I only worked as a bartender for 2 days before the restaurant went bankrupt and closed–which I maintain was completely unrelated to my first days on the job–but I still appreciate how hard it is to work in the service industry.
From the moment the waiter came over and tried to address our table 3 times before anyone paid attention without appearing frustrated, I knew the service at Pranzo was good.
The waiter was friendly but not over-the-top, accommodating but not in-your-face, patient with our group (that included 2 babies), and helpful in suggestions (saying the gnocchi was nothing special and therefore making my meal decision for me). Before the food even came, I was impressed and raving about the restaurant.
And then. When my baked penne arrived and the waiter came to check on our food, my mom asked me if I wanted a side of sauce because I had mentioned it was too dry. The waiter repeated the question. I, being the sort of person who gets absurdly flustered when asked a simple question at a restaurant, didn’t know what to say.
(Please note: Most people would just choose an option here and live with it.)
After staring at the waiter for at least 3 full seconds without speaking, I told him the truth: “I don’t know. I did want extra sauce, but I don’t think it’s worth it now.”
“Are you sure?” the waiter asked. “I can bring it, no problem.” Everyone stared at me as I found myself caught in an all too familiar web of confusion. If I said I didn’t want sauce, I would be dissatisfied with my meal, but if I said I did, I’d have to figure out how to put it in the already full dish of baked pasta without pouring it all over myself.
(Again: Anyone else would just say yes or no and continue their dinner without acting like sauce is the difference between life and death.)
“No,” I finally said.
But my face obviously showed that I was having a major internal conflict, because the waiter then said, “I could take it back to the kitchen and they could split open the dish and put the sauce in for you.”
“Are you sure it’s not too much trouble?”
“No, not at all.”
So he did it, and it was delicious.
This waiter didn’t have to be so patient with my decision paralysis. He could have just taken me at my word when I said I didn’t want the extra sauce. Yet somehow, he was able to tell that what I really wanted was for someone else to put the sauce in, and he did it in such a way as to not show he thought I was insane.
That’s what makes already great service outstanding: treating a crazy restaurant patron like she’s normal. Not many people have that gift. Trust me–in case you skimmed this delightful story, I’m in a position to know.