My wife has a fantasy: That somehow, I can change the restaurant service culture in Portland. I am happy that I am still a part of my wife’s fantasies, but this particular windmill may be just too big to fight. We all know what she is talking about. That Portland server reputation of, “Yeah, I know we’re the s***. The too-cool-for-school approach.
Alright, Portland is officially a foodie mecca. That cannot be denied. The eleven month growing season. The quality of ingredients available to us. The fine pinot noirs, the artisan ales, even the small, boutique distilleries that have given us a generation of mixologists and their craft cocktails. The lifestyle this area affords us, has invited a lot of very talented people.
Great Portland Restaurants
We have a number of great restaurants. We have even a greater number of very good, no tablecloth, neighborhood restaurants. The one thing that has kept them from being considered world class restaurants has been the service.
So how does someone change this culture? Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of places that actually have friendly, approachable service. It is still a big uphill battle, however. It is very off-putting to go into a place, drop a hundred-plus dollars, only to feel like I was, not only taken for granted, but downright abused. It is hard to ‘stomach’ another place that expects you to enjoy their food despite themselves.
I think the way to start is simply to have the conversation. Why should we continue to patronize these places? Or even worse yet, continue to tip that twenty plus percent when the service doesn’t warrant it, just to keep one’s reputation as a good tipper? People need to decide that they are not going to go back to those places where they got sooo much attitude, that the lingering memory of their experience is not the wonderful food they had, but how the service left them feeling.
I think at least part of the problem lies with the chef-owner. Very often, they are so focused on being creative that they don’t even realize there is a problem. And they should be focusing on their food—that is what they do. However, they need to take the ego out of the equation.
National Restaurant Association
So, how do we get that chef to see this? I will not tolerate any abusive attitude from any servers who like to come off like they know more than their customers. Stop returning to those places where these offences occur. Stop leaving big tips just because that’s what you do. One more thing I feel I should mention. I am a front of the house guy. The last thing I want is for people to stop leaving generous tips. But, if the situation warrants it—don’t do it.