Food Stuff

Illustration By Conrad Garcia

“Is everything all right here?” All of us have heard some variation of that question while dining out. Compare our recent experiences at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Biba, both restaurants we enjoy. At P.F. Chang’s, our young, energetic server, who provided admirable service in every other respect, asked the question no fewer than five times after our meal was served. Mouths full, we were forced to grunt approval as we chewed. At Biba, our waiter discreetly surveyed our table every few minutes. If he detected we needed something, he quietly approached the table so that we would not have to hail him like a distant taxi. Perhaps the Biba waiter had more experience (he appeared to be in his 50s), or maybe Biba’s staff receives explicit instructions not to ask the question. Put it down in Waiting Tables 101: Everything is not all right if you have to ask.