Service please!

Service. The age old bug bear of many and my personal mind battle when eating anywhere but home. I know I’m more pernickety than most and this knowledge has led me on several occasions to urge myself to ‘chill the hell out’!. But I can’t you see, because for every superb meal out there, there are ten that make me wish I could whiz up restaurant food in my own home in under twenty minutes.

This week a friend and I had brunch at the newly-monopolised Giraffe on the South Bank. I hadn’t been in years and we both had little sprogs attached to us, so it made sense. They also have a more than decent brunch menu. For proof (excuse the shoddy pic) see this delicious veggie Huevos Rancheros Mexican Breakfast which tasted largely fine, except for the little bit of raw albumin in my otherwise well cooked poached eggs.

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Raw eggy bits aside, if you’d asked me how the food was, I’d have said good. If you’d asked me if I’d go back in a hurry, I’d have said no. Why? Why else? service of course. It always starts promising enough but just as quickly as you are seated, so too quickly are you forgotten, and lost in a haze of tables all wanting a piece of the waiter.

I hate flagging them down because I feel like I’m doing part of their job for them but if I didn’t I’d probably add on 30 minutes to an experience I’m already finding annoying. And then there’s all the other silly stuff, which would be avoided by observing properly. Little details, like missing cutlery etc… At Giraffe, for some bizarre and unknown reason, the waitress decided to give ME and not the toddler on our table, the colouring in sheet and crayons my friend requested!

To cut service staff a little slack, I have tried to get into their mindset and the one thing that springs to mind time and time over is motivation = money. Should the UK hospitality industry move to the American system where tips become the service staff’s main source of salary? Would that help inject a little effort? Or would it simply increase the amount of unordered bodily fluids in our dishes? And would us Brits really ever publicly refuse to tip based on shoddy service received, what with our dislike of creating a scene and all.

There are arguments for and against in one of the funniest yet poignant books I’ve had the good fortune to pick up; Waiter Rant. On the whole, I think where we are is a much better place than the US (on many levels aside from our hospitality trade, but that’s an altogether different argument) but I can’t help but wonder whether we’ve come to accept slack service at a 12.5% rate, as a means to any dining experience that isn’t in our homes.

What say you?

Square Meal

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