Waiting for answers: Where is that check?

Taste

December 02, 2009|By Sylvia Rector | McClatchy-Tribune

There's a question many people ponder ... and ponder ... at the end of many meals: Why does it take so long to get the check?

Where did she go? I can't remember what she looks like. Is that her with the ponytail?

Restaurant industry veteran Tim Wilkins, who does consulting and service training through Wilkins Hospitality Group, says it can be a variety of issues.

"The biggest issue is maybe other tables that require more attention. ... When servers are taken out of their pattern, even the most experienced ones can lose focus for a couple of minutes," he said.

Bills can also be delayed by computer issues. Behind the scenes, there's side work - tasks like refilling salt shakers - that servers must do before their shifts end. The work can take employees off the dining room floor, and 5 minutes can turn into 10.

On top of it all, the job is a juggling act. "There's food up in the window that they have to deliver; another table needs another round of drinks; you need your check. ... They get pulled in seven directions at once."

But those aren't excuses, Wilkins said. It's the server's job to sense the customer's timetable and meet it.

"We say, 'Read the customer.' ... But sometimes they read it wrong. Some customers give you the impression they're fine, and then all of a sudden they're ready to go," he said. "If the customer is in a hurry, the more they can communicate that, the more helpful it is."

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