Hey! Is anybody reading this planning to go to the Vegan Brunch book party at MooShoes tonight? I’m going to try to make it, but I’m going to have to get Isa’s autograph on Vegan With a Vengeance since my super-lucky copy of Vegan Brunch is still on its way over here (do tell me all about it, Megan!) Okay, now on with the rant.
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Disclaimer: Only the last paragraph of this rant (the update) was written after I’d actually read the blog post in question, but I stand by everything that leapt partly-formed from my brain as soon as I saw this headline and summary:
from The Atlantic Food Channel by Nina and Tim Zagat
About 70 percent of complaints recorded by the Zagat Survey are about service; far more than food. How to fix our service problem.
PAY THEM! I shouted at my computer screen, startling the cat who was climbing around on my desk in a futile effort to get my attention.
Waitstaff are paid crap and get treated accordingly. It should be no surprise when their apathy and resentment shows through — if anything, it should be a surprise that it doesn’t spill over all the time, because restaurant customers are by definition, difficult people who want to be waited on, whether they know it or not. Far too many people seem to think that they go out to restaurants just for food, without thinking about all the human effort and interactions involved in bringing them a meal that they don’t have to shop for, cook, serve, or clean up after. And quite frankly, thinking of a restaurant meal in terms only of food is bullshit. Food is a tiny, tiny fraction of what a restaurant meal is all about. And it’s the cheapest part. Yet people (and U.S.ians in particular) expect food to be cheap, and expect restaurant meals to be cheap because after all, they’re just food.
You’re not buying food at a restaurant. You’re buying hours of other people’s time. Which should be expensive. But restaurants try desperately to keep their costs and prices low, so people feel like they’re getting a good value for their money, and keep coming back. Which, by the way, is the other way to fix the “problem” of restaurant service — if you absolutely can’t cook something yourself, and you must go out for it, and your day is completely ruined by some aspect of the way in which other people tried to get that food to you, then DON’T GO BACK TO THAT RESTAURANT. Duuuuuurrrrrrr. Or only go there when you’re in a mood to handle a little interpersonal stress. Yeesh.
But back to my original rant. Waitstaff are horrifically underpaid for the amount of shit they have to put up with, and I know, paying them more would make restaurant meals more expensive, and I’m okay with that. Heck, I wish restaurants could spell out the non-food costs of a meal on the bill — rent, utilities, cooks, servers, dishwashers, etc. — to remind customers whatall it is they’re paying for. It is way, way too easy to think that you’re just buying what’s on your plate, and that devalues everyone who worked to put that plate in front of you, and that’s not okay.
And, looking at it from another angle, maybe if waiting tables paid a little better (and restaurant customers were a little more aware and respectful of the people working for them), just maybe it wouldn’t be the stereotypical default work of last resort, and servers would last longer at their jobs, and have time to get better at the work — it’s hard to have a staff that works together well if nobody’s been there for more than a few months thanks to the crazy turnover rates in the restaurant industry — and have more invested in their work and keeping customers happy and getting repeat business. Maybe. But not if I had to wait tables. I still maintain that would be a disaster. (Which reminds me: thanks Allison for sending me NotAlwaysRight.com — you’re awesome!)
Phew. Maybe now I can actually read the post that got me all riled. Maybe.
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Update, 11:12 AM: So the Zagats’ point is that waitstaff get no respect because there’s no celebrity culture for them like there is for chefs, and there should be higher professional standards for them, including more formal culinary school-style training. I say, maybe so, but who’s going to pay for that kinda schooling if they’re going to get waitstaff wages for it? Do we really need more people rocking the crushing student loan debt (said the woman who really ought to at least apply for some scholarships or something)?