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A Celebrated Restaurateur Shares His 5 Service No-No’s

SmarterTravel

Danny Meyer is a restaurateur’s restaurateur. As the founder of both high-end eateries like Grammercy Tavern and the affordable Shake Shack chain of burger joints, he’s one of the country’s most successful and acclaimed food purveyors. So he knows a thing or two about service.

Meyer has also been on the leading edge of the burgeoning movement to end the entrenched practice of tipping restaurant workers, instead raising the wages of his restaurants’ waitstaff and back-of-house workers and increasing the prices of menu items accordingly.

It was in the context of a recent New York Times article on his no-tipping initiatives that Meyer, in an aside, mentioned his “Five Least-Favorite Service-isms”:

  1. How is everything?
  2. Are you still working on that?
  3. No problem.
  4. Are we enjoying…?
  5. I have a little gift from Chef.

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Far be it for me to quibble with someone with Meyer’s credentials, but quibble I will.

How is everything?

Of Meyer’s five no-no’s, this is the one I find most perplexing. Certainly, a constant barrage of such queries can be irksome. But the occasional check-in reassures me that I haven’t been forgotten. It’s a matter of timing and attitude.

Are you still working on that?

This is a toughie. On the one hand, depending on the context, it can feel pushy, a pseudo-polite way of hurrying me through the meal so my table can be turned over to the next wave of diners. On the other hand, it can be a welcome reality check: Am I finished or just taking a moment before resuming eating?

No problem.

Whether in a business transaction or elsewhere, “no problem” is a problem. Telling me that doing your job isn’t a problem tells me that doing your job is a problem. It’s a phrase best banished from any and all discourse.

Are we enjoying…?

Patronizing, to be sure.

I have a little gift from Chef.

It’s not clear whether Meyer is objecting to the gift or to its presentation. I’d file this one under not looking a gift horse in the mouth. A little something extra, even if ineptly presented, is better than nothing.

Reader Reality Check

What’s your service pet peeve?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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