What Makes Great Restaurant Service?

Nov 1, 2017

"Good service starts the minute you walk in the door," Nancy Leson says. "There's a certain sense of welcome.  If you have it right away, even if people are busy, that's great service."

I agree.  A simple acknowledgment of my presence is plenty for me.  No one likes to feel invisible.  Even if  the person behind the podium is busy taking a reservation on the phone, a smile,  eye contact and a silently mouthed "Just a second" make me feel welcomed.

Nancy has firm ideas on what else makes for great restaurant service – and its opposite.

"There's little things that make me crazy."  Top of her list is just one cocktail list for a table of four or five. 

Nance doesn't like being rushed to order food, either. "You're not there to be on someone else's time clock.  You order a cocktail, you're chatting and they want to take your order immediately."

Leson will not be rushed.  "I've certainly been guilty of  camping out in restaurants, but I'm also aware that there are other empty tables around me, so it's not like there are people tapping their feet at the door. "

To those items, Nancy adds the timing of various courses. "We shouldn't have (unless we're in a Chinese restaurant) all of the food arrive at the same time.  It's not meant to if we order an appetizer, a salad and an entree. 

Well, I guess.  Though really none of the above seems like such a big deal to me.  Then again I have notoriously low standards. If the food arrives warm, and it's what I ordered, I'm pretty much satisfied.  Extra points for not being addressed as "You guys" or asked "Are you still working on that?"  Come to think of it, I'd say that the less I notice the service, the better I like it.

Leson does give high marks for service and food to Seattle's L'oursin.  I asked her if, when she was a waitress, she was the paragon of the perfect service she describes.  She claimed, "I was a great waitress.  I would go back and do it again if only my body would let me." 

A gentleman dining at Crewe

found quite a large mouse in his stew.

Said the waiter "Don't shout

Or wave it about

Or the rest will be wanting one, too." – Edward Lear