Every server in the restaurant business has their own style, their own manner, and their own way of interacting with their customers. Some are formal and professional, some are relaxed and carefree, and some are “by-the-book”, not showing much emotion. But most are friendly and really try to make your dining experience enjoyable. To be a little more personal, many of today’s servers will also use their local slang and familiar terms when speaking to you. This is where some problems arise. Here’s my story…
It was a brisk afternoon, sunny with a few puffs of clouds, as my group of six walked into the diner looking for a quick lunch. The diner, which sat on the eastern flank of a busy road, was unexpectedly full and I thought there would be a wait for a table but thankfully I was wrong. We were quickly escorted to a large booth in the corner and greeted by our waitress.
She was pleasant and knowledgeable of all the side dishes offered for the meals we ordered. Our beverage orders were taken and delivered, bread and butter placed in the table’s center and extra paper napkins as well. Then the first strange comment was made; “I’m gonna have you be my helper and pass these plates to the end”, said the waitress. The customer, me, is “gonna be the helper”? That was not what I expected. Of course I would be glad to assist the waitress in passing the B&B plates around the table but would have appreciated being asked in a different tone. OK, no big deal, we moved on.
The conversation kept to a steady pace as our waitress left the table after indoctrinating her newest recruit, me, into her fold. I have always been critical of the service provided by most servers but also realize that we weren’t eating in a multiple-star restaurant, just a local diner with quick food and pleasant surroundings; nothing more. I shouldn’t expect much.
Before we knew it, our meals came, prepared as ordered and piping hot. Another good sign. But these were the largest portions I’ve seen in a long time. I’d hate to see their food cost, they must be losing their shirt on our table. Anyway, our waitress asked if there was anything else we needed then left to attend to the other tables in her section. We picked up our utensils and attacked our plates; the food was not too bad.
Since our portions were so large, none of us were able to finish, though we sure tried. With our forks given a rest and placed plate side again we continued our conversations. Just then our waitress came over to our table and with a big smile and hand on her hip said, “Are we bagging today“?
Are we bagging today? I’ve never heard that expression before. We all sat there in silence while we tried to process her comment. Oh, I guess she wanted to know if we wanted to “bag” the remaining food from our plates to take home. But this was a little too cutesy for me.
“I’m glad to see you enjoyed your meal; would you like to take the rest home with you?” “I know we offer large portions here, I’d be happy to wrap-up the rest for you to take home”. These are appropriate statements for a server to make. I’d even be ok with “Do you want a doggie-bag” but “Are we bagging today”? That one has to go.
Today’s quick serve and family restaurants are more concerned with moving their customers in and out as fast as possible. The “2 for $20” type of offerings don’t leave much as profit, if any at all, so the focus is on quantity not quality. The food quality offered is usually sufficient for most but how about some quality customer service training to teach appropriate ways to speak with the customers you are herding through the doors?
We don’t expect much, we don’t need a linguist or someone fluent in five languages. We don’t need a playwright, a motivational speaker or a server that can sell us the Brooklyn Bridge either. We, as customers, just want to be treated in the same professional manner as anyone else, regardless if we are taking a doggie-bag home or not.
I hope Fido likes his snack.