We’ve noticed – maybe in the past two years or so – a new trend in restaurant service, and one that, well, kind of annoys me. Not in a major way, really (I’m so happy I survived a deer encounter that this little annoyance of which I’m about to speak is truly minor) …. in fact, it’s more a socially anthropological observation, maybe, than an annoyance.
So – here it is, and maybe many of you have had a similar experience? – where the server sets down your order, and a few minutes later comes by and asks, “How is everything tasting?” Tasting? Really?? Just tasting?
The first few times I was asked this, I just kind of sputtered, and I guess I sputtered out “fine,” or “good” or “okay.” I was just so shocked by the question, because, to us, if we’re going to spend money to go out and purchase a meal, what we’re often hoping to purchase along with great-tasting food, is a whole experience. A nicely appointed room that’s clean and comfortable and not too noisy. Or an interesting room – decorated with Mom and Pop’s pictures or family heirlooms or information, if it’s a Mom and Pop restaurant. We want comfortable chairs and a good temperature range. We’d really like a wide-ranging menu that has even an item or two that we’d never even think about cooking at home ourselves (and now the seed to cook it at home has been planted). We’d like a server that greets us pleasantly, tell us some specials (along with the prices of those specials), suggests, if appropriate, a wine pairing, takes our order, and returns the meal in a reasonable amount of time.
So, to ask “How is everything tasting?” in my mind, precludes an answer that might suggest the food is too cold, or the silverware is dirty, or the wine is at the wrong temperature, or the chairs are uncomfortable, or the music is too loud (or inappropriate for the dining room). I’ve actually Googled this trend, and aside from finding an almost universal annoyance at this question on the few sites I did find, I haven’t been able to discover how this trend started. Is it taught in food service schools? Is it something that was presented at a food service conference a few years back, and spread throughout the country? I’ve even asked some servers, a few times, why they use that terminology. They’ll look at me with a deer-in-the-headlights look, and stammer back, that “Well, we’re curious about how everything’s tasting for you.”
We most recently experienced this about two weeks ago when we stopped for lunch at a new restaurant in Billings called the Asia Seafood Grill. We expected a kind of upscale Long John Silver’s place – almost modified fast food – but were pleasantly surprised. The interior was darkly elegant and calming, with hardwood floors and artfully sturdy tables and chairs. The long expanse of walls was done in a bamboo-looking covering, and had lovely metalwork – in front of the the whole length of the walls – that could have represented bamboo or seaweed. The metalwork had subtle backlighting, so that it appeared to be moving, almost, against the bamboo wall. The menu was well-done, with lots of choices and with reasonable pricing (at least for lunch). And the whole experience just begged for some soft, soothing background music – something New Age-y even. But, no, as the waiter came to ask “How is everything tasting?” the music system was blaring out Credence Clearwater Revival singing “Proud Mary.” While the food tasted just fine, the cognitive dissonance between the elegant surroundings and the totally inappropriate music made for a less-than-perfect experience.
So, Barbara, is there a Spanish version of this question in Mexico? And, anyone else – have you noticed this trend ….. and do you know where it originated? (And maybe, how we can get rid of it?)