In the old world, as defined as a few years ago, the economy was flush and diners happily supported the restaurant industry without a blink about fancy meals and high price tabs. It was the world, and upselling was a prevalent theme. Make that “a problem.” Yes, waiters never seemed to tire of the million strategies to drive the bill. Then the recession hit and waiters, too, were happy to serve tap water or let diners share an entree. With the first visible positive signs of economic change or potential stability, waiters have returned to the 1000 ways to enhance your dinner or drive up the tab; your call as to how to define the strategy: rhythm or an incessant drumbeat from an earlier era?
Take a recent outing where the waiter quickly moved himself into the annoying corner as he seemed to meet resistance with his every ploy. Sparkling water became a spigot that was never shut off. You know how I feel about the restaurant versions of still and sparkling without a cost to the consumer.
When the waiter moved to a more profitable part of the menu as he tried to sell truffles a thousand ways, he lost everyone at the banquette. The group preferred a conversation rather than a lesson in pricing or slicing. He was unstoppable as he moved through menu gyrations with the almost musical tone, “we could just add a thin truffle slice to make the dish purr.” Seriously, uninterested and turned off by this overpowering display of in-your-face possibilities. Let us dine. Let us relax and chat and welcome our dining choice rather than secretly dread the restaurant decision. Did he mention the cost? No need; there were no bites at the table. He quickly tried another approach, also an unsuccessful strategy as he encouraged additional courses. He asked, “Is that it?” Not smooth; not impressive, and not a winning tool.
Yes, dining out can be complicated and expensive with rising food costs and creative plating as chefs struggle with all matters of pricing. Yet, the annoyingly, cloying waiter needs to remain a caricature and not make a visible presence tableside. Let the diners’ imaginations go wild and let them initiate as in, “could I have the truffle atop that salad, or…”. You get the picture. Food is expensive enough at high-tiered restaurants without the nagging upsell that has again entered the market space.
Let’s all be hospitable and relax.