| Columns |

10 Ways Miami Restaurateurs Can Improve Service

1. Hire better hosts and hostesses, meaning those who can do more than smile and offer rote salutations. When gauging hospitality skills, Danny Meyer of New York's Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern looks for five traits in his employees: "1)extremely nice; 2)intelligent; 3)infused with an extraordinary work ethic; 4)empathetic; 5)emotionally self-aware". Most Miami front-of-house staffs have gotten number one down pat; time to work on two through five.

2. Tell your waiters that when taking orders it is not imperative that they congratulate each diner for their brilliant selections; it comes across as insincere. And it's even worse to congratulate just one person sincerely, as it makes it seem as though everyone else at the table ordered crap.

3. Have waiters refrain from repeatedly asking how things are, if everything is okay, and so forth -- and especially from interrupting conversation to do so. A simple "Let me know if I can get you anything" uttered at the beginning of the meal will suffice.

4. It is likewise unnecessary to query whether we'd like more water; if

the glass is empty, just fill it. On the other hand, please do not have

workers replenish water glasses each time a sip is taken.

5. Waiters

should not remove one diner's plate while others are still eating, and

at no time should they scrape leftovers from one plate onto another and

stack them while at the table.

6. Assign someone to inspect flatware more closely for smudges and stains, and to check wine glasses for soapy odors.

7. If at all possible, keep service stations away from tables -- it's nerve-wracking to be seated next to one.

8. When

things go wrong, make them right. Was the wait for a table unduly long?

Was a dinner order fluffed by the waiter or kitchen? Was a diners'

entree returned for being improperly cooked, and did that result in the

person having to dine after everyone else was near finished? Make a

generous gesture to the offended group so they leave the premises

delighted rather than disgruntled.

9. Do not abandon diners after

dessert is served. Have waiters remove empty dessert plates in timely

fashion and to ask their guests if they would like the check. If the

response is affirmative, it should be brought promptly and the waiter

should stay relatively close by to pick up the payment when ready.

10. Hire

better dining room managers, meaning those who can do more than make

token stops at each table to ask if everything is all right and then

quickly move on (such managers remind me of a politician in a coffee

shop during primary season). Performing the job with aplomb entails

keeping a keen, roving eye on the room, being aware of the progress of

each table, and orchestrating solutions to problems as they arise --

such as getting a check to a table of impatient diners whose waiter is

bogged down.

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