Top 5 most annoying things servers say: A tiny rant

The front of the house is what makes the back of the house dance in the footlights. What would Meritage be without Desta Klein? It's her touch of genius to create an atmosphere in which the lovely French-kissed food coming from the kitchen is delivered to the right table at the right time with the right flourish. At 112 Eatery, Nancy St. Pierre's leadership out front provides a stage for showcasing chef Isaac Becker's culinary highlights. One happy similarity between these two very different restaurants: wait staff who understand the food and the customer.

The flip side, of course, is the restaurant where it seems wait staff are brought in off the street. The attitude seems to be: If you're breathing, you can wait tables. And due to the code of niceness to which we have sworn allegiance, Minnesotans are forced to put up with the most annoying conversations when all we want is a good meal and a pleasant experience. To wit:

5. "Hi, my name is {fill-in-the-blank]." This passes for being friendly but, really, who cares? Some people swear this is ubiquitous, but I ask, do I need to develop a personal relationship with my server? What's charming is for a server to have checked the reservation book and greet the table by name. And while we're at it, lose the first names until invited. (In the interest of full disclosure: When I worked as a waitress--yes, that's what they called me--I had my server name. It was sort of like my stripper name but designed more for eliciting tips than whistles.)

4. "Would you like pepper on that?" Please, please, let the customer taste the food first. Just maybe the chef has sent it out from the kitchen perfectly seasoned. Ability to cook good food is why chefs are hired in the first place. Close cousin to that question is "What wine would you like with your dinner?" Novel idea: Let's select the food first, then the wine. Or, if you have a beautiful wine I must try, talk me through appropriate menu pairings.

3. "Are you still working on that?" Well, it's been onerous, but I'm just about done with my meal. Would it help you if I ate faster? Did the dishwasher order you to collect all the plates from the dining room?

2. "Did you save room for dessert?" This doesn't even make sense. Is there space in my stomach for more food? Was I so gluttonous with my first courses that I can't push another bite into my gullet? Why am I being guilted? And why is the server shooting self in foot? Add a dessert to the bill and the tip goes up--unless the last question is:

1. "Do you want change?" No, I usually tip 80 percent. When a server grabs a $20 for a $7 tab, it's probably a sure bet that change is an expected outcome of the transaction. 

Wait staff work extremely hard for their money. It's tough physically and exhausting mentally. They deserve to be rewarded for their work (and there is a special hell for chintzy tippers), but they up their chances by limiting their questions to "What may I bring you?" 

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