“Hi, my name’s Richard and I’ll be your server tonight” was the phrase that greeted my husband and I the moment we had taken our seats at our local eatery the other day.
Wondering if we had been teleported to the other side of the Atlantic, we both looked up in unison to see an over-gelled twenty-something looming over our table. The vague waft of BO and the grey facial tone of a pasty-eating Brit reassured us that we hadn’t in fact left the country. So what was with the Americanism?
No problem, we thought. Since rubbish waiter service is one of our pet hates, an attempt at American-style service could only mean an improvement on our usual eating-out experience so we were quite happy to go with the flow.
Sadly this metamorphosis to attentive service was only to be short lived, because no matter how much training you throw at them, waiters in this country have no idea and Richard was no exception. No sooner was our order down, he disappeared, presumably to the black hole of smoker’s corner, never to reemerge again.
Having grown up with rubbish service I am pretty much used to it and willing to accept the reality. In fact there are some aspects of British waiting that I would happily settle for over what you get on the continent any day. Take our experiences in Paris for example, when our waiter was so busy trying to hit on my husband he forgot to write down my order altogether, prompting the arrival of a lonely meal for one. Or the States, where our servers were so in our face they practically sat down and ate the meal for us to save us the trouble.
So I try to take the monosyllabic mumblings of rude and uninformed waiters with the pinch of salt it deserves, as long as the grub’s ok. But there are certain basics you should expect if you go to the trouble and expense of eating out and this is my reason for consigning rubbish waiters to Room 101.
When you eat in a restaurant you expect someone to take your order at some point before you die of starvation; your food to arrive sometime before closing time; said food to bear some resemblance to what you chose from the menu; someone to bring you a drink when you want one, as opposed to telling you you’ll have to wait for ‘your waiter’ (who of course has mysteriously disappeared); the bill to bear some resemblance to what you chose from the menu (or failing that, some resemblance to what you actually received); and someone to come along and relieve you of your payment before dawn (you can usually speed up this process by getting up to leave – cue the magical speedy return of formerly mysteriously disappeared waiter). Sadly to achieve this is rare, and when it doesn’t happen, don’t be surprised if I don’t come back.
As if rubbish service is not enough, what really gets my goat is being expected to throw in an extra 10% or more on top of an austerity-busting meal just for the privilege of having been ignored, derided or sycophantically sucked up to by a greased-up, surly post-teen.
Tipping is a bonus, not a given. If someone helps to make my meal great I’ll make it worth their while. If not, they can expect me to boot them firmly into the slimy deep freeze of Room 101 and slam the door behind them.