Constant Female Diner of Bala Cynwyd writes: Are servers nowadays trained to call their customers “guys,” as in, “How are you guys doing this evening?” It seems I hear that term more than ever.
You’re not the only one. I’ll never forget the time I took my grandmother—who happened to be the classiest woman ever—out to dinner at a restaurant along City Line. From the moment we arrived, we were all “guys,” all the time. “Hi, guys.” “Have you guys decided yet?” Finally, as I was paying the bill, the waitress asked, “Do you guys need anything else?” I answered, “I do not.” Pointing across the table, I added, “And that, my dear, is no guy. She is a lady.”
No one calls my Grammy a guy!
To gain professional perspective on this topic, I went right to the source: Jamie Tokes, who provides employee training for Seasons 52 in King of Prussia. This popular, casually upscale restaurant takes its serving standards seriously. Whether they’re prompts about serving from the left and clearing from the right or offering black napkins to guests who are wearing dark-colored clothing, Tokes works to ensure that his staffers consistently provide an exceptional guest experience.
So how does he feel about restaurants treating their visitors like one of the “guys”? “At Seasons 52, using the salutation ‘guys’ is not appropriate,” he says. “Our guests are ‘ladies and gentlemen.’ We treat them as guests in our own home.”
What about simpler restaurants like a diner or fast-food place? “In my opinion, addressing guests as ‘guys’ or ‘y’all’ is not appropriate, even in a casual dining environment,” says Tokes.
Scott Morrison shares the philosophy. As principle owner of Berwyn’s famed Asian-fusion restaurant, Nectar, Morrison initiates some of the most stellar standards bestowed upon the Main Line.
“This way [of addressing the guest] speaks loudly about our society as it stands today. There’s a familiarity that is, as far as I’m concerned, too familiar. We can get way too chummy with strangers,” he says. “My servers are not subservient, but they should know they’re not equal—so calling a table ‘guys’ is out of the question. Our staff members should all be friendly, but keep the guest at arm’s length by not appearing too casual.”
Morrison also believes that service standards should arc across the restaurant spectrum, transcending the formality of the venue. “The price point does not matter,” he says. “When I go to the bagel shop on Sunday morning, I don’t want someone sitting down with me at the counter, being my buddy, calling me ‘guy.’ Who is serving who?”
I’m not surprised by Morrison’s take. I once observed him gently admonishing a server for wearing a rubber band around his wrist. In other words: Excellence is in the smallest details.
I’m in agreement with Tokes and Morrison, and I feel that certain phrases in our daily lexicon have become stuck on perpetual repeat. Ultimately, it all comes down to training procedures. If management participates in or allows the use of acknowledgments like “guys,” then there’s no room for correction.
Just don’t get me started on “No problem.”
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