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July 31, 2009

The Anxious Server Syndrome

GoodWaiterPR.jpgI've spent a lot of time in my life complaining about slow service, but I never thought much about the fact that  that the best servers find a happy balance between leaving you to languish and rushing you.

Once when time wasn't as much of a factor for everyone, you didn't even get your menus in a nice restaurant until you'd had a cocktail or two. Now, I have to admit, I'd rather have the following problem described in C. Grene's e-mail than the opposite: ...

Last week my wife and I vacationed in Lexington Virginia, and we decided to stop into a restaurant for a late lunch, so we went into a medium sized place about 1:30 pm.  About 25% of the tables were occupied, and the hostess led us to table near the center of the restaurant and put 2 menus on the table.
As soon as our bottoms touched the chair, a waiter arrived and asked "are you ready to order?"  I politely explained that we were not ready because we had not yet read the menu, so he walked away, but hovered.
As soon as we opened the menus, before we had a chance to read one word, he returned with the same question, "are you ready to order?"
My wife and I looked at each other and we were thinking the same thing.  Something is wrong somewhere if the restaurant is this anxious to get rid of us, we put down the menus and walked out.
It would seem to me that customers would be better treated that that, and I wonder what your opinion is?

(Photo of a Prime Rib waiter who would never rush you by Kenneth K. Lam/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:51 AM | | Comments (26)


1:30? He wants to get out of there and go meet his weed dealer at the arcade.

I've seen this, too. It always puzzles me a bit. Yes, there are a very few places where I do know what I want when I walk in the door (Chicken Rico being the only one in Baltimore), but, please, give me 90 seconds to at least glance at the menu.

I do appreciate getting a glass of water right away, though.

This would be my type of restaurant. I'm hungry and want to eat.

Ah yes... A.S.S.

Maybe the fish is about to turn, and they want it sold RIGHT NOW!

I had a waiter recently obsessively check up on is. "Is everything OK here?" "How's everything?" ... All we had at that point were our drinks, which were all full, and we had ordered. What could possibly be wrong?

I read the photo credit at the bottom of the comment, so I am aware that the waiter pictured "would never rush you." But I wonder how many readers would have missed that, and what the Prime Rib would think about being paired with an article about ASS.

I figured their reputation for great service is so solid it won't bother them, and anyone who recognizes the restaurant would think it was so crazy they would read to the very end and the caption. EL

My nephew was considering attending Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA. He visited there earlier this year with my sister and brother-in-law. Given how my sister commented to me how much slower the pace of life was down there, I am surprised to read that about the waiter in C. Grene's e-mail. Perhaps he wasn't a local?

I'm imagining Woody Allen as a waiter.

I always seem to have the oposite problem; sit and get ignored for 10-15 minutes, then when they finally show up they ask what I'd like to drink. They always seem shocked when I tell them them I want to order FOOD. Sigh....why are there no happy mediums?

Patricia Arquette is a happy medium.

Especially since another network pick her up when she was canceled by ABC.

As soon as I hit "post" I knew I'd made a mistake with the happy medium thing!

:-) :-)

I'm kind of dying to know which restaurant this was. My sister went to W&L and there aren't a whole lot of choices in that town...

Maybe shift change was at 2 & he wanted to make sure he got their tip, not the next server.

Back when I waitressed, the way we handled shift changes was to go to tables and say something like, "I'm leaving now, but Frankenstein (point to my replacement) will be taking over. He's great, he'll take good care of you."

If that led to me getting my tip before I left, great. If not, well, that's the breaks.

(I actually did a lot of breakfast shifts, oddly.)

BTW it was NBC that cancelled Medium, but I digress.
Recently on a trip to Ocean city we were treated to the rush job by a waiter in a very crowded venue. I was a little appalled but my daughter, who is more gutsy than I simply asked, " Are we your last table tonight?" He replied yes and we deliberately slowed down our process. Paying top dollar for inferior food (as it turned out to be!) is not to be rushed.

Some very interesting comments. He was probably anxious to get his tip and leave. For the W&L people looking for a good restaurant, we found two. The Southern Inn Restaurant and Michaels.
C. Grene

Thanks MDtopdad - I noticed that last night when I was watching TV!

To correct the spelling on my latest post, the restaurants are The Southen Inn and Cafe Michel.

I'm going to guess this happened at the Southern Inn. I've been there numerous times, and while the food is always good the service has been mixed.

The restaurant will remain nameless, but it was not the Southern Inn. We ate there twice, two days apart, and we had the same waitress and she remembered what we had to drink. Fantastic!

Another example of poor service and management that hasn't trained the staff well.
So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager? You think being a banquet manager is glamorous? You try dealing with cranky chefs and bitchy waiters all day - and that's without the nasty customers. Visit my blog and see what it's REALLY like in this crazy profession.

Another example of poor service and management that hasn't trained the staff well.
So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager? You think being a banquet manager is glamorous? You try dealing with cranky chefs and bitchy waiters all day - and that's without the nasty customers. Visit my blog and see what it's REALLY like in this crazy profession.

Shill alert at 7:28 and 7:29.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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