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Foodie Rant - Waiter Monologue Blues

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jul 26, 2010 5:20PM

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In my last few rants, I have defended waiters against bad tipping, coupon users and general misbehavior. However, there is one particular server-behavior that drives me absolutely batty. I call it the "waiter monologue." If you've been to a nice restaurant lately, you know what I mean. First, the server asks (sometimes nicely, sometimes condescendingly) "Have you dined with us before, sir?" Honestly, I tend to lie, for I know that if I admit my neophyte status, I will be subjected to a 10 minute long extravaganza of pretension and frippery.

Let me be clear - I don't believe that these speeches are the server's idea. They are clearly scripted by those higher up; chefs, owners and managers. Servers simply have to spout them over and over again. Some information about a new restaurant can be useful. For instance, if the menu is arranged into 4 sections, it can be good to know how large the portions are. But do we really need to be given the complete provenance of the specks of ground cardamom on the edge of the plate? The name of the mother of the lamb from which the lamb chops are drawn? I am a huge proponent of local food and I love it when restaurants mention farms on the menu - but an ode to the hen-house where the eggs come from is too much even for me.

Sometimes, restaurants feel the need to "explain" their basic premise. They go beyond "we serve good food," to describe the ethnic background, fusion, dietary principles and theme. "We only serve food from the southernmost tip of a small, deserted province in lower Abyssinia - not their MODERN food, that would be silly - our menu only covers the cuisine in the 1970s." Frankly, if you can't get this from the menu, the decor and the advertising you saw before walking in the door, you probably don't need to know it. For regular diners, the assumption that you have never set foot a restaurant before is condescending and annoying, and for first-time diners, it must be a bewildering amount of information.

This insanity reached a new high last week. I won't mention the restaurant, but it is relatively new and very good. When I (mistakenly) admitted that I hadn't graced the restaurant with my presence in the past, I was then asked a new question: "How much do you know about the chef?" "Quite a bit" was the actual answer, but, curious to see what would happen, I gave a non-committal response. The server then proceeded to give me the chef's resume, before moving on to a 10 minute description of all of the best dishes on the menu. For the love of all that is tasty, enough is enough. Provide diners with plenty of printed information, and be ready to answer questions. But the waiter monologues must stop.