In Gauteng, for some reason unbeknown to man, bartenders and waiters have misconstrued the term “service industry” as meaning to pass food and drinks from tray to table.
Well ladies and gentlemen of the hospitality sector, merely shuffling a vessel is not service.
Service is the nuances that make dining out pleasurable.
Service is the smile on a face when a patron leaves an establishment after having forked out a pretty penny. Service, in a nutshell, is the experience.
A recent trip to the Western Cape brought this pet hate sharply back into focus as a number of dining outings were pleasurable from start to finish. A friendly demeanour can easily compensate for an overworked kitchen or a wrong order.
But back home a sour face and clicking of the tongue just gets me riled up.
After dinner not so long ago a friend became deeply confused as a “miscommunication” between me and a waiter became heated.
For some reason the dining companion could not understand why I was upset at the manner in which my Irish whiskey was delivered.
To me it was blindingly obvious: about a ton of ice happily melting into the top shelf of triple distilled.
Good whiskey is something that should be savoured and having half of a lesser-known Antarctic ice shelf in the glass does not help. The ice is there to open up the whiskey, not to drown the flavour into obscurity.
To no avail I tried to explain the finer points of whiskey-drinking to the offending bartender. The response was to stick his fingers into the glass and fish out some ice.
Now, I am a reasonable sort of chap most of the time, but there are certain lines one does not cross. Another fellow’s fingers in your whiskey surely qualifies.
But, before I could take the matter forward the bartender dismissed me with a click of the tongue.
Perhaps it is time that the local service industry takes a page from the American book, where waiters and bartenders do not receive wages and rely on tips for an income.
Not only will that help to bring down the profit margin placed on good whiskey by a few rands, but maybe it will help with a bit of service.
Pelser is deputy editor of The Citizen.