By Franz Scheurer
Americans quite often complain that they receive inadequate service in some of the top Australian restaurants. This had me puzzled as the particular places mentioned, offer, what I consider, the best service around. My first reaction was: it must be cultural, but it took a little time to figure out why.
The difference, as I see it, is the fact that in the US service staff need the tip to make a living where as in Australia the tip is only the icing on the cake. This automatically changes the patron / wait-staff relationship. In the US, waiting is all about salesmanship. The broader the smile, the more subservient the service the better the chance for a good tip. Hence the “Hello my name is Fred and I’m your waiter for the night”, which at best gets a good gag from the average Australian diner.
Wait-staff in Australia work in the job because they are interested in food and wine. No Aussie easily slips into a subservient role; this is just not in their national psyche. They do their job very well, mostly with personality, and expect the patron to fulfil his or her end of the deal by acknowledging that they exist. They are not just robots with a fixed smile and a set of standard phrases who put food in front of you.
I just about never ‘get attitude’ in a restaurant. Why? Because I acknowledge the wait-staff’s efforts. It does not hurt to be civil and friendly. A smile and a thank you go a long way and reward with better, closer and more personal service.
Everyone likes to be recognised and there is no better way than treating the wait-staff with the respect they deserve and rewarding their efforts with a decent tip at the end. This is an investment in people and that is the best kind.
So, as I said: Service is all about attitude… the patron’s attitude!