I enjoy watching people do their jobs, especially when they are good at what they do. I have been complaining about bad customer service for years and I pay plenty of attention to people who work in those fields, especially restaurants. I have been a bartender and a food server myself and I’ve been a DJ in many bars, so I know good waiting and bartending when I see it. In other words, I’m an annoying semi-expert on this topic.
Recently I had dinner and drinks with some co-workers at a restaurant/bar in Rockville (a DC suburb). Our waitress was especially good. She found us as soon as we seated ourselves at a table in the bar area; our original plan was to wait till our name was called for the regular dining area, but we decided to stick with the bar. Our waitress chatted with us, recommended menu items, took our drinks orders, did not rush us, took our meal orders, THEN told us her name. A very successful waiter I knew years ago told me that was one of his tip-enhancing techniques. He said customers are initially focused on the menu and don’t remember the waiter’s name if spoken then. But they are more likely to remember it and feel a connection if the name is mentioned after taking the order because that is when they are most focused on the waiter.
Ashley checked our table every time she walked by but did not bug us each time. She also made brief eye contact with each of us at various walk-bys, looking for indicators that we might want something. Through the evening, she smiled nearly every time she made eye contact with me, but it was clear she was not flirting (damn!). I saw genuine friendliness and attentiveness to her job, two things I always expect from a waitress and two things I often do not get.
She remembered things too. I passed on a third beer and offered the explanation that I had a long drive home. Thirty minutes later, when we finally closed out our tab, she said good night to each of us and reminded me to be careful on my long drive home. That was a little thing, but beyond the expected, especially considering how many tables she was handling.
And I will remember something too … next time I go to that restaurant I’ll ask if we can be seated at one of Ashley’s tables.