How Waiters Read Your Table


Called “having eyes” for a table, or “feeling” or “reading” the table by restaurant workers, it’s how the best waiters know what type of service you prefer before you tell them. From fine dining to inexpensive chains, restaurants are working to make service more individualized as the standard script (‘I’m so-and-so and I will be your server tonight”) is sounding dated.

Even chain restaurants like Denny’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, and Romano’s Macaroni Grill are focusing more on personalized service by training staff to note body language, eye contact and offhand remarks, hoping to make service feel less mechanical. Traditionally, eateries taught waiters to follow a script and push add-ons like desserts and drinks.

Getting service right, not just food, is increasingly crucial for restaurants. The number of people going to restaurants is expected to grow by less than 1% through 2019, slower than population growth, predicts NPD Group, a market research firm. At the same time restaurants from Applebee’s to fine-dining spots like Press St. Helena in California’s Napa Valley say guests expect better service as they continue to demand top value for their dollar and learn more about restaurants’ behind-the-scenes operations through TV shows and books.

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