Will Rogers famously once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” However, I suspect Mr. Rogers never worked in the service industry.
When you first meet someone you don’t know enough about the person to dislike him or her. Once you get to know the person, however …
“Can I get you something to drink?” I asked the two gentlemen.
“Sure, I’ll have a sauvignon blanc,” one said before pausing, looking at the wine list in his hand and chuckling, “Oh, the only one you have.”
I liked him immediately.
“Bring me something you think I might enjoy,” his friend said.
“What do you normally drink?”
“I don’t know; make me happy.”
I won’t tell you how I felt about him.
This time of year a lot of people go out. Unfortunately, some of them don’t know what they are doing. Just to be clear, most restaurant employees don’t just work in the restaurant business during the holidays, they do it year around. So if you go to the busiest restaurant in town on a Friday night during the holiday season, whoever is behind the bar, or working the floor, or at the podium has probably been doing it for quite a while, which means he or she knows what he or she is doing.
It’s your experience that is in question.
Recently I received an email from a reader:
“I had the pleasure of serving drinks and beers at a fundraiser a few months ago. What a pain in the a– some folks can be. Questions and comments such as: ‘Oh my God. Ten bucks for a beer?’ My smart-a– reply, ‘Have you never been to a pro sporting event or concert?’ Funny after the initial shock, many seem to be very happy to come back and to order beers five, six and seven. ‘Wow! $11 for some wine?’ My reply, ‘Yes but I will fill up the entire 8-ounce cup.’ Them: ‘No thanks. I will just have the $10 beer. And I don’t even like beer!’ Really? For a dollar difference you will drink something you don’t like? The list goes on and on, as you well know.”
I do indeed.
There are none more ignorant than the uninitiated. The quickest way to let a server know that you don’t know what you are talking about is to get righteously indignant. Unfortunately in the service industry you can’t call people on this fact. A server must pretend that the customer knows what he’s doing. After all, that is the definition of hospitality, isn’t it? Servers don’t want to make anyone look stupid. But sometimes the task can be daunting.
Here are a couple of questions I know I will get in the next couple of weeks along with what I would like to say as well as what I will actually say:
Question: Do you think you can make a Moscow Mule?
Answer in my head: Three ingredients; yeah I think I can manage it.
Actual answer: Absolutely!
Question: What kind of whiskey do you have?
Answer in my head: See that shelf over there with 50 bottles on it? Those are all whiskey.
Actual answer: Are you looking for a particular brand?
Trust me, two or three months behind the plank, especially during the holiday season and you will begin to understand what Nietzsche, Camus and Kierkegaard were talking about.
Luckily during the holidays a lot of regular customers will also go out. Some I haven’t seen in a while and some I have.
“Hey Mark, how are you doing tonight?” I will say to the long-time regular.
“You know. Same old thing.”
“This beers on me,” I will say.
“Why’s that?” he will ask.
“Do you have any white wine?” someone will interrupt.
“Just because,” I will answer him.
Two months behind the plank and you will also see what Twain, Dickens and Steinbeck were talking about, too.
“I bet you if I had met him and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I didn’t like,” was Roger’s full quote in the Saturday Evening Post when asked about Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky.
“In a serious struggle there is no worse cruelty than to be magnanimous at an inopportune time,” said Trotsky, a thought that might have led Rogers to form an opinion after actually meeting him.