Good waiting is an art form all its own. Good service in a restaurant can be the making of a meal, a good waiter the difference between an average eating experience and one to remember.
A competent waiter walks a fine line. A whole collection of lines really. A good waiter is professional without being officious, warm without being intimate, personal without being invasive, efficient without ever appearing to be hurried, responsive while staying calm and measured in every circumstance.
That said, one thing I’m ambivalent about is knowing my waiter’s name. It’s common in the US: ‘Hello, I’m Amy and I’ll be your waiter today.’ I’ve noticed the practice creeping in here too. Like my experience a few weeks back at a place close by. As soon as we sat down, this energetic young man bounced up behind me and pressed his hand onto my shoulder: ‘Hey guys, I’m Gary!’ I’m sorry Gary, but I really don’t need to know, and about my shoulder …
While I do get the personal thing, and I certainly don’t want Gary to be invisible — I’ll go out of my way to be responsive and to express gratitude when it’s due — at this particular meal with my beloved or my family or friends, I’m not looking for a buddy. What I need is a waiter — one who’s attentive, responsive and competent. As a guest, I’ll owe him my respect but never my phone number.
Call me grumpy, but the writer Andrew Toddhunter agrees. And he’s American!