Is the level of service at restaurants on the decline?
Restaurant critic Alan Richman seems to think so and has accused several NYC restaurants of going too far out on the casual dining limb by providing careless service.
Has the restaurant service bar dropped in Phoenix? Here's what a few Valley chefs and restaurateurs had to say:
Kevin Binkley Chef and Owner, Binkley's, Café Bink, and Bink's Midtown
Yes, the details are overlooked at most restaurants. It's just as easy in most situations to abide to appropriate service techniques. I miss people not back-handing, serving from the left, clearing from the right, beverage service from the right, sides on the left, not giving me their name, smiling, holding the door, etc.
Anthony Spinato Chef and Owner, Spinato's Pizzeria
Absolutely. A lot of restaurants have let servers just serve. There is no personal connection between servers and guests anymore. I don't know if it's because patrons are not looking for that anymore as part of a reason they visit a restaurant or they just don't care about it as a restaurant. True guest service is dead in most restaurants.
Dave Andrea Owner, Brat Haus
There's a local vegetarian chain that I love and I go there a lot, but sometimes I can't tell the staff from the customers. Usually, the staff is the one with the most tattoos and piercings. Enough already.
Heather Bryan General Manager, Zuzu
Service has become more comfortable but not casual. Guests are dining out often and expectations have risen; they expect more from a menu and a server. They are able to relate to their server on a more personal level, which adds to the comfort and enjoyment of eating out.
Aaron May Chef and Restaurateur
Service should be comfortable but not too casual. I don't need anything formal, but I don't like being called "dude" and I won't tolerate when they finger glasses, leave dirty plates on the table, or have a conversation on the side while at my table.
Josh Hebert Chef and Owner, Posh
No, but it's become so selfish. I continually hear excuses while in the middle of dining -- why something can't be done, why something did or did not happen.
Christopher Gross Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
I think most people are looking for casual, but in some places, it has gotten a bit too casual, especially when prices are as high as they would be in a place where you would expect great service.
Romeo Taus Chef and Owner, Romeo's Cafe
In the chains and franchises, yes. In the U.S., restaurant service is not a career path. We rent time from people while they are preparing for their "real" career. The level of "casual" is a direct reflection the clientele. For independents, it's perhaps a little more formal.
Chef Chris Mayo, North
I don't think so. Service that is too formal lacks the human element that makes dining out fun. The best restaurants find a way to strike the perfect balance between personable and professional.
Bill Sandweg Owner, Copper Star Coffee
I can't stand it when servers are dressed in street clothes without any kind of identifier that they're on the job. If I need something to improve my experience (refill, clean fork, etc.) and I feel awkward asking the first hipster that walks by, I'm going to hold it against the establishment. Some places pull it off, but for every one that does, another doesn't.
Don Carey Corporate Culinary Chef, TQLA
Absolutely, way too casual. The basics of great service have been lost on speed and casual dining. Great guest service is the backbone of a successful restaurant from the front-of-the-house viewpoint.
Lisa Khnanisho Owner, Tryst Café
I think society has become more casual as a whole. Service is reflecting the change. My concern is that we don't accept the idea of casual service as a gateway for less service.
Eddie Castillo Chef and Owner, AZ Food Crafters
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Service has become very casual, but it's what people want. We are all so busy, we want the best fast, casual, and with no hassle. The nice thing is you can still find great service if you seek it out.
Christopher Costantino Chef and Owner, Costantino's Kitchen
In culinary school, we had a dining room class where we were taught that the waiter should anticipate every guest's need and therefore have no reason to talk to the guest. While I'm not a fan of servers that sit down at the table and chat, I like it when they add a little humor. I once asked a server what he recommended and he said (jokingly), "the place down the street." His response was memorable enough that I went back and asked to sit in his section.