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Five Annoying Service Trends

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Being a server is among the toughest jobs. If your salary ends up averaging ten bucks an hour, you're lucky. The hours are long. You're on your feet all shift. You're not paid when you're sick. We customers can be unbearable: undertipping, ordering things on the side, having allergies, or being assholes. To top it off, you're the ones who often get no respect -- be it from customers or the back of the house.

Despite the challenges of the job, everyone's a critic when it comes to service. Take yesterday's bitch session in this Guardian article that's going viral. And the blame is usually heaped on the wait staff. 

Sure, there are servers who aren't on their A-game, yet usually they're foot soldiers whose training reflects that something's amiss higher up: inconsistent -- or MIA -- front-of-the-house management. Providing soigné service requires strong GMs who are also good teachers. 

Finding managers who are both is a challenge, so the result as restaurants corporatize and mom and pops go by the wayside is training that leads to canned and impersonal service. Perhaps that's why I've lately become aware, in midrange restaurants, of these annoying service trends that I wish would go away. 

The culprits?

1. "Have you dined with us before?" Whenever a server asks this question, I feel like I'm suddenly trapped in a marketing lecture for Amway. What comes next is usually a pitch about how the restaurant is so different from any other, as well as instructions for how to read the menu. Let dishes speak for themselves.

2. Not writing things down. How many times have you had a server

memorize your order and get it wrong? In the month I've been here, it's

about half. Dinner is not theater, despite the fact that open kitchens as theaters abound. I don't expect servers to memorize lines -- or my order -- like an actor. During

busy shifts, not writing things down can and often does lead to a flurry of mistakes.

3. Rattling off menu additions like an auctioneer.

Menus here seem to be sprawling, 40-item epics in an attempt to

please everyone. I actually like a tightly edited menu. It shows focus. I trust the kitchen as well as the quality of the ingredients on a plate. Add to big menus a

slew of specials that the server is required to recite and I'm either overwhelmed or zoning out.

4. Speaking of... Auctioning off dishes. "Who got the pork chop and succotash?" Servers calling out dishes at the table reflects a lack of control in the restaurant and a disconnect between the dining room and the back of the house. It's a step away from a restaurant that's in the weeds: late entrées, clanging plates, dropped silverware, servers booking through the dining room. 

5. "Are you still enjoying your entrée?" Now here's corporate-speak that sounds wooden coming out of anyone's mouth. I'd rather have a server

say, "Aren't you done yet? I need to turn your table." At least it's


What service issues anger you? Have you ever taken it up with management? Why or why not?

Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

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