Memo to Servers: A Response

I read with interest the article entitled Memo to Servers: Don’t Pour My Wine! on Palate Press, but do have to say that I took issue with the opinion of W. Bake Gray on the subject of refilling wine glasses in a restaurant setting.

My whole professional career has been spent in the hospitality industry, where the mantra has always been to keep wine glasses full. This was not to try to dupe the guest into a second bottle, but instead to show an elevated level of service. After all, you can serve yourself at home. Why would you want to pay restaurant prices and pour your own wine?

For Mr. Blake to state that, “..the main reason Servers refill glasses today is to get the bottle off the table and encourage you to buy another one,” is off the mark.

To quote the book Sales and Service for the Wine Professional, “(t)he Sommelier should keep an eye on the customers’ glasses and refill as and when necessary”. This book for the longest time has served as a study guide by the Court of Master Sommeliers for aspiring entry-level Sommeliers.

Before even entering a restaurant with my wife, I already have a good idea as to how my bottles of wine I will be consuming, (generally one bottle between two of us). A second bottle means we are going to have to leave the car parked overnight at the restaurant and take a cab ride home. Only the minutest amount of self-control is needed when I am asked by the Server if I would care for a second bottle. “No, that’s ok. Thanks though,” usually takes care of the situation.

Never before has the Server retorted with “Oh come on! Just one more bottle! It’s only 2 glasses each! You can handle it!” Maybe a slight exaggeration, my dry English sense of humor sometimes get the better of me!

The job of a restaurant is to meet every guest’s needs through modified service. The Server should anticipate if you are in a hurry and quicken the pace, or slow it down if you looking to take your time on the meal. How do we predict these needs? For the most part, service staff need to be mind readers, but of course it helps if you can give them some hints as you how you would like the meal to flow. For example, “We have a movie to catch in one hour, can you possibly expedite our order?” or “That’s ok, I can pour our wine”.

I can see no way that anyone who has spent even the smallest amount of time working in a restaurant, being able to express any level of disdain for something so simple as a Server attempting to refill their wine glass. I’ve personally long believed a minimum of 3 months restaurant service should be mandated by the Government, but that’s a whole different article…

Kris Chislett Certified Sommelier Certified Specialist of Wine

Born in 1980 and raised in Halifax, England, Kris Chislett now resides in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Denise, their cat Maisy and his overflowing collections of Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Decanter magazines (much to his wife’s disdain). He created his website in order to give people the resource he never had: an unpretentious, user-friendly, fun, interactive guide to the world of wine.