A restaurant server, above all, must be organized and able to deal well with other employees and also
interact with the customer, he or she must remain warm and friendly without stepping over unwritten
bounds and becoming too familiar. It is most important that a server know something about the restaurant business, and have an adequate knowledge of food and wine. Most importantly, the restaurant server must be patient and diplomatic at all cost.
I offer the following examples, both positive and negative, some are a bit extreme but they all happened:
A waitress in Australia left my table, in the middle of taking an order, when her boyfriend arrived and sat at a nearby table. Later in the evening, upset when a woman joined him at his table, she took her apron off and left the restaurant, leaving us stranded without service between courses! A manager eventually took over the duties in her station.
A Malaysian waiter in an Italian restaurant in Singapore, while daydreaming most probably about his girlfriend, poured red wine into my companion’s glass of white wine; he continued until she finally
screamed to shock him out of his stupor.
A brash Sicilian waiter in one of Hollywood’s many trendy Italian restaurants had the nerve to sit at our table to take the order.
Crouching on the floor and holding the edge of the table while taking an order is also bad form and
commonly practiced by actor/waiter types in laid-back Los Angeles.
A waitress at an up market Italian restaurant in a suburb of Los Angeles rattled off in a monotone
voice the pris fixe menu and hastily added, “No substitutions.” She followed with a machine-gun
recitation of the daily specials, in the same monotonous voice.
I even experienced a waiter who after the main course approached the table and asked the negative
question, “Are there any complaints?”
On the other side of the coin, a waiter who was willing to please put two tables together to give us more space; even after the maitre d’ hôtel insisted that we were only two and that one table was enough.
In Paris at brasserie La Coupole, when asked by the maitre d’hôte, “smoking or nonsmoking”
unfortunately, I chose the nonsmoking section. As almost everyone in France smokes, only the elderly,
feeble or sickly occupy the non-smoking section in deepest Siberia. It was literally a hospital by the
kitchen door. At one point during the dinner, I reached for the wine bottle that was cooling in an ice bucket on a stand toward the other side of the table. Balancing a huge tray filled with plates a waiter, not ours, on his way to the front of the dining room saw my attempt. He stopped in his tracks, and with his left hand took off the napkin covering the bottle, and poured it without spilling a drop while still balancing the heavy tray on his right palm. He replaced the bottle in the bucket and draped it with the napkin. As he left he gave me a knowing look and went on his way. What professionalism!