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Restaurants using new techniques to feed their customers like a herd of cattle

By Jeaneane Payne

Fewer restaurants in Knoxville seem to be offering casual dining these days. Their goal is to serve you as quickly as possible, get you to pay the check, and leave. Our restaurants are becoming less and less of a social environment where we can enjoy the company of our guests and become less stressed after a hard day's work.

Restaurants are using the following techniques to run customers through like herds of cattle:

1. They send the salads/appetizers to the table with the entrees.
2. A lot of restaurants are not giving drink refills even if you request them. If you don't have a beverage refill halfway into your meal, you're going to leave without finishing your meal or eat the last half of your meal quickly then leave.
3. The server constantly interrupts your meal so that you and your guest(s) cannot enjoy conversation. You finally realize it is futile to carry on a conversation.
4. The server brings the check to your table after you have only taken a few bites of your food.
5. The bus person stands beside your table staring at you with a look of "I'm ready to clean this table."

My daughter and I took my nephew to Connor's Steak & Seafood restaurant for his birthday last year. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Knoxville, and I still frequent it. As we entered the restaurant, the hostess told us we could only have one hour to eat our meal. I was completely shocked. I told her that it was my nephew's birthday (he is confined to a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy) and that we would need longer than an hour. We were seated and quickly served. After exactly one hour, the server came to our table with to go boxes, took our plates, and boxed our food. The server handed me a check and asked me to go ahead and pay it while she stood there. We didn't even get to order cake and ice cream for his birthday.

Fast service is not good service unless you are a fast-food restaurant or you're serving lunch to a business crowd. It seems to be all about the money these days and not the customer. Nice restaurants are not supposed to be fast-food restaurants. If I want fast food, I'll drive through Wendy's, McDonald's, or Krystal. If my guest(s) and I take up a table longer than usual, I always leave an extra tip so that the server won't lose tips. If the restaurant is busier than usual, we try to finish our meal in less time than we normally do.

Last year, I left a number of restaurants with stomach cramps because the server rushed us so much.

One red flag that you are going to be rushed through your meal is when the hostess rushes you to a table. If they walk you to your table quickly instead of casually, you know you are doomed.

After serving people's needs all day, I need a little bit of personal service at the end of the day. When I eat at a restaurant, I expect to be treated as if I am important to them and not just another dollar coming through their door.

Just for the record, if you enter a restaurant solo, don't expect to be treated as others are. You're going to the back of the bus. For example, I recently went solo to O'Charley's Turkey Creek which I haven't done in a very long time. I was escorted to the very back of the room, the very back booth even though there were empty tables along the way. I got my own trough, but not with the others.

Knoxville has 1 restaurant for every 350 residents. That should be enough restaurants to offer casual dining, considering New York has 1 restaurant for every 3,000 residents and Chicago has 1 for every 750 residents.

On the other hand, perhaps if I didn't spend so much time in restaurants, I might be wearing one of those cute little size "0" dresses that seem to be a prerequisite for a hosting job at many of our restaurants.

Best restaurant service in Knoxville: P. F. Chang's (Publisher's Pick)

Published January 2, 2011

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