05 | The other day I sat down at a restaurant. The waiter was kind, personable and ready to serve. He turned out to be one of the best waiters I’ve ever had. He welcomed us politely and expressed his pleasure at being our waiter this evening as he handed out menus, clearly explained the chef’s specials, took our drink order then quickly returned with water and frosty carbonated beverages. After that, I never thought about my drink again because my glass was never empty. This waiter found a way to refill it before it was gone and without interrupting the conversation at the table.
As the last menu at the table closed the waiter silently appeared at the table with pleased expectation. Again without interruption and during a natural pause in the conversation the waiter asserted himself, “What would we like to have this evening?”
Orders were received, menu items explained, prices confirmed, and substitutions made. He wrote down our order but somehow found a way to maintain eye contact with whomever was speaking, his attention fully engaged with this customer in this moment rather than the pen and pad in his hand or the other tables I’m certain he was serving just as well.
Appetizers and salads arrived first, again without interruption. It was less like an arrival and more like an appearance. Before, there was no food. Now food sets before us. And when these were finished the empty plates almost magically disappeared.
Entrees arrived next. The time between the end of my salad and the beginning of my entree was so brief I barely noticed I had changed forks. The food was perfectly prepared and expertly delivered. Specialty items were offered around the table, cracked pepper, additional cheese, unusual condiments and with that the waiter once again disappeared.
As each member of my party finished their last bite, their meal clearly complete, the plate would vanish. There’s a natural rhythm to a gathering like this. Just after the entree is finished there’s a brief pause, a silence of satisfaction that comes from a great conversation over a great meal. Just before that moment ends our waiter arrives again, “May I interest you in some coffee or dessert?”
“No, thank you,” we said.
He politely handed us the check and said, “Please stay as long as you like, it’s an honor to have you. I’ll take care of that (referring to the bill) whenever you’re ready.” And then he left, I would assume to wait on other customers, but he sure had this way of making our table feel like we were the only patrons in the restaurant.
We sat their awhile longer enjoying our company. Our drinks never empty, our conversation never interrupted. I verified the accuracy of the bill, pulled out my credit card and placed it in the sleeve on the table. It quickly disappeared only to return moments later, receipts ready to be signed.
Now a decision had to be made. What kind of tip would I give? In this instance the decision was easy. This young man had exemplified exceptional service. He provided what was needed quickly and efficiently without being hurried or distracted and without interruption. His timing was perfect, his demeanor kind. He was more than a waiter. He was an artist delivering a symphony of service, not simply serving a meal, but sculpting an unforgettable dinning experience. He recognized he wasn’t the star of the show or the center of conversation, yet his presence and performance were an undeniable and invaluable part of the story being told.
GREAT WAITERS | Recognize their value. Be kind to them while they serve. Thank them with your words and express your appreciation with a healthy tip for a job well done.