Feeling like an undercover boss on a mission to unravel the smart and sometimes even dirty facts of casual dining places, I set out on a two and a half month journey of hard (?) work in one restaurant I made mention here. I have been a diner for the past 21 years of my life. Well, maybe minus the glorious toddler period of not eating out i.e. about 5 years. This time, I took a 180-degree turn of becoming the server instead; and I was daring enough to “boast” about it only after resigning from the wonderful job, of course.
There are several things diners will not bother to notice but it means a whole lot to us as servers. I have summarized them in three points which (hopefully) will blow your mind. Please take note that this observation does not represent all casual dining places in Singapore, moreover the world, and only tells about the experiences of diners in general.
1. When we greet you with a smiling face, we do mean it sometimes.
How you might feel: Upon entrance to a dining restaurant, even the casual one, it is not uncommon to hear “Hi, welcome” greeting from the servers. The faces of the greeters seem like they are trouble-free and have just won a million dollar lottery. You feel welcome and have a preconditioned mind that the service and foods are going to be good and hence the high expectation which might or might not result in disappointment after filling your stomach. However, some of you may feel that it is just a “tradition” and therefore the greetings and smiles we sincerely display are taken for granted.
How we feel: It makes our day when the customers smile back at us when we greet them. It also motivates us to serve you in the best way that we can just because you seem friendly. The next customer after you will also get the positive impact producing a chain reaction given that there is no “spoilers” who ignore, frown, or even scold before we serve them. Having pointed out that, we are after all trained to smile and thus if the positive chain reaction is broken, we will still be gracious to you but most probably not from the heart.
2. Most of the times you eat meals with a hint of unwanted “spices”.
How you might feel: Selecting the best place for lunch or dinner time may mean a great deal to most of the customers since it is one of the times in the day you are excused to release the stress from work, study etc. Besides considering the foods, ambiance and price, it is not surprising that hygiene is one of the most important factors. After all, who would want to pay for a meal to just pass by your gastrointestinal system without first being digested, right? As the outward appearance is the main thing a diner can judge the cleanliness of a restaurant from, the clean dining place wins your heart.
How we feel: Well, we want to be clean of course but the situation does not allow us. Ideally, every time after we handle money in the cashier or clear the table full of leftovers, we ought to wash our hands clean with soaps. It is nevertheless impossible in practice especially during busy hours where we are required to multitask. So, would you try to imagine what goes into your mouth together with each seemingly delicious spoonful of your meal? This is indeed dirty, literally.
3. We do not always remember your orders.
How you might feel:It might be in the expectation lists of diners that the servers must have an ultra high memory capability. Therefore, it is often the case that customers in a group of four of five list out their orders all at once, assuming that the servers are programmed like robots and ignoring the possibility that the ones taking orders may have a blackout. After all, service crews are meant to be used to that, aren’t they?
How we feel: It is not wrong to say that we are supposed to remember customers’ orders or at least pretend that we do. However, we are also humans and there are some points in time that we may have a memory blackout which is perhaps due to data overload or physical exhaustion or mental breakdown. Being trained to think and do like a machine, we try our best to remember, or at times guess, your orders and repeat them back to you. So, anything else, Sir, Ma’am?
These are some valuable lessons that I learned after working as a service crew in an Asian soup dining place for ten weeks meeting different types of customers of various ages, races and nationalities. It was truly an adventure as if I role-played in the computer game “Diner Dash”! It was a great pleasure to know that the queuing and dining customers’ hearts were maintained at maximum level a.k.a. full satisfaction with the food and service provided. As a customer myself, I really appreciate the efforts made by some servers, in some restaurants that I frequent, to present the best dining experience possible.
Sometimes, sincerity does not lie.