Monday, April 27, 2009

Cardinal Sins of Restaurant Service

By Pat Tanner

If you patronize fine-dining restaurants you will find one section of Eric Ripert’s latest book, On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin (Artisan 2008) of particular interest: the list of 129 “cardinal sins” of restaurant service.

I found myself shouting “Yes!” as I read this quote from maitre d’ Ben Chekroun about ideal service: “I like it to be a very professional experience, but a little bit on the friendly side. Friendly-elegant. Not too much fanfare or ceremony. I want the staff – captains and front waiters especially – to learn how to read the guests, if they want to chitchat a little bit or be left alone. Guests should have amazing service, without noticing the waiters as they serve and clear. And ideally guests get the feeling that the staff is there to please you and are friendly from the heart, not because that’s what they have to do.”

Chekroun hands new hires the list of “sins.” I can assure you that I have encountered all 129 of them and I bet you have, too. Among those that warrant multiple exclamation points:
- Not acknowledging guests with eye contact and a smile within 30 seconds
- Not thanking guests as they leave
- Needing to be the center of attention. (Give the ego a break)
- Socializing with certain guests while ignoring others
- Not providing a place for meal debris [e.g., shells]
- Walking past items dropped on the floor
- Coffee in the saucer.

Other sins are more exacting, such as placing a cocktail napkin askew or upside down. It’s no wonder Le Bernardin is one of only three New York restaurants to receive three stars - the highest rating - in the 2009 Michelin Guide to New York. (The others are Jean Georges and Per Se).

1 comment:

Linda - SE PA said...

One of the worst experiences I had was in seating. This was not fine dining but a local restaurant that had several rooms and had a fair sized lunch crowd. 3 rooms indoor and an outdoor patio.

I ate solo during this time period and had lunch a few times at this restaurant. Usually I arrived before the lunch rush and would be leaving just as it would be arriving. So, you can only imagine my surprise when I was seated in the smallest of the rooms by myself. There were others (small crowd) but no reason at all for my having to eat in a room by myself. No, I didn't speak up until I paid the check and no I didn't leave the waitress a tip. And yes, I did have the requisite book with me which I rarely ever read while eating. I prefer eating and daydreaming or just watching the people and food flow by.