Service No-Nos

Beverly Stephen / May 2013

New York City—Eric Weiss, president and founder of Service Arts, lists half a dozen phrases that should never pass your servers’ lips. “These inappropriate or insulting forms of address or phrases are reaching epidemic proportions in restaurants and hotels,” says Weiss, and “have no place in the practice of hospitality.”

  1. How are YOU GUYS tonight?
  2. Are WE ready to order cocktails?
  3. Are you still WORKING ON that?
  4. How are those scallops TREATING YOU?
  5. JUST ONE tonight?

So, if the above phrases and forms of address are inappropriate, what should a server say? Here’s how service guru Weiss suggests turning those service nos into service yeses.

  1. Just omit the word GUYS. What would YOU like?
  2. The use of WE can sound condescending or infantilizing. Better to say “Are YOU ready to order cocktails?”
  3. WORKING ON a dish sounds like a chore. Better to ask: May I CLEAR your plate?
  4. No need to anthropomorphize entrées by asking how they’re TREATING customers. “Dealing with real relationships is enough for most people,” Weiss says.
  5. If a guest is dining alone, make that person feel good about spending the evening in your establishment. Better to ask, “One in your party this evening?” or “What is the name on the reservation?”
  6. NO PROBLEM introduces negativity. Better to say ABSOLUTELY, RIGHT AWAY, or OF COURSE.