COLUMN: Service with a polite pause and silent smile

When did “No problem” officially replace “You’re welcome” in the service industry?

By Rick Stiebel

If I could wave a magic menu and change dining out forever, I would start by eliminating three words that leave me mentally mutilating my napkin: “How’s everything tasting?”

There’s nothing worse than getting set to slurp that first scoop of soup or having a mouthful of meatball with a piece of pasta perched precariously on your chin and some server swoops in to ask how everything is so far.

Staff at Rick’s Diner or Rico’s Bistro would be trained to wait a few minutes before disturbing diners once they’ve started their meal.

Servers would approach the table discreetly and simply pause politely long enough to make eye contact with a sincere, silent smile.

It provides customers with the perfect opportunity to address the situation if there is a problem, without intruding on the mood or interrupting the flow of conversation at the table.

This may come as a surprise to a few servers, but not everyone who eats out is there to share the moment with you and respond to rehearsed robotic banter.

Circumstances can cause people to have to plan a funeral, close an important business deal or deliver the news about a messy breakup over a meal.

Respect the fact that whatever the reason they chose your workplace, there’s a good chance that less chatter is what they’re looking for, unless they’re a regular customer you have forged a friendly relationship with during repeated repasts.

I speak from experience on this one because back in the 1960s I worked with horribly long hair at a restaurant in a resort town that catered to American Legionnaires who mostly hated hippies on general principle.

Whenever I had to occasionally trade in my cook’s apron and work in the dining room, I almost always out-tipped my fellow female servers – all college students who couldn’t wait to tell their customers where they went to school and what they were studying – with my smile and silent treatment.

If you’ve managed to read this rant and ironically agree that less can be more, here’s another personal bone of contention you can weigh in on.

When did it become common practice to pile two pounds of potatoes disguised as French fries on every plate? Next time you’re on your way out of a place that serves the humble spud in that preferred fashion, have a look at the size of the portions left behind.

Instead of wasting acres of crops and oceans of fryer oil when obesity is a growing problem, cutting back and offering refills could be a money saver for management that promotes healthier eating. Let those who must overindulge fill their boots, but spare the rest of us the canola carnage.

And finally, although this may sound like an old gnat over-picking a nit, can someone please tell me when “No problem” officially replaced “You’re welcome” in the service industry?

•••

Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident and semi-retired journalist.

 

 

Just Posted

Two volunteers work to sieve a sample of sand and ocean water through a filter, capturing any potential microplastics. (Courtesy of Ocean Diagnostics)
Victoria startup making waves in microplastics research

New products from Ocean Diagnostics will make research faster, more affordable

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Chef Trevor Randle leads a June 21 online cooking featuring recipes – beef zesty lettuce wraps, blueberry strudel and blueberry spritzer. (Courtesy We Heart Local BC)
Free online cooking course explores B.C. blueberries and beef

Chef Trevor Randle calls them the province’s most flavourful foods

Island Savings kick-starts the Equipped to Heal campaign with $120,000. (Courtesy Victoria Hospitals Foundation)
Latest Victoria Hospitals Foundation campaign targets $1M for mental health

Goal is to outfit new 19-bed unit at Eric Martin Pavilion

Shaelyn Sinnott of Oak Bay Volunteer Services delivers groceries for client Irene Kenny. The organization has kept up delivery of food and medication throughout all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Oak Bay Volunteer Services)
Oak Bay volunteers keep critical services running

Duo drove between Oak Bay and Jubilee three days a week, twice a day during pandemic

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read