Saturday, April 10, 2010
Does Your Restaurant Server Know Their Wine?
When you dine out, does your server help with the wine selection? Do you feel comfortable, rather secure, in soliciting answers about the wine list? Do you bother to ask about food pairing opportunities? Do you feel that you know more about wine 90% of the time than your server knows?
I am finding it more and more difficult to ask a waiter anything about their wine list. It is not their ability, most servers care to give good service to their customers as this determines their gratuity. Its not the available wines, or the food suggestions or really anything other than necessary information and an active daily use of the product. I find most waiters don't drink wine regularly enough to have an educated opinion.
Once upon a time, waiting tables was considered a fine profession. Dinning room management was as well, however the last bastion of professional status in most houses is left to the kitchen and the chefs that work in them. The floor has become a stepping stone to other life paths and the level of involvement in product and service knowledge is fleeting. Ask you server what their job aspirations are and very rarely if ever will you get a response along the lines of Professional Restaurateur. The same question might also be asked of the floor supervisor or "Maitre'd" or Manager. Today's service professional by and large are moving to other industries as soon as opportunity knocks and it shows in the level of involvement in their current line of work.
It use to be as well that servers and managers alike were tested weekly on product knowledge in all areas of the menu; food, wine, beverage; this no longer happens due to the rapid pace of employee turnover and available time to schedule training. Lets face it, if the job is a stepping stone, most servers have other priorities than to arrive 1-2 hours early for educational training. The cost that a company cares to invest in this training is out-weighed by profits and reduced labor costs, so training is done on the fly. The result is a need for the customer to know their food and wine subject matter and rely on the server for timely delivery of the order and that costs 15% - 20% of the bill in the form of a tip.
It seems to me that in this economy, and with the cost of the babysitter, the gas, the food & drink, I should get something more out of my experience. Is it too much to expect that my server be educated enough to offer opinions about the wine list? It seems to me that the restaurant industry needs to take a long hard look at how a better educated staff would encourage higher sales and customer frequency. Just sayin', Cheers.
Posted by George Parkinson at 11:43 AM