The great crank Christopher Hitchens groused the other day in Slate about waiters barging into dinner conversations to grab the table’s bottle of wine and pour – unbidden – each diner another glass. As Hitch himself notes at the end, there are bigger issues facing humanity. But in terms of dining and food service, this is a true annoyance.
The vile practice of butting in and pouring wine without being asked is the very height of the second kind of bad manners. Not only is it a breathtaking act of rudeness in itself, but it conveys a none-too-subtle and mercenary message: Hurry up and order another bottle. Indeed, so dulled have we become to the shame and disgrace of all this that I have actually seen waiters, having broken into the private conversation and emptied the flagon, ask insolently whether they should now bring another one. Again, imagine this same tactic being applied to the food.
Personally, I detest overly, well, personal service at least as much as a good wine-barge. “Hi, my name is Alex and I’ll be your server tonight. Have you dined with us before? No? Super. Welcome. Let me tell you all about Bennigans McTurdenfood.”
I’ve got news for you, pal. I don’t want to know your name. I don’t want an overeager server hovering about, waterboarding what I had hoped would be a nice, quiet conversation with my co-diner. I want professional, efficient, largely invisible service. For this we start the tipping at 20% and go up from there. If by the end of dinner you have faithfully kept water glasses full, delivered food quickly and with a minimum of drama, checked on how said food is more than zero times but less than two and brought the check promptly after requested…well you sir/madam will be looking at a repeat customer and a 30% tip.