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Why I love Good Service…

November 20th, 2009

On the news today, they reported that a couple was arrested for not leaving a tip.

http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/…

The Reader’s Digest version is that a couple went to a pub with six of their friends, and had to wait at their table for over an hour for their food. They had to go to the bar to get their own refills, and even had to get their own utensils and napkins.

Needless to say, they didn’t feel that a tip was warranted. They paid their bill, minus a tip, and left.

Now like a lot of restaurants, the Lehigh Pub has something on its menu that says, “18% gratuity for parties of six or more”. When the couple didn’t pay the tip, the pub called the police. Since the tip was printed on the receipt, the police proceeded to arrest the couple for theft.

This is an example of both bad service, and a business that doesn’t understand the meaning of bad publicity. Needless to say, prosecuting your customers over a $16 tip is going to cost you a lot more than $16. Especially when the pub freely admits that their service was running slow that night.

Oddly enough, this episode made me reflect on how much I appreciate good service.

On one of my first business trips, my friends and I went to an amazing restaurant in San Francisco called Etrusca.

This was the best meal that I had ever experienced at that point in my life. The food was amazing!!! The main course was a complete fish, buried under a pile of salt. Like a plaster mold of a person’s face, the waiter pried open the resulting shell with two tablespoons, then deboned it the same way.

Not only was it both moist and flavorful, the fish also had no salt flavor at all!

The waiter was not only skilled at impressive presentation, but was everything you’d expect from a professional. He knew which wines paired with what foods. Knew what dishes were extraordinary and which were off that night.

And his recommendation of the “Italian Ding Dong” for dessert was downright inspired!

I was twenty-two at the time, and it has forever made me appreciate good service.

If you really want to experience superior service, it’s been my experience that the best place to go is someplace that hires professional wait staff. Usually a high-end steakhouse, or a world-class restaurant will do the trick.

It seems appropriate that a special occasion kind of meal comes with a special level of service.

The best thing about professional waitstaff is that they really are professionals. They know the food, the temperament of the chef, what other people have enjoyed, what dishes take the longest to prepare. And when they do their job right, they make it seem effortless.

Not that professionals have an exclusive on providing excellent service. I’ve been treated well by many waitresses working their way through college.

As luck would have it, I’ve developed a perfect yardstick for showing good service. I call it, “The Iced Tea Test”.

You see, I drink an extraordinary amount of liquids every day. Definitely measured in gallons. As such, my drink of choice is Iced Tea. No matter where you go, Iced Tea is one of those drinks that restaurants are happy to pour infinitely.

So here is how you perform the iced tea test.

  1. Go to your favorite restaurant
  2. Order an iced tea
  3. Drink it immediately.
  4. See how long it takes for the waiter to refill it.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4

How many times did they refill your glass over the course of the meal? How empty did your glass become before the waiter refilled.

It’s been my experience that someone providing excellent service will not only exceed my ability to drink more, but seldom lets my glass drop below half-full.

By this definition, I’ve had great service in places as wide ranging as pie shops to Gary Danko’s. And each time I was delighted to tip accordingly.

Good service makes any meal more enjoyable, as does good company. Good service should be rewarded and appreciated.

Next time you get good service, don’t just tip well. Tell them that you appreciate their work. Tell their boss how good the service was.

Hopefully the Lehigh Pub will come to realize that an 18% gratuity is earned, not something you need the police to enforce.

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