“Gone are the days when formal etiquette—serve from the left, clear from the right—was set in stone. And diners can’t seem to agree on whether it’s polite to clear before everyone is finished (it’s not) or if it’s déclassé to mention the price of the specials (technically it is, but it’s awfully helpful when, say in truffle season, an entrée might top $40.) Today, especially at hip but casual bistros, good service has become a matter of taste.
Indeed, according to the latest Zagat survey, 76 percent of Boston diners cite bad service as the single most serious irritant when eating out. “The challenge is in engaging the diner at their level of expectation,” says Eastern Standard owner Garrett Harker, who faces the test of catering to an eclectic mix of hotel guests, foodies, and Red Sox fans. (He called my experience “bad judgment,” but not bad service.)
So here’s the question: In an industry with ever shifting mores—and, worse, ever-changing staffs—can you teach good service? Some restaurants certainly try…”