Sunday, January 6, 2008

I'll Take Good Service Where I Can Get It

I've talked before about service in restaurants. I have come to consider good service as my own personal bellwether of a good restaurant experience. Obviously, good food SHOULD be a given. It IS supposedly being prepared by PROFESSIONALS, after all. So why should we expect less in the dining room where PROFESSIONALS should work too?

With all that in mind, you simply are not going to believe where I’m about to tell you is the place where we had the best service in months. In fact, I don’t really believe it myself. It was none other than here!

Months ago, I had had an indifferent lunch there (particularly in the service department) and another time not great take-out, but this was the first time H and I had gone for dinner.

We got there a little before 10 pm and they were packed. Luckily, there were seats at the bar, so I could start knocking back a few before we were seated. (Just kidding, I have about a 7 ½ oz. capacity). The strict instructions I gave for my Cosmo were followed perfectly...just kidding about that too. You could give me a mix from Wal-Mart and I’d be happy. Okay, that’s not true. I do prefer mine with Absolut Citron, which my trendy daughter tells me is NOT the vodka of choice in this decade, but I don’t care, I like it.

Anyway, our buzzer went off and we were seated when we told we were going to be. Our server, Alaina, was quickly at our side with a spiel about the condiments. Frankly, I don’t really care that it was a canned speech. She was THERE, and even asked if there were any food allergies or preferences that they should be aware of. (I didn’t go into my food peccadilloes. We had only JUST been introduced.) Shortly after, the starters were brought - spring rolls (which were a bit greasy but very flavorful and HOT, in temperature) - Alaina came back to check on us.

After the entrees were served, she inquired if we needed new drinks…I didn’t NEED one, and I wouldn’t have ordered one if she hadn’t asked, but since she did…

I don't know what it was. She came around when she was supposed to. There was absolutely no extraneous conversation (except by me, at the end) and she knew what she was doing. AND she didn't disappear for 20 minutes during the meal.

At the end of the night, I told her the service had been wonderful and I asked her about her training. The fact that there actually WAS training was a good thing. She told us that they have to train for 2 weeks, before actually waiting on a table. They have to taste every dish and, obviously, they are given a script, but it all worked perfectly.

I was amazed at how the service at this chain restaurant could surpass our appalling experience at Senderens in Paris, or even dinner at a fancy (and expensive) local restaurant when the server NEVER came back to us when one dish was totally unsatisfactory. Anyway, kudos to Alaina, and to all who trained her. She and they did a really good job.

PS The food wasn’t bad either. Good spring rolls; Chicken with Potatoes (odd combo, didn’t really need the potatoes); Ma Po Tofu was super and it was served with brown rice, as requested.


Emiline said...

I've never been there before...but I've heard of it.

I hope I could live up to your serving expectations. I like to think that I'm decent.
I've noticed how many of our servers sit down at the tables with the customers, ever since you mentioned that. The guys like to sit with the laaadies, and make conversation.

Garry said...

Wow, what timing. Over the weekend a friend and I dined at one in Indy. (we both live in the Atlanta area and there are very few a long way off...)We had the spring rolls and veggie dumplings and I had the Ma Fu Tofu with brown rice as well, and it was terrific. I've been in Indy. three times in the last year and always try to eat at PFs (hotel is right across the street) however sometimes you cannot get in, so they must be doing something right. I notice things like just how well the veggies are steamed, how the sauce is not over bearing and the portions are substantial, and I LOVE the fact that they offer brown rice! I'm currently lobbying for Decatur Ga. to bring one in as a Micks' place just closed its doors downtown.
Oh, and as far as the bar is concerned, they offer several good beers on tap, but I prefer a certain rare light beer (Mick. Ultra) which they carry, so I was very very happy with my dining experience. I'm glad to hear about yours as well.

Tracy said...

I know some people hate PF Chang's. I've been there twice and I thought the food was reasonably good. My son loves it.

I went to dinner last night and had a waitress who was efficient but very brusque. I know we were a table of two ladies who only ordered salads and glasses of water but sheesh, she only had about 2 tables to wait on and that's all we wanted. I usually leave a 20% tip but couldn't bring myself to do so for a gal who couldn't even crack a smile.

Sue said...

I think you would like it.

I wish I could come to your restaurant and secretly observe you. I need to have a snappy line ready if a server ever sits down at my table again. Any ideas? How about "Oh, should I scoot over?" or "I didn't know to make the reservation for one more." or for a guy "Get the heck up and be my waiter, not my date"....(depending on his attractiveness of course.)

That's funny, Garry, that we had the same things. I was so pleasantly surprised, which is much better than being unhappily appalled at the service in a lot of places.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

You know good service is a premium these days. I used to not be picky about this, but now I am starting to be - we go out for a reason, right> SERVICE. Since we are all such great cooks, we could just eat at home! :)

Heather said...

I think a good line might be "Oh, will you be dining with us this evening?"

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I've never been to P.F. Chang's. The closest one isn't really convenient to me, but your observations interest me. I always thought for most chains servers went through the same training so that service was consistent. For example, some of hte best service I've ever had was at the Outback Steakhouse in a couple of locations. Service was consistently awful though at Applebee's (then again, so is the food).

Emiline said...

You'll never find me.

Well, maybe. I left a hint in one of your comments, one time.
"It's all about the rolls!"

Cynthia said...

Sue, I've found that exceptional service and other good things come often from the unexpected.

There are a few stores here in Barbados that are located on the Swan street, the street off Broad street (where Little Switzerland and all the fancy shops are) and some of the best customer service one can get is at the little unassuming, not-necessarily air-conditioned stores on Swan Street.

Sue said...

Hi Tracy,

It was weird that it was good. I really do have to go back and see if it was an aberration.
My husband always accuses me of being overly-sensitive to bad service when I'm with only gals. But I do think sometimes it's true that men-only get better service.

Hi Jenn,
You are SO right. I say that all the time. That's one reason I hate buffets. I could stand in line in my own kitchen and get the food. And it would be a lot hotter.

Perfect! I'm using that if I'm EVER in that situation.

Hi Rach,
Outback was the one restaurant where the waiter joined us at our table. The kids were amazed.

I would just be happy if the service was consistent at the SAME restaurant, not even the same chain!


And because of that, you're probably more likely to go back to THOSE stores. You would think it would be kind of obvious in retail. Help people and they'll buy more.