansas City, MO

To your question why many bartenders are not measuring, it’s an easy answer: because they’re really not bartenders. A bartender is like a great chef combining ingredients accurately to create the perfect experience. And with the cocktail demand these days, if you are not measuring you’re just a cook or in their case, a bar back. Now with that being said my bartender Charlie measures every cocktail, glass or wine flight. There’s no excuse for anyone not to do the same. If a bartender knows a recipe and has the right tools, he or she should not take much longer to do the task while measuring. Provide your bartenders with a beaker or measuring glass and get away from jiggers. They are for the ’80s.

Jason E. Clark
Executive Chef/Owner
BIN112 on Trade Street
The Strip Club 104 a steak house
Greer, SC

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