Writer and former waiter M.D. Thalmann on the current state of the restaurant experience

Dining OutNV Back Story June July '16

Writer and former waiter M.D. Thalmann on the current state of the restaurant experience.

 

So, I got my start in the real world as a food server/bartender. I worked my way up from the dish room, to bussing tables, and eventually to the glory of bringing well-to-do seniors an ice water, a bowl of lemons, and artificial sweetener so they didn’t have to pay for lemonade.

I was in the restaurant biz long enough to know that dining out is not the special experience it used to be––from both a server and a customer’s perspective. Unlike days of yore, now you have people glued to their phones––oblivious to those around them––to servers requesting you to split your own check on the conveniently located self-checkout device. Well, this former waiter has had enough, and I’m firing shots.

Dining out has lost its luster. Why? Here are a few of my observations:

When the server gets to your table you still haven’t looked at the menu, but you’ve checked in on Facebook so that everyone knows what you’re about to eat and where. What’s the point? Are you expecting validation of your dining choices?

Oh, your food is cold? Was it cold before or after you took 17 snapshots of your dish and then spent 10 minutes posting them to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter? “Can you cut into your steak, sir or ma’am, to see if it’s cooked to your liking,” asks the waiter. “Oh, sure, I can take a picture of you and your steak first, I’ve really got nothing else going on…,” thinks the waiter.

You and your date haven’t said a word to each other for 20 minutes. You’re awkwardly fumbling for something to say, but real life conversations don’t have the right emojis, so you remain silent and fidget with your phone. The only interaction being when your date likes your aforementioned food shots on Facebook.

Additionally, I can’t stand using the virtual kiosks if I’m dining at a restaurant. I don’t want to order a refill on a device, or pay my tab that way either. If I wanted to do all the work without human interaction, I would’ve stayed home and fixed a sandwich. Don’t expect a tip if I’m doing what you’re paid to do. And, no, I won’t fill out your survey. Momma always told me not to say anything if I didn’t have anything nice to say––obviously.

Call ahead seating. What is that? It’s not a reservation, so you don’t get to sit down right when you get there, but it does anger the folks who decided to dine out the old fashioned way and just showed up. Restaurants need to just start taking and honoring reservations and if the goons don’t show, charge their credit card. We need to retrain culture, not the other way around. Rewarding apathy is growing tiresome.

As always I speak from my cold, black heart. My suggestion is to put down the smart phones, get off social media, and take technology out of the sit-down-dining experience. You don’t have to agree. I’m right with or without your approval.

 

 

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