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Waiter Schools Offer Restaurants a Refresher Course

Waiter schools offer U.S. restaurants a much needed refresher course

The sorry state of American table waiting was made abundantly clear to Eric Weiss as his server at Pastis, the touristy bistro in New York’s Meatpacking District, took his order. Weiss runs Service Arts, a high-end service consultancy that has trained thousands of servers (he finds the term “waiter” demeaning) working at establishments worldwide, from Hilton hotels to the celebrated California restaurant the French Laundry. When Weiss inquired about the origin of the daily menu’s Malpeque oysters, his server replied, “They’re from the East Coast.”

“The East Coast of what?” asked Weiss, after the server walked away, “Albania?” A server not knowing the provenance of an item as important as a Prince Edward Island oyster was Weiss’s first sign that even in this restaurant, a tightly orchestrated corporate concept, the staff hasn’t been properly trained. As if on cue, the server returned with Weiss’s glass of Muscadet. “See that?” asked Weiss. “He put down my wine with his hand on top of my glass. That’s disgusting.” Lesson #2: A server’s hands should never touch anywhere a diner’s mouth eventually will.