The Skeptical Diner: A Brief Thought on Service

I responded to a recent comment on my Red Stag post with a rather testy and defensive reply affirming my God-given right to tee off on the service of a newly-opened restaurant.

Upon further consideration, I was neither sufficiently testy nor defensive enough. If a restaurant opened with half-finished walls and paint rollers strewn around the aisles, or poorly executed food, or a policy of charging people to split appetizers, you’d want to know about it. You’d be right as a customer to feel that you were being poorly served, and I’d be right as a critic to mention it in the context of an overall evaluation.

Working as a waiter or waitress is difficult, and good servers are worth their weight in fine caviar. The various aspects of serving customers are a) numerous, b) overlapping and c) sometimes contradictory. You want to serve people quickly; you want to serve them accurately; you want to seat people in a manner that is efficient, fair and economically sensible; you want to know your menu inside-out and be able to answer any questions a customer might have. Oh, and you want people to feel welcome without feeling skeezed out.

So service can’t be a secondary consideration when you’re evaluating a newly opened restaurant. Indeed, there have been some places in the Twin Cities that have opened recently and done a fantastic job with service: among others, Cafe Ena stands out, as does Buster’s on 28th and the Taher restaurants Wayzata Eatery and Alaska Eatery. Others have stumbled: Red Stag (as indicated), Picosa and Cafe Maude all had noteworthy problems.

When you chime in to say, in effect: “Hey, they just opened, give them a break,” that’s crap. My job isn’t to give people a break; it’s to assess where a given restaurant stands as accurately and honestly as possible. When my wife and I went to the Red Stag for our anniversary, we didn’t feel particularly special or welcome; we felt jerked around. The food (as mentioned) was great, and the bar staff was plenty friendly — we’ll certainly go back.

But the first thing I talked to my friends about was the way service was handled, and burying that in a review would be a mistake.

1 Comment so far

  1. Justin (unregistered) on December 19th, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

    Not gonna lie. I think you’re right, JN.

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