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My Five Cents: What Should a Server Say ?

One of the most important jobs of a server is to guide a customer through a menu. It’s a service to the kitchen and the diner. A chef may need to move some seafood so he encourages servers to suggest it. A diner may want to ask about and order a chef’s signature dish. What chaps my sass is when I ask a server “What do you like or recommend” and their response is:“Oh, I really love everything. Honestly you can’t go wrong with any dish.”

It’s a lazy response and a missed opportunity for the servers to sell the restaurant and themselves as an experts. I always appreciate a server who takes the time to ask me what I’m in the mood for or to tell me what dish is special that night. I still remember the faces of those who warned me against ordering a certain item. Their honestly was admirable and appreciated.

You all dine out frequently. Does this happen to you? Do you have a way of engaging a server or do you just figure it out what to order on your own?

14 comments on “My Five Cents: What Should a Server Say ?

  1. I always ask the server what they would recommend and if they give me that response it irritates me as well. Shows me that they just punch in and punch out. I was a waitress for more than 10 years and I always gave my recommendations. If the server gives me that response, I will ask what they eat on their break or what most people order.

  2. Or I will give them a choice: what’s better? The chicken enchiladas or the chicken fajitas?

  3. I’ve had similar experiences if asking what is good at a particular establishment (in terms of getting the blanket response that “everything is good here”). I usually get the best insight from servers by selecting 2-3 items that I’m interested in and asking the server which one he/she would pick and why. (Sometimes I’ll even go against the server’s recommendation if the answer to “why” doesnt’ resonate with me.)

  4. I’m a little conflicted on the issue. If I know the server—and the server knows me—I have no problem asking them what they recommend. They know my tastes and I have a good understanding of theirs. I would not ask a server that I don’t know what I should order. I have no ideas where their tastes lie. I do not believe it is a fair question to put to a server: “Would you recommend the beef or the fish to someone you know nothing about?” That’s a 50/50 chance of getting it wrong. I prefer that they explain the two dishes and let me make the decision. If a server tells me that “everything is good,” well, who am I to say otherwise? It just might be that everything is good (and I know a few restaurants where that is certainly the case). I greatly appreciate when they steer you away from things. That’s doing a real solid for a customer.

  5. I find that when I ask what the server recommends he or she will tell me the one thing I would absolutely never order (like the lamb or the trout) and then I feel badly when I don’t order their suggestion.

  6. I have said everything is good because it is. I worked for one of the top chefs in the country. As a server usually your boss the manager on duty or chef would kill you if you said otherwise. The truth is most diners don’t care what we like. The politically correct way would be to tell the diners what is popular. I have had diners order something and I would say there are other items on the menu you may want to try for your first time here. “wink, wink”. It is the servers responsibility to create a memorable dining experience and they should do whatever it takes to do so without losing their job. The true professional server wants repeat guests so they will go above and beyond to build the trust with their guests. I only speak on behalf of professional waiters. Don’t hate the waiter that says everything is good.

  7. When I ask that, what I’m really asking is “Are there any specials or daily items unpublished or not shown on the menu?” Far too many restaurants do NOTHING to inform customers of daily or rotating specials, which can often be much better than the stock menu choices.

  8. That is a good point. Of course, we shouldn’t feel that way, but it happens. It also irks me when they point out the most expensive item.

  9. Interesting points. However, after saying everything is good an excellent server goes on to engage in a conversation to try and figure out what that diner might like. Like you said build trust. I only dislike the waiter who stops with “there isn’t a bad bite on the menu.” Thanks for your insight.

  10. Having been a server, it’s a no-win (or can be), because inevitably you get the customer who asks this insanely vague question (what do you recommend) and then they turn into a total askhole as you suggest things. “I can’t eat beans.” “I don’t like beef.” “I am allergic to shellfish.”
    So my suggestion is to help a server out by asking for clarification and recommendations, but not “hey I’m not gonna read this menu pick for me,” Instead of “what do you recommend,” ask about specific menu items. “Which would you choose, this or that?” “I’ve heard a lot of good things about X, can you tell me more?”
    You’re a lot less likely to get “oh, everything is good here,” if you do.

  11. The “everything” response irks me, just as much as recommending the 20-ounce bone-in waygu (market price: $MyHouse) does. I tend to assume that if you tell me everything is good, then nothing really is.

    Although it may be a little apples/oranges because of the price range on a wine list, I don’t think anyone would ever stand for a similar response from a sommelier, so why should we stand for it from the server? Granted, he or she may not be an expert on food in the same way, but certainly has access to those who are. Oh, and last thought here, if you recommend the chicken, you instantly lose 35 Credibility Points.

  12. Usually it’s a series of questions to establish a rapport. Sometimes I ask what dish they do better than anywhere else or what dish we have to absolutely try. What’s popular or getting rave reviews also works. Another cop out is ‘I haven’t tried anything’ or ‘I don’t really eat this type of food’.

  13. I usually ask what they like best and then ask what’s most popular. They’re often different dishes. You can usually get some kind of answer for at least one of those questions