Over the years I have learned that not all servers in restaurants and wineries are the same, and there is much to be gained by engaging them in conversation, as well as the owners or managers.
When comparing servers, I’m not talking about the basic quality of service they provide, but instead the knowledge of their offerings and enthusiasm with which they present them. In a restaurant setting it is very helpful when the server can conveniently answer questions about the menu and make honest suggestions. When it comes to the wine experience, nothing is more satisfying than to meet a server whose prime objective is not to simply up-sell the wine, but instead be knowledgeable about the wine and be able to make the right recommendation for you.
To make it a more personable experience for both of us, I make it a point to try to learn and remember the name of my servers, especially in local establishments. I also try to find out what they like themselves to make a connection and better understand the recommendations they may make. It is a compliment to me as well when I return to a restaurant and find the server remembers me as well.
In addition to servers, I have come to meet and know many restaurant and winery managers, chefs, and owners. There is nothing more exciting than to meet those that are truly excited about what they do and their customers. Of course, they are typically hospitable to their patrons to bring them back, but that is not always the case. I have had the pleasure of getting to know chefs and managers who appreciate my curiosities, opinions, and interest in what they do, and in some cases have reciprocated in complimentary ways.
I have a tremendous interest in wine and the wine making process, so it is easy for me to step forward and strike up a conversation with winery owners and managers. I must say that most every winery owner I have met is not just in it for the money but convey their love for what they do. I’ve had the pleasure of being asked to “see the operations”, try a few special selections, or just have a wonderful conversation with owners/managers because I’m not afraid to show my interest in what they do.
Rather than simply allowing a restaurant or winery visit to be a typical vendor-customer exchange, there is much to be gained in approaching every outing as an open doorway to a mutually fun and engaging experience.