BUSCHELof the New York Times: Herewith is a modest list of dos
and don'ts for servers at the seafood restaurant I am building.
Veteran waiters, moonlighting actresses, libertarians and baristas
will no doubt protest some or most of what follows. They will claim
it homogenizes them or stifles their true nature. And yet, if 100
different actors play Hamlet, hitting all the same marks, reciting
all the same lines, cannot each one bring something unique to that
1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm
2. Do not make a singleton feel bad. Do not say, "Are you
waiting for someone?" Ask for a reservation. Ask if he or she would
like to sit at the bar.
3. Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not
4. If a table is not ready within a reasonable length of time,
offer a free drink and/or amuse-bouche. The guests may be tired and
hungry and thirsty, and they did everything right.
5. Tables should be level without anyone asking. Fix it before
guests are seated.
6. Do not lead the witness with, "Bottled water or just tap?"
Both are fine. Remain neutral.
7. Do not announce your name. No jokes, no flirting, no
8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially
not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.
9. Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or
dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition.
10. Do not inject your personal favorites when explaining the
11. Do not hustle the lobsters. That is, do not say, "We only
have two lobsters left." Even if there are only two lobsters
12. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other
13. Handle wine glasses by their stems and silverware by the
14. When you ask, "How's everything?" or "How was the meal?"
listen to the answer and fix whatever is not right.
15. Never say "I don't know" to any question without following
with, "I'll find out."
16. If someone requests more sauce or gravy or cheese, bring a
side dish of same. No pouring. Let them help themselves.
17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are
still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.
18. Know before approaching a table who has ordered what. Do not
ask, "Who's having the shrimp?"
19. Offer guests butter and/or olive oil with their bread.
20. Never refuse to substitute one vegetable for another.
21. Never serve anything that looks creepy or runny or
22. If someone is unsure about a wine choice, help him. That
might mean sending someone else to the table or offering a taste or
23. If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and
give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner,
the importer, etc.
24. Never use the same glass for a second drink.
25. Make sure the glasses are clean. Inspect them before placing
them on the table.
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