When was the last time you went to a restaurant and had service that was so skilled that it made your dinner twice as good?
Every restaurant patron has his or her own unique preferences. Some want detailed food and wine suggestions from the server, others couldn't care less what their waiter or waitress thinks. Some people want dinner quickly, so they can get on to the next thing they have planned that night. Others want to linger.
So it's no wonder that the job of waiting tables can be difficult when customers often want arbitrary or contradictory things. But during our recent stay in Hawaii, we went out for a special dinner (it was for Laura's birthday) where our server really nailed things perfectly. I'd like to highlight a couple of seemingly minor things she did that, to me, defines truly great restaurant service.
Everybody knows the drill when the waiter runs through the evening's specials. And it's all too often that I've had the most expensive appetizer and entree pushed down my throat by an eager waiter looking for a bigger check. But when our waitress went over her specials, she added that she'd be happy to suggest a couple of specific things if we'd be interested. She gave us the option to take her suggestions--or not.
And when we did ask for her suggestions, she highlighted a cheese platter appetizer (of locally grown Maui goat cheeses) that was so good that we spent more than a half an hour slowly enjoying it.
And that's when our waitress came through again. She saw us enjoying our food so much (if I recall correctly, I was so excited that I broke out my adolescent manners and said "this is kick-ass!" to her with my mouth full), that she came back a minute later and told us something that I'll probably never hear in my life in a New York City restaurant:
"I thought you might want to take your time with the cheese platter, so I took the liberty of holding up your dinner order with the chef for a bit. Will that be all right with you?"
Once again, perfect. She gave us the option. It's a great idea if you're in lingering mode, but if you have somewhere to be, you can say, "No thanks! Please bring our entrees out right away."
It's infectious to be served by a waiter or waitress who takes obvious pleasure in his or her job, who is excited to share great food, and who offers flexible customer service like this.
This is how dining out should be. It's the kind of service that makes me recommend restaurants and makes me gladly tip more than 20%.
Readers, let me hear your thoughts! What defines great restaurant service to you?
PS: This post wasn't meant to be a restaurant review, but I'd be remiss if I didn't give out the details of where we had this amazing dinner. If you happen to be in Hawaii, do not miss the chance to try out this restaurant. I recommend it highly. Also, our gifted server's name was Kimberly.
Located in the Chinatown district of Honolulu:
1121 Nu'uanu Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96817
15 minutes by car or TheBus from Waikiki.
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