"Have you dined with us before?"
I was once asked this three days after the restaurant opened. (What to say? ‘Yes. I’m a regular. I come here all the time.’) I don’t need to know how the restaurant ‘works’ or the ‘concept’ behind it. Even that Japanese soldier in the Borneo jungle unaware the war has ended probably doesn’t need share plates ever explained again. Restaurants shouldn’t need explanation. Any restaurant that does need explanation is a bad, over-thought, overwrought restaurant from which you should run away at speed. Just once I’d like a waiter to say ‘Have you dined with us before?’ and if someone at the table says ‘No’, hit them with: ‘This is a restaurant. We serve food. You eat it.’
"Not a problem!"
The 'not a problem' waiter is one step up from the ‘Hi, I’ll be your waiter today’ waiter or the table-croucher who thinks getting down to the customer’s eye level will increase intimacy instead of making them feel they’re getting a pep talk from Coach ahead of a really important Little Athletics meet. Why is everything not a problem? Why, indeed, should it be a problem when you’re just doing your job? Do you think saying three words instead of one perfectly serviceable ‘yes’ will show you’re working harder, or that you deserve a bigger tip? Or is it simply that if you say ‘not a problem’ enough, the entire restaurant will be appraised of the fact that you do not, in fact, have a problem?
"Don't know the answer? Just make it up!"
In some ways this is an unpleasant by-product of a bigger issue, in the way of pink slime in the meat industry, permeate in the milk industry, or travel allowance scandals in the political industry. Namely: chefs who make waiters too scared to ask questions. Alternatively, telling diners barramundi is a Japanese freshwater fish, cilantro is a smoked chilli, and avruga is premium caviar, could be a symptom of a waiter who just doesn’t give a crap.
Prick with a Fork: The world’s worst waitress spills the beans by Larissa Dubecki (Allen & Unwin, 2015). $29.99.