01
Mar
07

Service? What service?

For years experts have been talking about the service economy replacing the economy in which we used to make things. As in: It’s inevitable, it’s coming, it’s here …

Which is fine, except in the restaurant business where, too often, service sucks. Seriously. And not just in one direction, but all over the place.

Often it’s because of super-casual waitstaff with no idea how anything is prepared in the kitchen, but happy to chirp, “Hi! I’m Chastity, and I’ll be your server tonight!”

As a customer, knowing my waitron’s name doesn’t help me. I would never call out across a crowded dining room, “Hey Chastity … how about a refill?” or “Chastity, we need more taco sauce!” Not happening.

If Chastity happens to wander by the table, I would probably signal and when she comes over, ask in a quiet voice for whatever. I just can’t envision a scene in which I would use her name, except for the part where Chastity disappears for 30 minutes and I flag down another server who asks, “Who was your waitress?”

Friendly waitperson, absent thee from felicity awhile. Give me a polite, chilly and knowledgeable French waiter any day.

On the other side of the coin is Cedars.

We met friends there for dinner Tuesday night. Walked inside and stood there beside a table for 10 minutes waiting for someone to tell us it was okay to sit down. Waited for our friends for probably another 10, staring at empty water glasses. No one came by to fill them.

Our people came and the waitress walked past our table about 12 times looking after other tables. On one pass, I raised my hand in a wave. She rounded on me, muttering, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

We ordered two appetizers for four people. They came without any small plates to dish onto, so it was messy. We asked for some plates as the waitress walked by and before we could ask for some napkins too, she was gone. When she came back with appetizer plates, we asked for napkins. Yeah, we were being pests.

The main plats were good, if skimpy for an ethnic entree priced in the high teens. Coffee was great. Too bad about the service.

Maybe this was an anomaly?

Well, as it happened, food writer Sue Gleiter went there the next day for lunch. Her report: No napkins.

Mike Rhayem is a good host, and I was a big fan of Cedars when it was on Reily Street in Harrisburg. I hope it succeeds in Camp Hill.

Without competent waitstaff there’s no way.

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paddydear@epix.net or pcarroll@patriot-news.com

Bonjour!

In culinary school and getting ready to trade the writing life for the cooking life. Or not. Might do both. At the moment I'm a feature writer for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. My name is Pat Carroll.

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