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Caring for the needs of the dining public is a pain in the ass. I know. I tried my hand at waiting tables in late 2007 at PS 7’s. I’m sympathetic to Wait Staff Nation—-the long hours they spend on their feet, the copious amounts of information they have to synthesize and deliver quickly to diners, and the endless shit they get from the kitchen and customers alike.

But sometimes the front of the house staff is just clueless. I mean, utterly, painfully clueless, and their cluelessness can hurt a diner’s experience. Let me give you two examples from the weekend:

  • Our waiter at Dr. Granville Moore’s started off great. He was funny. He knew his Belgian beers. He didn’t press us. But as his section began to fill, and his nerves began to fray, his charm wore thin, which was fine. We don’t need to be charmed. What we don’t need, however, are insults. My two oldest friends were visiting D.C. this weekend. One of them decided as a New Year’s resolution to forsake drinking. At one point in the dinner, my friend stopped the waiter and said, “This may be a stupid question, but do you have any non-alcoholic beers?” The waiter’s response? “No, we don’t,” he said, then paused, as if for emphasis, “and yes, it was.” Y&H tip: When a customer is showing obvious deference to your precious Belgian beer concept by beginning an inquiry with, “This may be a stupid question,” you don’t insult them in return, even if you think you’re making a joke. Overworked waiters, their stress showing with every tense and terse sentence, should not try to crack jokes or tease diners whom they just met 30 minutes ago.
  • Before we dropped our friends at the airport on Sunday, we stopped by Leopold’s Kafe & Konditorei in Georgetown for brunch. We called five minutes before we arrived to see if they had a table. They said they did, and Carrie and I dropped off our friends at the entrance to Cady’s Alley so that we could search for parking. Our friends met up with a hostess who told them that, in no certain terms, a table wouldn’t be ready for 20 minutes and that they didn’t know about the call we had made just five minutes earlier. Fortunately a table mysteriously appeared, but the hostess staff’s rudeness continued. Behind our table, four elderly diners were crammed into a table at the end of the banquette. Next to the quartet was a two-top bar table. There literally was no way to access the chair on the farthest side of the two-top without forcing the elderly group to stand up and move their table six inches to the left. Which they couldn’t do even if they wanted; there was no room to move their table six inches to the left. So what did the hostess do after escorting the young women to their inaccessible two-top? Nothing. She walked away, only to briefly turn around and point at the perplexed patrons and, essentially, tell them to go ahead and squeeze into the table. One of the women was forced to walk under the table to reach her chair. Y&H tip: A hostess’ job is not to be a princess who merely greets customers upon entry. You’re the first impression every diner will have of the restaurant, which means that you must be more than a pretty face. You must use your brain, too. Don’t force customers to work out their own problems.  Fix them yourself. Or notice the problems before they become problems.

Image by Flickr user b r e n t