Being someone who eats out a great deal, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go. Living in an urban inner-city area that has seen much development and a transient population has contributed greatly to this.
Just a few short years ago, you couldn’t move in Sydney’s hipster-filled Surry Hills without a pulled pork slider flying in every direction. There’s only a smattering of them around these days. But it’s not food trends I’m talking about here. It’s what I’ve seen at the service level.
Trends is probably not the right word, as it’s the lingo and the delivery that I’m talking about. It’s not just my neighbourhood either, this is a world phenomenon (perhaps too strong a word but it will do)
The first that I will mention, is definitely a gripe. It’s one word, the most oft repeated, from service staff in restaurants everywhere.
I have always had issue with this. Partly because it’s a word that can be taken as a command. The delivery of the word, to make it acceptable (just), is paramount. Said with a smile, it’s better, but still annoying. Said with intention it feels downright rude. (i.e: “you WILL enjoy that!”) Said with a laugh, after some genuine banter, is best, if it really must be said at all.
Truth is, when did this word creep in and become permanent language on the dining landscape? Is it necessary? Think about it. There was never a need to be told to enjoy a dish in the past. I’m sure all of you would have noticed it in restaurants you’ve been to. A simple announcement of the arrival of the dish you ordered and placing it down is enough. If we must be told to “enjoy”, perhaps just a little creativity is needed. Wouldn’t “I hope you enjoy it” be a little humbler and more heartfelt?
The other service issue, also involving language, comes at the other end of the meal. Once you have finished the dish you have been ordered to “enjoy”, there are a few ways the process can go. The most acceptable of these, is for the plate to simply be removed.
But what has happened to me on many an occasion is that I have had a dish that was just ok, or not to my taste, and left some food on the plate. After some time, the server notices and two things can happen.
1: “Are you finished?”
I answer “yes”. The server removes the dish, no more to be said. This is the restaurants “I don’t care” response. (It may also be “we know the food is s**t” response)
2. “Are you finished? Was everything alright?”
I answer “yes” and then explain why much is left, which may not necessarily be that the food wasn’t good. It may be as simple as I’m too full. This is the restaurants “let’s check this, what has happened?, we care about you - our dear customer” response.
If you finish all of your meal, you may even get “You enjoyed that!” which can be taken with a laugh, or looked at as an unnecessary commentary on how much of a guts you are.
For most of you, I’m sure none of this is an issue. Perhaps you never considered it. I felt compelled to mention it as someone who spends lots of time in restaurants, I have seen and heard this play out constantly. I can predict exactly how these moments, at the beginning and the end of a meal, will go. I hate routine. And I am baffled as to how and why, the vocab in restaurants has permanently changed. Please – let me “enjoy” my meal without being told to do so?