By an Anonymous Former Server, as part of our new 'Tales from a Former Server' column
It’s not very often that I find outstanding service. Sure, most places give good service but outstanding? That’s hard to find. That’s why I’m giving a shoutout to Richard, the man behind the counter who reminded me that outstanding service means keeping it real.
The other day, I went to an Italian fast casual that just opened up near my office. The whole office was buzzing about the place, so I figured I’d give it a try. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted with the sincerest of welcomes. This came from the man behind the glass who I can only assume is the manager, given his lack of standard uniform. Being that this was my first time, I had no idea how to navigate the menu. Yes, it’s a fast casual and yes, those menus are typically no-brainers, but I hadn’t been to a concept with this exact menu set up, so I wasn’t sure what was available or how to order.
And then Richard came to my rescue. I didn’t stand there like an idiot for too long — he quickly assessed that this was my first time, and immediately began talking me through the menu. But unlike some other fast casual workers, he did so in a manner that a friend would, with open and honest communication. He didn’t rush me or spew out some pre-rehearsed explanation of the restaurant. He made it a casual conversation, which, in turn, made me feel comfortable and welcomed.
To show you how real Richard was to me, and how much my experience was defined by his attitude towards me, I will share a vastly different experience I recently had at a full-service restaurant.
Said restaurant is one of my favorites. It’s not gourmet and it certainly isn’t the epitome of exceptional customer service, but I enjoy dining there nonetheless. As I sat down, my waiter, who had taken my friend’s drink order just moments prior to my arrival, took a look at our table and continued on his merry way. After about 15 minutes, he finally came up and asked me if I would like a drink. My friend and I frequent this restaurant a lot, so we already knew what we wanted and placed our order. The meals we ordered typically come with a Caesar salad, but my friend and I wanted Ranch instead. Well, our server was apparently offended that we would make such a request, and met us with a look of utter disdain and frustration. He hardly checked up on us and the only thing he was quick on was to take our signed receipts and his tip.
What really grinds my gears is that Richard, my most favorite fast casual worker, receives no tips while our crappy server-of-the-day rakes them in. Why is it that an employee not making money based on performance would be more pleasant and give better service than one who is? I’m honestly not sure of the answer and invite all possible theories in the comments below. However, I would advise all restaurant workers to follow Richard’s example and treat people like people, not like part of your job. Authenticity goes a long way and stays in people’s minds more so than anything else. Richard talked to me like a person while my sucky server treated me like just another part of his job. I will not boycott a restaurant because of mediocre or crappy service (unless it’s completely awful), but I will go out of my way to go to a restaurant where I had a memorable guest experience. The moral of the story: a little bit of authenticity goes a long way.