The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2011

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FROM THE EDITOR The Server as Advisor The waitstaff in a restaurant perform a very important function. Yes, of course, they take the order and, sometimes, deliver what has been ordered to the table. The role of conduit from the kitchen to the table and vice versa is a key function of the service professional. But there is much more. The server is the restaurant’s point of contact with its customers, sort of like the room clerk in a hotel or the salesper- son in a retail store. The server is the face of the restaurant to the customer and, as such, provides a personal and comforting connection. Although the server speaks for the kitchen (espe- cially when the list of specials is being recited) he/she is also the advocate for the diner. A good professional server should be able to add information to what is written on the menu: Where is the chicken from? Is it organic? What’s in the sauce? How is it cooked? Etc. In addition, the server should be pre- pared to offer opinions when asked. It is perhaps intrusive to offer personal views without being encouraged to do so, but diners will often ask: “What are your favorite appetizers?” The answer “Oh, everything’s good here” is useless and shows disinterest. I have expressed this opinion on my radio show, and once I received an angry letter from a chef: “I don’t want my servers critiquing my food,” he said; “if I find out someone is doing that, they’ll no longer be working for me.” Clearly, this is a wrong- headed position fueled by arrogance and unbridled egotism. It’s also a formula for failure. When I am dining in a restaurant, especially for the first time, I want to utilize all the help I can get to make the right choices. I always ask the server for advice. I don’t necessarily always follow the advice, but I find it extremely useful in making my final decision. Chefs and restaurant management should encourage their staff to be helpful in menu choices and in wine selection. The bottom line is: The happier the customer is with the experience he/she has, the more likely they are to return. PHOTO: CATHY TWIGG-BLUMEL

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