With pressure mounting and chefs and management ever more demanding, are we seeing a shift in the quality of restaurant service?
For this bitchin’ series, I’d like to broach the subject of over-service. “Over-service” I hear you scoff. I mean, does that even exist in Thailand, a country famous for its abundance of smiles and courteousness, but which still finds it challenging to deliver rice before a piping hot curry turns into lukewarm sludge.
It is something diners, I’m sure, have experienced everywhere, particularly with Michelin having set their starry eyes securely on Asia. Service in this city has indeed stepped-up, but some have gone beyond the call of duty, feeling the need to provide overbearing and excessive service for their diners.
Sounds spoilt and petulant right? Maybe it is, but there are clear examples of over-service to be found in local establishments, mostly in places where you’re spending a pretty penny for the privilege. Waiting staff appear to switch to “standby” mode, lurking around your table, staring like hawks with eyes that bore into the back of your skulls. It’s enough to make a diner paranoid to the point that you self-moderate your lively discussion to hushed tones.
Another pet hate is when staff are on a mission to refill your wine or water like it’s the last call at a beverage buffet. But the worst of all is losing that perfect bite, that magical morsel you’ve been saving until the end of your meal, which is suddenly airlifted from your table and sent flying back into the kitchen to be trashed. “Woah… woah… I haven’t finished yet!”
I understand that chefs and restaurants are under more pressure, but is it because chefs and management are over-explaining, demanding more from their staff?
“Yes, thank you for describing those rare ingredients by their scientific names, inviting me to touch that indigenous tree bark, allowing me to smell that vile extract of something-foraged. That took 10 minutes of my eating time, and now I’m at a complete loss—what are we eating again?”
We, foodies, do lap this stuff up, and it does preempt the pedantic questions of that one overzealous foodie. But really, why not leave some of it a mystery?
Some restaurants have responded to over-doing it by under-servicing wonderfully. For instance, not unfolding your napkin and placing it in your lap, because maybe you’re like me and have an aversion to strangers’ hands reaching dangerously close to your crotch? Another great “under-service” initiative is providing integrated cutlery drawers into dining tables. This means you may serve yourself without having to encounter any awkward “Pretty-woman-doesn’t-know-which-utensils-to-use” moment. I actually find that taking some of the responsibility as a diner yourself is quite a liberating experience.
When all is said and done, the beauty is in the balance. Such is life, such is everything, and frankly, who wouldn’t choose a touch of over-service when being wined and dined, just to feel a little special?