Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Restaurant Culture

I don’t get it.. or maybe I do.. but I don’t think everyone else does, or maybe they do.. It’s just that I find it very troublesome and pain staking to go to a restaurant really. There’s something wrong with me or with people or with the restaurant business in general. I genuinely think it’s the restaurant business.

Firstly with everything in this country inauspiciously inverted, the whole meaning of the word waiter has been inverted. If the word waiter comes from ‘wait’ then I believe that it’s the customers who have become waiters judging from the amount of time they need to actually find an alleged ‘waiter’. Going to a restaurant has become like fishing, requiring lots of patience and waiting for food to come, on some lucky occasions you can fish out a waiter that actually does the job of getting you some food. There are even some techniques to ensure service which take a little experience, skill and practice.

One of the best techniques is to order things bit by bit, ensuring that a waiter will come with one order and at that time you order another, hence making sure he’ll visit every once in a while or at least be in the neighborhood, the problem with this technique is that at some point in time the waiter gives up and stops getting you that extra tissue you asked for or that salt, or that piece of brownie you requested last. Another problem is that you have to think of these things and that you have to put off some of the things you want till the waiter’s next visit. However, I’ve seen this technique applied masterfully by some of my friends, and I have concluded that females are better at this technique since they’re already very demanding by nature.

The good planner uses another technique, which is to position the place of seating strategically so that the field of vision and gesticulations allows for the attention of any waiter that’s passing by. You can of course forget about ‘your waiter for this evening’ sometimes you just have to use the first man in uniform that you see. This is a good strategy but it’s not so easy to apply since places can be crowded and this position doesn’t necessarily have the best view.

All in all, it’s exhausting for me to go to a restaurant cause it takes a lot of work and I still see that I’m the waiter in this equation. I’m sure at some point in time it was a waiter’s job to wait for people to make their orders or to finish their food or something, but now that culture has changed. And why shouldn’t it? The service doesn’t need to be good at all. All people care about is the setting. If a place invests enough money in some fancy interior design, it can save bundles on service and waiters and not only that, it is guaranteed to make loads of money by virtue of ornaments alone.

The better the design the more the money, never mind food, never mind service, as long as you got good lighting, hip interior you’ll do just fine. All any place has to do is just put an insane minimum charge and collect. Never mind service, people just keep on coming. So why should the service be any good? If you give good service or poor service the result is always the same. Even waiters know that, they count on people’s habit of tipping. People who tip, tip very constantly and consistently, people who don’t just don’t. People who tip are obsessed by the rules of tipping, is it ten percent and when to tip and all that.. Well we’re in Egypt, we have a culture of our own, so I really don’t think that tipping is as calculated as that. People get the worst service and in the end are embarrassed not to leave a tip. It’s these kind of people that cause all this bad service really. Tips are for good service, at least that’s how I perceive it. The consistency by which people repay bad service with money is amazing and I certainly can’t blame places or waiters for trying to test their limits, I would.

I sometimes feel like an outcast when I claim that tips are for good service. I feel like an outcast when I point out something wrong with the service or food to the restaurant. I do it with good intent. If it’s a good place it would want to know and make it better, I’m just doing a service to those who come after me, but that seems to be embarrassing for some, for reasons I don’t know.

So all the tippers out there, they’re responsible for the bad service I get. All those who are too embarrassed to speak up about their salad are responsible for my bad salad. All those who don’t care about value for money are responsible for the loss of my money for no value.

Maybe I just don’t get it.. why is it so much work going to a place that should be offering you service.. To top it all off, you have to search for them to pay them.. one of these days I wish I would just walk off so that they come sooner, but the real problem is that I really think they’d be too lazy to stop me ..


Anonymous said...

interesting.. i always believed that tipping is for good service.. don't know a lot of ppl who would agree on that tippin policy..
u and i can start a union for unsatisfied customers..

Wael Eskandar said...

To me tipping doesn't make sense otherwise..

But do you think a union for our kind of people would make a difference in this vast desert of indifference?

Anonymous said...

there is also the "please let me talk to the manager, then, complain" my husband does that.. we once had a free desert in carino's as an apology.. hence, it works at times

Wael Eskandar said...

Yes.. complaints are a good thing, it's service for yourself and other people..

The key word here is 'at times'.. because at other times you feel that someone out there's trying to tell you to go to hell :)

Dee-Vine said...

i hear you..
and it sucks that all outings revolve around food, it's either food or coffee or alcohol..
isnt there anything FUN to do anymore?

Wael Eskandar said...

Bowling, pool, horseback riding, sports, museums, visiting landmarks and sights, fluka, concerts, jamming and cruising.

How many do you know who are up for that?

Sand-E said...

I used to visit this arab place here just to get that back home feeling until i got into a thing with one of the waiters. He'd said something about refusing to serve me because i'd given him "attitude". When I spoke to the manager explaining that i simply asked to be seated elsewhere he casually responded with a "did he insult your religion?"
when i responded all confused like he smiled and waived me off.
So If all restaurant going experiences are similar then i can understand your fustration but in terms of the waiting. Shouldn't the company be what it's all about? you're there to talk and hang out so if u pay no attention to how long you're waiting you should be fine no?

Wael Eskandar said...

Sand e: You're right, waiting should be no problem when you're with friends, but sometimes you're hungry, thirsty or in a hurry. If you wait around not being served it sort of gets in the way. I'm not capricious or anything, but it happens on occasion that you're there to eat or drink as well.

Your experience was a very unpleasant one, but restaurants get complacent when they have an ample supply of customers.