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.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This male Dungeness can safely be harvested after passing muster. An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is not clear how well locals on the Saanich Peninsula are complying with crabbing regulations, but her comments suggest that any problems might be of a minor nature. (Department of Fisheries and Oceans/Submitted)
Sidney and Sooke record 57 crabbing violations in 2020

While recreational crab fishery has ‘compliance issues,’ no evidence of ‘large scale poaching’

Police seek information after a pedestrian was hit in a crosswalk at the intersection of Goldstream Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway on March 3.(Google Maps)
Witnesses sought in Langford pedestrian hit and run

Suspect is older man driving four-door, gold sedan

The University of Victoria has said some of its students were impacted by an off-campus exposure to COVID-19 last weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria students impacted by off-campus COVID-19 exposure

UVic has not specified where the exposure occurred

Const. Mat Jones of the CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit joined a team of Saanich police officers and ICBC representatives cracking down on distracted driving at the McKenzie/Quadra intersection in Saanich on March 3. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
‘Leave the phone alone’: 40 distracted driving tickets issued in two hours at Saanich intersection

Saanich police, CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit crackdown on drivers’ cell-phone use

Cleanup happens after an overnight flood Monday damaged areas of the Oaklands Community Centre. (Facebook/Oaklands Community Association)
Greater Victorians offer flood of support to Oaklands Community Centre

Blown hot water tank Monday night leaves staff cleaning up soggy mess

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read