lessons in eating
my new restaurant has recently begun “service training”, an hour or so each week devoted to teaching proper service. last week, while discussing the way napkins should be treated when a guest leaves the table, the concept of “teaching your guests” came up.
the meal is over, perhaps entrees have been cleared and desserts not yet arrived, and someone has piled their sticky, saucy napkin on the table. of course, the napkin could be so filthy they no longer want it in their lap…but unless they’re under the age of ten or participating in an eating contest, it really shouldn’t be.
the ideal would be for the guest to have simply kept the napkin on their lap, since they’ll probably need it for dessert. it is now an eyesore to whoever is eating nearby, as well as an impediment to service. remove the offending napkin from the table. return with a new one, shake it open at the table, and refold it diagonally before delicately, unobtrusively, placing the large triangle on the guest’s lap.
in fact, the very tradition of folding a guest’s napkin, and laying it to the side of their plate when they are up, is also an indirect way of teaching them. a guest should actually feel a little shame that they forced their server to pick up and fold their nasty napkin when it’s something they should have taken care of themselves. as a server, the act gives me the willies every time – how do i know when a chewed up and rejected piece of meat is going to fly out and land in my apron pocket? rather than leaving a balled up mess, why not place the thing neatly, maybe folded in half, next to your plate?
most people will not suddenly begin to adopt this practice after being given this “training” while they are out to eat. we can really only hope to cause a gradual shift.
my coworkers and i collectively decided it was probably best to draw the corrective line at pronunciation, or at least to avoid scenarios such as:
guest: “i’ll have the knockee.”
server: “the gnocci. very good, sir.”
it is, however, perfectly okay to clearly use the correct pronunciation as you drop the food.