For many years during my travels, both for business and pleasure, I always noticed how the service differed in hotels and restaurants in mainland Europe, the USA and the United Kingdom.
In countries like Italy, Spain and France waiting on tables always seemed to me like a ‘proper’ profession, mainly carried out by mature men in an attentive and polite manner, give or take the odd ’Gallic shrug’ or an occasional … Bof !” or even a .. “Zut alors !”. Nothing was ever rushed and you were allowed to enjoy your meal without being disturbed.
In the United States I found that I was mostly served by waitresses who had been trained at the ‘robot’ school of … “My name is Jolene … I am your waitress for this evening” (Blimey! .. What did she think that I thought she was there for ?). Meals were usually served at lightening speed, often with one course ‘overtaking’ another and the constant enquiry .. “Is everything OK here folks ?”… I always expected after a positive response to this question to hear … “Then don’t forget to leave a big tip !”; and although the US dining experience tended to get more refined and enjoyable the further up market you went, I could never quite get used to all those false smiles, and those … “Have a nice day!”s.
Well, of course, “Have a nice day !” and American style service soon “crossed the pond”, and I found myself being
waited on served by poorly trained young people in restaurants up and down the country, such as the young waiter in a fairly expensive chain hotel who did not know what I meant when I complained that the wine was “corked”, so he called his boss who also didn’t understand what I meant, even after I explained the problem to him in detail. I don’t think that my keen, but inexperienced waiter had ever expected to hear the word “No” after he enquired .. “Is every thing alright, sir ?”. Still I did get my bottle of wine, which was unusual at that time, as it would, more often than not, turn up on the table when you had finished your meal.
Now, it’s worth remembering that I am recalling experiences from a few years ago, and although I can’t comment on service in the USA today, I know that it has remained much the same in Europe and improved to some degree in the UK, as I noticed when staying recently at a hotel owned by a large international group. The service, from the largely foreign staff, was first class. The head waiter was polite and efficient, and his staff of waiters were attentive but not intrusive. In fact it was a very pleasant experience. Perhaps this was one time when I could say that …
… “I had a nice day”.