Star forum - Burton K. Janes
Dear Editor: Early on Labour Day, my wife and I left Deer Lake, where we had spent the long weekend with her parents and stopped for breakfast at along the Trans-Canada Highway.
My sister-in-law joined us, and we settled in for a cosy chat and meal.
We placed our respective orders. Mine included eggs, bologna, hash browns ... and whole wheat toast. Keep this latter ingredient in mind, as it plays a key role in the scenario that unfolded.
Eventually, my meal, minus the toast, was placed before me. I might add that we had to request cutlery. I surveyed the plate, anticipating the delectable morsels I was about to dig into. First, though, I reminded the waitress of the oversight about my toast.
Sometime later, by which time I was well into my meal, my toast arrived, but it was white, not whole wheat. “I ordered whole wheat toast,” I said.
Then, after I had finished eating, my whole wheat toast finally arrived.
Within minutes, the waitress arrived at our table again, this time with the cheque, which she plunked down beside me. As she turned to return to the kitchen, I said, “By the way, I did order whole wheat toast.”
My reasoning was, "Why would I, a diabetic, order white, rather than whole wheat, toast?" I don’t know if all the research is in yet, but I’ve been led to believe that whole wheat bread is healthier than white bread for a diabetic.
Whirling around, she hissed, “Now listen here,” as she jabbed her finger at the “W” inscribed on the cheque, “you ordered white toast!”
I ventured forth with a question, “What happened to the customer being right?” My sister-in-law spoke up, “he did order whole wheat toast, because I heard him.”
By now, the waitress had begun her final retreat, growling a surly “Yeah.” I was taken aback by her rudeness.
Was this incident simply a matter of white vs. whole wheat toast? Far from it. The bread was merely a symptom of a deeper problem.
I usually leave waiters and waitresses a sizeable tip in appreciation for services rendered. In this case, I had a tip for her, but it wasn’t a monetary one. Instead, it argues: restauranteurs have certain expectations of their customers. However, the reverse is also true: customers also have certain expectations of restauranteurs. The one non-negotiable expectation on my part is respect, which should be a given.
I left the table, without eating my toast, and paid for the meal. To add insult to injury, the woman who accepted my payment never even said, “You’re welcome” after I thanked her.
While writing this letter, I read the following on the BCC food blog: “any great restaurant is about more than the food — it has to have great front-of-house too. In my experience, a customer is more forgiving towards mediocre food than they are to slack service ...Good manners are becoming a thing of the past ... If you don’t have simple courtesy, it’s difficult to provide any level of service at all.
“It takes a very special kind of person to work in front-of-house. A good waiter has to be so many things all at once: efficient and speedy, but also precise; attentive, but not overbearing; presentable, with excellent personal hygiene and posture, and of greatest importance, you have to be able to communicate well. Being able to listen properly is a key communication skill. There’s nothing more frustrating for a diner than having to repeat their requests.
“And it’s not good enough for a waiter simply to take an order and bring the food to the table. They should be knowledgeable about what they’re serving, know their menu inside out, and work as a team player with the kitchen. They need to be able to sell — with confidence — the full dining experience the restaurant has to offer."
Perhaps our waitress was simply having a “bad day.” But that’s no reason to insult a customer.
Do I think the eating establishment owes me an apology? Definitely. Do I think I will receive one? I doubt it. But I could be pleasantly surprised.
Incidentally, after I left the roadhouse, two other customers, sitting adjacent to us and obviously witnessing the event, said to my wife and sister-in-law, "We won’t be coming back here again either."
Sadly, the waitress did not “sell — with confidence — the full dining experience” the bar and grill had to offer.
Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts.