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No salt, Sherlock

Posted by Robin Abrahams  February 23, 2012 01:37 PM

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An article in the Wall Street Journal looks at a new trend in restaurant management: teaching wait staff to recognize diners' behavioral clues and adjust their serving style, and suggestions, accordingly: 

"We changed 'suggestive selling' to 'situational selling,' " says Rene Zimmerman, senior director of training and development for Bob Evans Farms Inc., a family-style restaurant and food maker. Instead of offering every breakfast guest one additional item, say biscuits and gravy, waiters are taught to adjust their offer depending upon the guest. For a diner who places a lighter order, like a bagel and fruit, the waiter might suggest a cup of coffee or tea.

Servers also are taught to ask, or suss out, a table's preferred pace. In general, people don't like having the check pushed on them -- but if a group mentions that they have theater tickets, they usually appreciate getting the bill with the dessert. 

Excellent, experienced servers have probably been doing these kinds of things intuitively for a long time. And I'm sure they hate it when management tries to get them to stick to a script.

The piece ends with advice to diners on how to get better service, not all of which is very nice. (It is the Wall Street Journal, after all.)

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Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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