The Menu Experience Can Make or Break


Servers play a big role in making sure ordering goes smoothly.

When I dine out, I really love to read and evaluate the menu. I have always enjoyed discovering how various full-service restaurants establish a personality through the verbiage and through the descriptions of the dishes they turn out.

Unless I am hurried for some reason, I usually spend a good deal of time poring over the food choices. This ritual usually proves relaxing and affords me delicious results.

One of my best friends always reads aloud any menu descriptors on items she is considering once she has narrowed the selection to two or three. She does this in a very slow and methodical way. For emphasis she exaggerates the ingredients she particularly likes.

I must confess that on more than one occasion I have been persuaded to change my mind and instead have told the server, “I’ll have what she’s having” after hearing her amusing recitals.

Sometimes it takes a little bit of doing to settle on only one dish when the menu strikes gold with my palate. Conversely, when nothing seems to prove tempting, it takes a long time to find a satisfactory choice.

Menu evaluation is a personal and subjective exercise, and there are nearly as many methods as there are diners.

Servers should be trained to make this experience as pleasant and productive as possible for the dining patron. But sadly, that is not always the case. In fact in many instances, quite the opposite can be true.

Often an anxious server hands the customer a menu and circles back in two minutes, when barely enough time has passed to turn the first page.

The message to the customer, though subtle, might be interpreted, “Please quit wasting my time and order already.” Even though the waiter or waitress might be attempting to demonstrate efficiency and attention, the patron may feel something else altogether. It comes down to reading the customers and interpreting the signals they emit.

Recently I had an ordering experience that didn’t sit too well with me. After carefully reading the menu, which featured about 20 entrees, I made my selection only to be told by the waiter that the restaurant was sold out of that particular item.

I could not for the life of me figure out why he hadn’t mentioned that before I started my hunt for the perfect dinner choice.

So I picked up the menu once again and began to try and find a suitable number 2. In this particular restaurant, which I hadn’t chosen, it was not the easiest exercise to settle on a dish because it didn’t have a lot of selections that appealed to me.

Finally, after about five minutes of back-and-forth mental gymnastics with myself, I decided on another item.

As luck would have it, the waiter informed me with a smile that the kitchen had likewise run out of that dish as well.

For a moment I assumed he was joking but much to my amazement I discovered he was dead serious.

Honestly, I couldn’t believe my ears and wondered aloud why he hadn’t told me that before. While the waiter did apologize, the entire process, which I normally enjoyed, left a bad taste in my mouth.

I felt a little foolish and disrespected. If I had allowed it, the entire evening could have been ruined, but I chocked it up to poor training on the restaurant’s part.

There was, however, one bit of training that night which will undoubtedly stick. Moving forward I plan to avoid this restaurant at all costs.

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