My bar-and-grill ex­pe­ri­ence

The Compass - - OPINION - — Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net

Early on Labour Day Mon­day, my wife and I left Deer Lake, where we had spent the long week­end with her par­ents. We stopped for break­fast at a road­house bar and grill lo­cated at the Baie Verte Junc­tion on the Trans-Canada High­way. My sis­ter-in-law joined us, and we set­tled in for a cosy chat and meal.

We placed our re­spec­tive or­ders. Mine in­cluded eggs, bologna, hash browns ... and whole wheat toast. Keep this lat­ter in­gre­di­ent in mind, as it plays a key role in the sce­nario that un­folded.

Even­tu­ally, my meal, mi­nus the toast, was placed be­fore me. I might add that we had to re­quest cut­lery. I sur­veyed the plate, an­tic­i­pat­ing the de­lec­ta­ble morsels I was about to dig into. First, though, I re­minded the waitress of the over­sight about my toast.

Some­time later, by which time I was well into my meal, my toast ar­rived, but it was white, not whole wheat. “I or­dered whole wheat toast,” I said.

Then, af­ter I had fin­ished eat­ing, my whole wheat toast f in­ally ar­rived.

Within min­utes, the waitress ar­rived at our ta­ble again, this time with the cheque, which she plunked down be­side me. As she turned to re­turn to the kitchen, I said, “By the way, I did or­der whole wheat toast.”

My rea­son­ing was, “Why would I, a di­a­betic, or­der white, rather than whole wheat, toast?” I don’t know if all the re­search is in yet, but I’ve been led to be­lieve that whole wheat bread is health­ier than white bread for a di­a­betic.

Whirling around, she hissed, “Now lis­ten here,” as she jabbed her fin­ger at the “W” in­scribed on the cheque, “you or­dered white toast!”

I ven­tured forth with a ques­tion, “What hap­pened to the cus­tomer be­ing right?” My sis­ter-in-law spoke up: “he did or­der whole wheat toast, be­cause I heard him.”

By now, the waitress had be­gun her fi­nal re­treat, growl­ing a surly, “Yeah.” I was taken aback by her rude­ness.

Was this in­ci­dent sim­ply a mat­ter of white ver­sus whole wheat toast? Far from it. The bread was merely a symp­tom of a deeper prob­lem.

I usu­ally leave wait­ers and wait­resses a size­able tip in ap­pre­ci­a­tion for ser­vices ren­dered. In this case, I had a tip for her, but it wasn’t a mone­tary one. In­stead, it ar­gues: restau­ran­teurs have cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions of their cus­tomers. How­ever, the re­verse is also true: cus­tomers also have cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions of restau­ran­teurs. The one non-ne­go­tiable ex­pec­ta­tion on my part is re­spect, which should be a given.

I left the ta­ble, with­out eat­ing my toast, and paid for the meal. To add in­sult to in­jury, the woman who ac­cepted my pay­ment never even said, “You’re wel­come” af­ter I thanked her.

While writ­ing this col­umn, I read the fol­low­ing on the BCC food blog: “any great restau­rant is about more than the food — it has to have great front-of-house too. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, a cus­tomer is more for­giv­ing to­wards medi­ocre food than they are to slack ser­vice … Good man­ners are be­com­ing a thing of the past … If you don’t have sim­ple courtesy, it’s dif­fi­cult to pro­vide any level of ser­vice at all …

“It takes a very spe­cial kind of per­son to work in front-of-house. A good waiter has to be so many things all at once: ef­fi­cient and speedy, but also pre­cise; at­ten­tive, but not over­bear­ing; pre­sentable, with ex­cel­lent per­sonal hy­giene and pos­ture; and, of great­est im­por­tance, you have to be able to com­mu­ni­cate well. Be­ing able to lis­ten prop­erly is a key com­mu­ni­ca­tion skill. There’s noth­ing more frus­trat­ing for a diner than hav­ing to re­peat their re­quests …

“And it’s not good enough for a waiter sim­ply to take an or­der and bring the food to the ta­ble. They should be knowl­edge­able about what they’re serv­ing, know their menu in­side out, and work as a team player with the kitchen. They need to be able to sell — with con­fi­dence — the full din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence the restau­rant has to of­fer.”

Per­haps our waitress was sim­ply hav­ing a “bad day.” Granted. But that’s no rea­son to in­sult a cus­tomer.

Do I feel the eat­ing es­tab­lish­ment owes me an apol­ogy? Def­i­nitely. Do I think I will re­ceive one? I doubt it. But I could be pleas­antly sur­prised. I prom­ise to keep my read­ers in­formed of de­vel­op­ments on this front.

In­ci­den­tally, af­ter I left the es­tab­lish­ment, two other cus­tomers, sit­ting ad­ja­cent to us and ob­vi­ously wit­ness­ing the event, said to my wife and sis­ter-in-law, “We won’t be com­ing back here again ei­ther.”

Sadly, the waitress did not “sell — with con­fi­dence — the full din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence” the road­house bar and grill had to of­fer.

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