Friday, September 17, 2010

Restaurant Smallbany

How many of these folks have served you a meal?
I think we can all agree that Albany has way more dining choices these days than were available in years  past.  In addition to the myriad of ethnic options previously absent from the Capital Region, there are numerous creative American cuisine restaurants, which together provide lots of options for diners, depending upon their mood and/or budget.  What hasn't changed very much is the pool of customers to whom we hospitality professionals cater.  In my 20+ years  in Albany, I've worked in only 4 restaurants - and as the years go by, it is pretty amazing to consider that there are some guests I've been taking care of for more than two decades. 

Recently I stopped into a wonderful restaurant in the DelSo for a glass of wine.  As I entered, I noticed a very well known Albany author and his wife being seated for a late meal.  The manager of this place is not originally from the area, and one of the bartenders was giving her the heads-up on who this couple was, and their quasi-celebrity status.  Knowing both the employees, as well as being familiar with the diners, I was able to interject into their conversation that this particular couple was adamant that every item they were served must be positively piping hot.  They thanked me for the tip and I am confident they were able to deliver precisely what Mr. and Mrs. Albany wanted - unlike the last time I offered this grain of wisdom in another restaurant (apparently I travel in the same dining circle as famous folks!), and things went swimmingly until the cappuccino was found to be tepid.  Oh - so close... 

This recent situation got me thinking about the relationships built and shared in the restaurant business.  I considered the relationships between guests and servers, as well as the connections between servers and servers, both within a particular restaurant and between restaurant "families,"  and wondered what it all might look like from the outside looking in.  But, before I ask you to share your perspective as a diner or a guest, let me tell you a little bit about what servers in town know and share.  And I'm not even referring to these folks at all. 
  • We share information about what makes you happy - bottled water, a drink made in a particular fashion, food prepared with or without an ingredient, a specific table you prefer.  This is valuable insider information and the fewer times you have to request something, the more satisfied we'll all be. 
  • Sometimes we text server friends, who are not present during service, for a reminder on what your name (or your spouse's) is.  We know exactly who you are, but we honestly just can't always remember your name.
  • We give greetings from (absent) servers to guests because we genuinely like you.  We also relay pertinent information about what's going on in your life to one another, both positive and tragic.  You're a person to us, not just a tip.
  • We try to know what you, our guests, do for a living and when it is possible we use your services or refer others to you.  At my house, our insurance, appliances and jewelry all come from folks we know from restaurants.
If you're a server, what do you know and share about your guests?  And, if you frequent a particular restaurant regularly, what do you expect from the person who serves you and do you feel a sense of shared relationship? 

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