How Important is Service?

  • Does your Restaurant Properly Greet Customers?

    HGTY (Hello, goodbye, and thank you) goes a long way.

  • Does Your Restaurant Have Personality?

    The amount of money you spend is inversely proportional to the level of personality.

  • Does Your Servers Know When to Check In?

    The secret to service is not servitude, but anticipating desire.

  • Do You Reward Difficulty?

    Always account for the complexity of your server’s work.

  • How do you Correct Mistakes?

    The time it takes to correct a mistake should take half the time it took to make the mistake.

Service is everything. Service is the key to success for me. I cannot tell you enough examples of horrible food, wonderful service versus wonderful food, horrible service. I mean, very simply, you have a wonderful meal, a guy kicks you in the head on the way out the door, you’re not going back. But if you had an OK meal and the guy was such a wonderful man, you’re going back. You just ask, “Don’t put the sauce on it this time,” or whatever.

I mean, that’s as simple as I can put it. It’s everything. It’s everything, because that $40 for that steak is not just a $40 steak, it’s what comes with it, and what comes with it is a little bit of generosity, gratitude, appreciation, and it’s, “Why should I give you a 20 percent tip if I’ve been insulted for the past without two hours? Why should I pay you?” Well, because you’re obligated to? No, you earn it. “I’ll give you a 30 percent tip.” It’s not about, “Do your job and put the fork where it’s supposed to be.” Make me feel good. Give me some hospitality.

Alessandro Stratta
Alessandro StrattaExecutive Chef at Wynn Las Vegas

Service is essential. I mean I’m a cook, first and foremost, and I don’t even think food is the most important part of the thing. Service is more important than food. And maybe I bring that sensibility because I’ve spent years working in dining rooms in different capacities. And you can have a great restaurant by merely having very good food, but outstanding service. But you can’t have a great restaurant if you’ve got brilliant food but indifferent or unaware service.

Charlie Trotter
Charlie TrotterExecutive Chef, Charlie Trotter’s

Service is critical. Service can make or break a restaurant. I think service is probably the number one priority for us. I think we all realize that we can go to a restaurant that has really, really great food, but if you’re treated poorly, you’re probably not going to go back, as opposed to a restaurant that has good food but extraordinary service, where you really feel at home. You’re always going to go back there.

So service is key for us. It’s making our guests feel comfortable and feel that we want them to be here, and to sense that hospitality that we’re trying to give them. So that’s really, really important. We talk about flavor compositions, we talk about presentation, and it’s important for us. We want to stimulate a person’s appetite with the way things look and the way things smell before they even taste it.

Thomas Keller
Thomas KellerChef / Owner of The French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Bar Bouchon & Ad Hoc

There’s one piece — is the taste of the food, and the other piece is the service, is the hospitality, and I think they have to go together to make something really successful. It has to be genuine. It has to be real food and real hospitality. So the people who work at the restaurant have to be excited about what they’re doing.

Alice Waters
Alice WatersOwner of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project

When does service not feel like common sense?  Let us help you tackle the main concerns.