The New York Times has a piece called One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1), which will presumably be followed by “One Hundred Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 2),” which confuses me somewhat. Are there 100 things restaurant staffers should not do, in which case one might imagine that the title of the article would be “50 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do,” to be followed by “50 More Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do”? Or are there a total of 200 things restaurant staffers should never do?
Time will tell, and the list is filled with peeves that mean a lot more to the writer than they do to me, except for one:
27. For red wine, ask if the guests want to pour their own or prefer the waiter to pour.
Leave aside, for moment, that this makes no sense in a list of things restaurant staff should never do, because it’s clearly intended as something restaurant staff should always do. (I think maybe the writer was getting so worked up about all the things that restaurant staff do that bug him that he departed his format and just started venting.) The point I’m trying to make is: Amen, brother.
I’m a patient wine drinker. When I’m digging into a great bottle, I do so slowly, allowing the wine in the glass to change with exposure to air. I at times get a couple of glasses going at a time, one to drink and one to breathe. There’s not much that bugs me as much as a well-intentioned server dropping a half-glass of fresh-from-the-bottle wine into the properly aired-out half glass.
When I order a good bottle of wine, I routinely tell servers that we will pour our own, thank you. The reaction to that varies. I’ve had servers recoil as if I’d insulted their professional abilities. I’ve had servers stand nervously a few feet off, fighting the urge to fill our nearly empty glasses the way someone quitting smoking fights the urge to lunge at an open pack of cigarettes. I’ve had passing managers reach for the bottle while apologizing for the server’s lack of attention. Once, I had a manager come to our table to ask what the server had done wrong that were not letting her touch our wine. Was she unclean?
Restaurants needs to revise their wine training at least so that guests who want to pour their own wine don’t send the staff into a spiral of falling self-esteem. I mean, it’s not really that tough a concept, is it?