Service

Circling Back: How Long is “Take Your Time” in the Restaurant Service Industry?

You sit down at a table. You order a drink. Your menu is closed. You talk. You tell the server you need time. How much time should the server wait?

dames_images3v2-747x1000On December 1, 2015, I wrote a post about aggressive service in fine dining restaurants. You’ve all experienced it: servers who take over the table and overwhelm you with too much of a good thing. The post was inspired by a local server who continually interrupted the conversation at my table despite my plea to leave us alone until flagged.

Over a hundred angry comments,  most of them from angry servers, called for my head on a platter. The comments have disappeared into cyberspace. I wish I had them so I could relate some of the vicious names I was called. The only one that remains in my brain is also my favorite. I was referred to as a waspy pterodactyl.

The next day, I wrote a follow-up post:

Between the attacks on my character, I found nuggets of good information about the job of serving food. I’d like to explore some of these points because, based on the comments, many people in the service industry are not happy with customers who fail to understand their business. Restaurants have different styles of management. Some, like the one I visited, operate like fine-tuned military teams. You can feel a manager’s presence in the room. Servers who work in these conditions don’t have much choice when it comes to the pace of service. Asking for an extra ten minutes to place an order disrupts the pace, and they are reprimanded. The most common sentiment yesterday was “the customer is not always right.”

I also included an interview with  Darron Cardosa, the man who writes The Bitchy Waiter (a blog and a book), to ask him how I should have handled the situation.This guy is really way above a waspy pterodactyl, he’s a certified bitch.  Here’s a brief clip from his answer:

“I would have let her get her spiel out of the way so she would know that she had done what was, most likely, a requirement to do. She probably did not want to wait fifteen minutes to tell you the specials and then have to wait another ten minutes while you mulled them over. I would have done what you did except I would have asked to hear the specials and then tell her we weren’t ready to order.”

I bring this conversation up again for two reasons. I dined out twice this week and got the “take your time” speech both times after hearing the specials. In both cases the restaurant was dead and the waiter returned at least 3 times in 10 minutes. (I can’t help myself from keeping statistics.)

Once again I find myself back here to ask the servers of Dallas: How many minutes does “take your time” mean? Because in my book it means I’ll send you a signal when I’m ready. If you have a different definition, please leave it. I’m all about good communication during restaurant service. I’ve been on your side. I just want to learn the new rules and spread the word to other diners.

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