What do servers at fine dining restaurants know that we don’t? Plenty. It’s their job to ensure we have the best possible experience when we dine out. But servers are only part of the equation. Receiving flawless service also depends on the guest. We turned the tables to hear from some top servers to learn how to the get most out of every meal. Read on for server secrets.
When it comes to fine dining, your server is a pro. You might be surprised to know how much training goes into the job. Mickey Bakst is the general manager at Charleston Grill in Charleston, South Carolina. He says no one who works at Charleston Grill has waited tables for less than five years, and all worked their way up. His servers put in years of training and they get together weekly to discuss wines. Even on their nights off, they go out to eat and drink, in order to keep an eye on what’s going on at other establishments.
Communication is key, but there’s a right way and a wrong way. Should a guest ask “what’s good” on the menu? According to Keegan Cin a server at Mélisse in Santa Monica, California, probably not. He says it’s a hard question to answer since it all depends on taste and preference. And more importantly, especially at a fine dining restaurant, all the dishes on the menu should be good.
Sam Hylton a server at Michael Mina in San Francisco, California, believes it’s better to ask which dishes would work well together or which ones are richer versus lighter. Also, ask what’s new and what might be seasonal versus available on the menu more consistently.
Michael O’Heir, the captain at The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia, prizes communication and encourages diners to ask questions. Inquire as to what’s popular; servers are more than happy to answer that. Keep in mind that a lot of restaurants go to great lengths to use special ingredients, and the server knows a lot about what’s on the menu so you should always ask about an unfamiliar ingredient. And, if you’re not completely happy with your options or selection? O’Heir says, “We’re always happy to make adjustments. We’ll bend over backward. It’s better to communicate sooner rather than later.”
Some communication is non-verbal. The best way to let your server know you’re ready to order? According to Hylton, “Closed menus will get my attention quickly. There’s really no better way to communicate to your server that you’re ready.” Michael Procopio a server at Kokkari Estiatorio in San Francisco states, “If you keep your nose buried in the menu, I will assume you haven’t yet decided.” More non-verbal communication? Notes Procopio, “Don’t even try to snap your fingers at me— you won’t like what happens to you as a result.”Continue Reading