Zen and the art of restaurant staff maintenance

Are you a restaurant owner? Does your waitstaff constantly jab your guests with elbows, point when asked where the restrooms are, or, god forbid, pick their nose in plain sight of the diners?

Waiting tables is a skill and the best waiters can turn a disaster into a delight. Not too long ago, Jason Sheehan posed the question of whether Denver restaurants needed some fine-tuning in this particular realm. The responses indicated that many believe minor (and major) improvements could be made.

Yet, handbooks on the basic tenants of service rarely grace the shelves of the staff break room. Any restaurant worth its salt usually has a copy of Larousse Gastronomique or the Wine Lover's Companion to give a concrete reference for the FOH staff. But what does the wayward back-waiter look to when there's a question of whether or not to top-off the wine glasses at a table at the end of dinner?

To answer that question and others, Richard Saporito, a self-described restaurant customer service expert, recently published How to Improve Dining Room Service, a book that he insists will "give you everything you need to improve your restaurant's organization, exceed your customer's expectations and increase your profits." Woo-hoo! In other words, it appears to be a book that sets forth the standard set of rules for the waiter, bartender and restaurateur. The only question it may not answer is, "Do I tell the young lady at table three that her husband is having an affair with a golfer?"

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