LEGEND tells of a time when things were not as they now are. A time beyond imagination. A time before… self-service (you really have to imagine that being said by a bloke with a deep, gravelly, American voice for that to work).
Carolyn dreads family days out which involve visits to any tearoom or restaurant attached to a popular tourist attraction. Because that’s when I take the opportunity to have a grouch about service, or more specifically, self-service. Just about wherever you go these days, it’s self-service. I’m writing this in a Starbucks in Glasgow. The coffee’s fine and the music is… esoteric. But why did I have to stand in a queue, holding my heavier-than-you-might-expect Macbook to make my order, and then stand around waiting for my coffee to be poured before finding a seat? Why don’t we have waiters any more?
Similarly this afternoon at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It’s now become such an accepted part of life that I suspect no-one even registers the fact any more. But I’m sure there used to be places where, when you arrived, all you had to do was find a table, look at the menu, then give your order to the waiter, who would (gasp!) bring your order to your table when it was ready.
Or am I just imagining it?
And what’s so wrong with self-service, anyway? Well, from my own perspective, it just adds to the stress, especially when it’s busy or where you are accompanied by small children. Or both.
If coffee culture in this country was sparked by the sitcom Friends and Central Perk, the coffee shop where the gang all met, then we’re being a bit short-changed, aren’t we? Because Central Perk had waiting staff, and we don’t.
There’s an opening here, I would have thought, for any coffee entrepreneur hoping to provide something new, something popular, something not already provided for elsewhere.
And you know what really annoys me? What puts the icing on the cake that I’ve personally had to shovel off the shelf onto my polystyrene plate sitting on my tray? The tip jar.
Now, I know that many service sector workers are not highly paid, and I like to think I’m a fairly generous tipper. But at the risk of sounding like Mr Pink, I tip those who serve me, not the ones who stand behind the counter and add up the cost of my purchases. If it’s self-service, then by definition, I’m the one serving, so I’m the one who deserves the tip.
There. My holiday from blogging didn’t last long, did it?
(A brief note to my small band of loyal readers and commenters: This post is intended as whimsical thinking out loud, okay? The proliferation of self-service restaurants has not occurred because of the Labour government, the prospect of ID cards, the smoking ban or the failure to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. I will not approve comments which suggest otherwise. Thank you for your attention.)