The last few weeks, I cannot help feeling that there has been a major shift in the restaurant community, particularly in the service department. As a rule, I tend to keep my service expectations in check so as to not be let down when I got mediocre or workman-like service. I have been very pleasantly surprised with the level of service in every restaurant in which I have dined.
A couple of examples: Saturday I lunched at Little Szechuan in St. Paul, always a favorite for the food and generally just OK for service, but not on that day. The place was pretty busy, yet my water glass was never less than half full, the food was hot, and the special orders were taken with aplomb and a smile and then delivered correctly. Our server checked on us every seven or eight minutes, great service in any restaurant.
Thursday night, I took six co-workers to Barrio, which was packed to the gills. So, benignly, I expected slow and harried service. One of my friends even commented that we should not expect great service . . . wrong! We were greeted immediately, and drinks were ordered and delivered a within a few minutes from a smiling server who was working what seemed to be a large section of tables. Our food was delivered quickly, correctly, and was delicious. We were never rushed, even when we lingered a little longer than we should have. These are just two of about six good dining experiences.
So, what gives? Are restaurant managers and owners tightening the belt when it comes to training? Are weaker servers being set aside for stronger ones? Are waitrons realizing that in this market climate (and in any market), repeat customers are the way to make extra cash? Are they now aware that giving gracious, professional service can be lucrative for them personally (extra tippage) but especially for their employers, which keeps them busier? Is the job climate for servers more cutthroat than ever, considering the loss of some really good restaurants with well-trained servers (JP’s for one)? Is better customer service a silver lining of the recession? Whatever the reason, I am hopeful that this trend (if it is one) continues, and no matter what level of dining I choose, I hope to get good to great service.