This week in the Tap: The meaning of “good service” may be evolving.
The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good Service and Millennial Culture
Two recent visits to two excellent restaurants got me thinking about the nuances of “good service.” Both places — Estrellón in Madison and Heirloom in St. Paul — have talented young chefs on the make, and both boasted staffs whose average age seemed parked around 23.
Commonalities between the places, beyond the uniformly delicious food and drinks: All of the restaurants’ young servers, impeccably dressed and coifed, seemed … busy. Questions and requests, which they politely humored, generally seemed to be impositions on their time. Specials had to be extracted, and when they were provided, they were summarized briefly.
At Estrellón, I watched a server engage with another diner about whether a particular tapa was gluten-free. While it’s hard not to feel the server’s pain, it was also unpleasant listening. It was a prickly exchange, with the server defending what he’d written down and how the menu was phrased against the guest’s increasingly peevish accusations. Lost completely was the idea that diners should be welcome and comfortable, and that the service interaction is meant to facilitate that feeling. In a word: hospitality, a concept at the very core of dining out anywhere (and, certainly, at any place where the average check total approaches $75 a diner).
At Heirloom, the most meaningful interaction we had with our chronically rushed waiter was at the end of the meal, when he explained that the 18-percent service charge tacked onto our bill would be divided amongst the staff … and that if we wanted to tip him personally beyond that, we could write in that additional number on the conveniently provided line on the tab.
Here’s a theory: When you’re used to splitting your day between five social media channels, it’s easy to see any given customer as a task to be accomplished and then rotated away from, rather than a guest to be welcomed. It’s totally understandable, it’s a natural evolution, and it’s a shame. One of the great appeals of restaurants is feeling as though everything is taken care of, and you need only enjoy your food, wine, and conversation.
Age isn’t the only factor here. I’ve been waited on by young servers at places like Brasa, Meritage, Saint Genevieve, and others and had reliable, repeatably great service, where hospitality was the watchword. But those three places (in particular) are helmed by veteran chefs with old-school ideas about how to make guests feel comfortable. It will be a great thing for diners if newer restaurants retain some of the best traditions of their predecessors even as they evolve and innovate. — James Norton
Join us at Baristas Gone Wild this weekend at Spyhouse Coffee Northeast
Are you the sort of person who brings a (shatter-proof) French press into the wilderness? Do you demand decent coffee no matter how wild the setting? Then you’ll want to head to Northeast Minneapolis on Saturday, May 14 to attend Baristas Gone Wild. You’ll join the award-winning roasters of Spyhouse Coffee as they prepare you for a wild summer of camping, canoeing, and coffee brewing.
And you’ll also learn more about Chef Camp, the Sept. 2-4 camp retreat featuring some of Minnesota’s best chefs teaching open-fire cooking.
Baristas Gone Wild will feature demonstrations on coffee roasting and various styles of brewing (with tastings!), and a coffee mixology tutorial with an emphasis on coffee drinks that would be ideal when made and enjoyed in the great outdoors.
We’re down to our last handful of tickets, so please sign up today if you’re interested.
- Where: Spyhouse Coffee — 945 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis 55413
- Tickets: $10 + fees via Eventbrite
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