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Details, Details, Details…………..
A faint lipstick stain on a wine glass,
A few bread crumbs on the seat of the booth,
A sauce stained menu,
My steak cooked just a little too overdone,
The wrong dressing on my salad- in fact I said “no dressing”
A small stain on the white linen table cloth,
A sticky bar,
A table set with all the settings misaligned,
The flatware water-spotted, and chunked with food particles,
Which of the above would you deem to be a more grievous error?
A few crumbs on the seat of the booth where you’re about to be seated?
Come on-just brush them off. Okay-easy enough.
A faint lipstick stain on your wine glass? Again, very simple- just kindly ask your server/bartender for a clean one. I’m sure he’ll gladly bring you one.
Okay, you’re right. That’s not hard to do either.
A sauce stained menu? Give me a break-as before-just ask for a new one. No harm, no foul.
How about this:
You sit down at a bar anticipating a nice refreshing drink and a few relaxing moments. You place your elbows on the beautiful marble bar and …ugh! It is so sticky and nasty. Yuck! Now you’ve got sticky elbows.
Oh, come on now, all you have to do is ask the bartender to wipe it down for you and then go in the bathroom and wash the stickiness off your elbows. So you do and he does. Life goes on. Really, it’s not that big of a deal. Granted. It’s not.
But think about it-as I’ve mentioned here before most of the shows on tv like Bar Rescue and Restaurant Impossible usually feature establishments that have problems with not having standards for service, for cleanliness and proper ways of doing things. They didn’t get that way overnight. Rather, it was the compounded effect of small, seemingly insignificant details that were overlooked.
Maybe each of the above little details that were overlooked is not that big of a deal. That is, if only one of them was overlooked. But what happens when there is just a general, overall no attention to detail attitude in the whole establishment? Dinner at such a place might go something like this:
You take your fiance and your future in-laws out for dinner at a place that you’ve heard had great reviews. When you arrive, you notice that the specials written on the board in the front of the restaurant has the word tilapia misspelled on it. It reads Tillapya. “That’s odd”-you think to yourself. As you pull the chair out for your mother-in-law-to-be, you notice a few bread crumbs on the chair. She doesn’t notice-so you just quickly brush them away.
You’ve all been seated, the table is beautifully set, at least at first glance. But then you notice- a brown spot about the size of a quarter on the table cloth. Dried marinara, you think to yourself. Your guests are all involved in animated conversation and none of them seems to notice. So, you just casually, slyly, push your b & b plate over to cover the spot. Luckily – it happened to be right in front of your setting. There, done. No one did and no one will notice.
Next, you sit back and take in the elegant surroundings-beautiful chandeliers, nice art on the walls. Then your focus comes back on your table- and now, what you thought was a very beautifully set table-is, actually upon closer inspection, not really that impressive in the least. The flatware is stained with water spots. Your fiance’s place setting has only one fork whereas all the others have two. Of the four bread and butter plates-three match but the fourth one is not only a different size but a different shade of bone as well. To top it all off, the silverware isn’t even really nicely arranged on the table but looks like it was just haphazardly thrown there.
You want to focus on the conversation at the table and get your mind off all those details. After all, they really don’t matter much anyway, do they? Heck, there’s been a whole book written on exactly that. Don’t sweat it, we’re told. Well, you can be sure that whoever set this table certainly didn’t.
Your fiance passes you the wine list and asks you to choose some wine for the table. You decide to start with a white and move to a red with the entrees. You open the wine list and it has stains on the pages. The waiter comes, you order your wine and mention to him about the stained wine list. His response is a half-hearted, ”Well, a lot of people touch the menus”.
In a few minutes he returns with the wine you ordered. He really doesn’t do much of a presentation. Rather he just mumbles “sauvignon blanc”. You’re unimpressed. He pours a taste for you but keeps the cork rather than presenting it to you. You make no fuss about the cork. The last thing you need is for one of your new in-laws-to-be to to make a remark about you being a wine snob. You nod that the bottle is good and motion for him to pour for the other guests. He begins in a clockwise direction. This is good. But then you see that he proceeds to your father-in-law next before the ladies at the table. And the final, not so great detail that was missed-your mother-in-law now discovers a nice big-albeit faint, lipstick stain on her wine glass after her glass was poured! She doesn’t tell the waiter because she doesn’t want to “cause a scene” and decides she’ll just drink from the other side of the glass.
The food has not even come out yet but in your mind the dinner is already ruined
Oh come on, now-aren’t you overreacting just a little? Even if it is just in your mind? Really? Do all those little details really matter? Haven’t you ever heard of the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff? Seriously. Do they really matter? And if they don’t, then what does matter? Just the quality of the food? What if the chef doesn’t care about details either. The correct amount of seasoning. The right time and temperature to cook your steak. Who care if it’s a little over done, under done. Do details really matter?
As long as the server has a good attitude and a pleasant demeanor-aren’t all those other things forgiveable? Even forgettable?
I do not believe so. A nice personality is just that-nice. And I do expect a nice personality from my server. However, that does in no way equal good or great service. And it certainly does not cover over all those missed details-faults. Somebody really dropped the ball here.
It is the server’s responsibility (whoever is assigned to the tables in that section) to ensure that everything on that table is in order, clean, neat, polished, wiped and set in a correct manner. No ands, ifs or buts about it. No questions, no excuses. Period. Over and out.
The same goes for the bartender. It is his or her responsibility to ensure that those glasses-especially the wine glasses, sparkle and shine-all the time, everytime. Yes, sometimes the dishwashing machine doesn’t get the lipstick stains out. Just because a glass runs through the machine does not mean that it’s automatically clean. If you’re the bartender and you’re racking those glasses you better make sure they’re clean and sparkling. You may say well it’s the busboy or the server assistant that racks the glasses. So what? Whomever is filling those glasses with wine and sending them out to the table better make sure they’re clean. If every glass was inspected and polished prior to being racked or placed on a table in front of a guest there would be no question. This often is not the case, and therefore guests, I, myself must examine the stemware in front of them before the wine is poured.
You may think I’m a little harsh in my thinking. Too exacting. A little overboard. I’m not saying there is no room for mistakes for we all make mistakes. We all may miss something once in a while. We all overlook things but that should be the rare exception not the norm. Somewhere the bar must be raised and a standard must be set. Take pride in what you do. If you are setting a table and preparing for service, I don’t care what kind of restaurant you’re working in-be aware. I challenge you to do things in an excellent manner. If this is not your normal practice. Start doing it. I promise you not only will you feel better about yourself, you may come to enjoy your job as a server and your guests will notice. Just because no one complains to you that doesn’t mean that they don’t notice. It also doesn’t mean that they aren’t telling someone else about the lack of attention to detail at your establishment.
I have both dined at and worked at some supposedly-so-called great restaurants where the food was exceptional, the ambience was wonderful but there was no standard set for service, cleanliness and order. Everybody just kind of does their own thing. Some tables are beautifully set, everything in order, cutlery and glasses shining and others are just set willy-nilly. No order, no pattern. NO ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Some servers are great at their job and others-well, it doesn’t matter because management has set no standards to follow. As I’ve said before IT ALL STARTS AT THE TOP.
I’ve heard many servers say- ‘Who notices these things anyway?’ Once someone is seated they mess up their table, move the silverware around etc. So why does it really matter?
One of my favorite books is called the The Slight EDGE-Secret to a Successful Life by Jeff Olson. It is an amazing book but rather than me just explaining, please allow me to share a couple passages from it: :
“The difference between success and failure is not dramatic. In fact, the difference between success and failure is so subtle, most people miss it. The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do everyday matters. “
“A simple, positive action. A simple error in judgment. Either way, it’s the Slight Edge at work-working for you or working against you. Invisible results.”
“I’ts the same with your health, your diet, your exercise, your financial habits, your knowledge, your relationships, your marriage. With anything and everything. With your life.”
“Those little things that will make you successful in life, that will secure your health, your happiness, your fulfillment, your dreams, are simple, subtle, tiny things that nobody will see, nobody will applaud, nobody will even notice. They are those things that, at the time you do them, often feel like they make absolutely no difference…like they don’t matter.”
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Christoff J. Weihman
Las Vegas, NV