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A Call To Food Service!

August 17, 2009

Pancakes

There’s a serious problem in this country — one with a solution that parallels Obama’s call to public service. Nagging restaurant patrons have taken “The customer is always right” mentality too far. To decrease customer hostility and improve the quality of people being served, I propose a call to food service.

All Americans will engage in a mandatory, six-month program that qualifies them to dine in restaurants* across the country for the rest of their lives, or at least for the remainder of their time as U.S. citizens. The American Food Service Program (AFSP) will be spearheaded by Whitehouse Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, and requires citizens to undergo one month of intensive schooling that covers appropriate food service behavior for both patrons and employees. Coursework includes, but is not limited to:

  • The 20 percent tipping scale
  • How NOT to get your server’s attention
  • Why it’s inappropriate to tell your server you like the way she “works that pepper mill”
  • Why you can’t bring Buffet or Happy Hour food home with you
  • How testing your server on every menu item may result in them serving you “sneezers”
  • Why you shouldn’t be the third person to yell at the 16-year-old hostess when reservations are backed up

After one month of food service education, people will be randomly placed in restaurant positions across the country, according to how well they complete their first month of coursework. Positions include back-of-house staff (dishwasher, line cook, pantry cook, prep cook), or front -of-house staff (host/hostess, busser, food-runner, expediter, server (a.k.a. waiter/waitress), bartender, assistant manager).

With a family history (myself included) in the food service industry, I don’t just appreciate the food I eat in the restaurants I frequent — I value the hours of preparation endured by the back-of-house staff before the operation opens; I empathize with front-of-house staff bringing patrons’ meals with smiles on their faces, despite aching feet, blistered hands, and perhaps personal tragedy that took place earlier in the day; and I feel for the server being verbally assaulted by the desperate housewife over the gimlet she claims doesn’t have enough gin (by the way, send it back and you’re likely to get the same exact glass without noticing).

The ignorance of diners must come to a halt. There’s no need to go out of your way and put down a hardworking laborer so you can get your sockeye salmon on the house; and don’t even think about leaving less of a tip because you didn’t get your bread right away. Wait staff rely on their tips for about 75 percent of their income, and some restaurants have changed policies on extras like bread because it’s too costly to provide, unless upon request.

If a server provides a sub-par experience to the point where you may not return to that restaurant again — tell management, by all means. I do recommend doing so the following day because chances are you’re dining during peak hours of operation, but do not let bad service go unnoticed.

The time has come to replace out-of-touch diners with those who are informed. Sign up today and join the AFSP to correct poor choices made by ignorant customers.

*”Restaurants” include sit-down/take-out/delivery establishments; movie theater concession stands; food carts; catered events; fast-food joints; and fine dining operations.
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