Should allowances be made for cultural variations in service in the service section of place reviews? After visiting some of the top places in Rome and reading the high marks on service, I’m wondering whether my experience was a miscalibration of expectations based on cultural variations in service I’ve experienced at other “top 50” beer bars around the world.
I think at a very minimum to get high marks:
The customer must be acknowledged promptly (note: acknowledged does not need to mean served, just a recognition you are there, a tap list and preferably a friendly greeting - of course expectations would need to be changed if the place is packed)
Responding to questions to the best of the servers ability ( if there is a language gap any attempt is appreciated). Servers should have at least a surface knowledge of the beers they are serving to get high marks (where is this beer from? How does it compare to others in the style? Anything noteable?)
The customers order should be taken more or less in the order that they are queued and served accordingly (barring any orders that require a cellar run or to change a spent keg)
And that’s it. I understand high marks regardless of region if those three criteria are met. Is that unrealistic to expect from the most highly rated beer bars regardless of country? I don’t understand perfect service scores for bars that are almost empty but fail to acknowledge guests in a timely manner, do not attempt to explain the beer (if only the style), and show a clear preference for certain customers orders. I initially thought it was cultural but since that is not what was experienced at regular restaurants, I’m unsure. How should I look at this? Is it completely subjective?
Note: I know the sample size here is tiny and maybe what I experience was not the norm.
Well, service in Europe is something completely different from service in the USA. That’s a thing for sure. I agree with you on all points, that’s how it should be. But be aware that you wont get a lot of the acknowledgement you seek in a lot of European parts.
For example: outside sitting in the Netherlands for example means waving your hands like a madman to draw the attention of a seemingly bored 16 year old, who will then tell you he/she can only pickup glasses and wont take your order. Also, if your glass is empty, nobody will notice, you will have to start waving like a lunatic again.
But if it is the case that you have to wave your hands like a madman for a beer, is it still possible that place would get a top rating from you in their “service” category given it’s par for the course in that region? I guess what I’m trying to reconcile is, is there a different, higher standard of service places in the US should be rated against and a different scale of service for certain European countries (purely for ratings on this site)?
Different, yes. Higher, no. There’s aspects of US-style service I can’t stand and aspects of US-style service I like. And the same holds for European-style service.
Overall I prefer the European approach. I even prefer the authentic Viennese service (which literally insults you to your face) over getting fake compliments.
Furthermore, part of what makes a beer place experience great is if the people take their time to talk to you. That might mean someone else is waiting longer than needed for their service. Even if I’m the person waiting, I still think it’s a good thing that they take their time for the other customer.
Once when I was in the waiting room at my doctors some people got very upset that they had to wait a bit after their scheduled time. They got quite angry at the doctor when he finally called them in. Sure enough they were out of his office in five minutes. When it was my turn my doctor told me: “well, apparently they really don’t like it when I take my time for my patients, so I sure enough didn’t do that with them”. So yes, I agree with you here.
Well, obviously those are the ones giving the high scores for service
What parts do you like and dislike of both? Most of the time, I think how people in the US tip is ridiculous, but then there are the times where I have fantastic service or lousy service and I try and make that apparent (I am sure the server just thinks I am great or I am just an asshole). I do think it is really weird in the US if there is a line on the receipt at bottle shops for tips, but I am sure other people in the US think this is okay.
The tipping is not the problem (at least, not per se).
What I like about US service is the way they handle mistakes in your order or any other problem. You usually get something extra then.
What I don’t like is the often completely overdone niceness, the compliments, the almost getting hit on, just generally how fake everything feels (which is where the tipping thing might indirectly have consequences I don’t like).
What I like about middle European service is that they are efficient and don’t overdo the artificial smalltalk. I don’t dislike anything about it generally, though there are of course bad examples here as well.
This. If I’m at a bar for the first time and it’s anything more than quiet, I would never expect (nor would I want) anything in terms of this kind of weird small talk (sound advice if I’m unfamiliar with the beers available is absolutely more than fine). If I’m a regular, then it’s completely different because I go there often enough that I’ve developed a bit of a relationship with the people that work there. And even in that case, I don’t want bartenders hanging around me all the time to talk to me if I don’t feel like having a conversation.
If I go to a bar with a good craft beer offering, then I’m going there for that, not for faux theatrical niceties to increase any tip money that I’m likely not going to give anyway
Where in the US is this? Other than in the southeast (The South, which ironically typically does not include Florida [which is a different animal]) I am surprised. People in the northeast, especially from DC to Boston don’t act like this typically. In my region there is only chit chat when either you are a regular, or the place is slow and the bartender is not on their phone. If you screw up in the US and don’t make it right, it can/should affect server/bartender’s tip, so there is financial motivation to correct things. Based on you place ratings is this how it is in Cali?
You can see that even in NYC, especially in smaller bars. They try to engage you to small talk, though I carry protection in the form of a book or a magazine to read, while enjoying my beer and taking my notes. I feel self conscious being watched while trying to put down my rating of the beer, and as for the place I try to rate it as unobtrusively as possible.
I think it’s the quality of the server, to notice a customer likes small talk yes or no, likes explanation on beer yes or no, etc etc etc. That can be different from person to person, but also can be influenced whether you are a local or a tourist. I appreciate servers that put time in the tourists and quickly in between other customers serve me a quick beer for example. They can take time to small talk with me, when it’s less busy.
I’ve been to three states so far (WA, CA, and NV), it was the same in the three.
I might have been misunderstood. It’s not chit chat that annoys me. I like chit chat. What I don’t like is the way the whole tone of the experience can feel, that has nothing to do with how much chit chat happens. Classic examples of what I don’t like are “Hi, I’m name, and I’ll be taking care of you tonight” or “Would you like some barbecue, honey?”
I haven’t been to the East Coast, but German-speaking friends who’ve been there tell me they feel the same about Boston and NY.
Maybe it’s something you just can’t explain unless the listeners are also used to the middle European way (which can also include smalltalk).
Though, maybe she was just informing you that the barbecue had a honey glaze
A lot of the more cringe-worthy elements of service in the US occurs throughout a lot of the country, though. I’ve visited 30 states (and used to live in the country) and it’s definitely all variations on a theme.
I got you now; they do that every where in the US. That is all that prerehearsed stuff they regurgatate to everyone. I usually miss half of what they say due to the temporary coma I go into during this (hey it is a defense mechanism) and hopefully I hear barbeque sauce. Does it make the server seem ingenuine or is all of this just unnecessary?
I actually like that in most cases.
In a lot of times because the non informed waiter tries to tell me something like “our seasonal beer is very strong and we are supposed to say it tastes like Guinness”. I can renounce on that, same goes for “Hi I am Sam and it’s a pleasure to serve you tonight! How are you?”
That’s what happens regularly in my village pub. I just walk to the bar and order my double espresso, Chimay Dore or Weihenstephan Weizen. And they will bring it outside within minutes. No probleem at all.