August 2, 2012
American service constantly presses on its diners. Can I show you to your seat? Here’s some menus. How’s the meal? Would you like the check?
Would you like the check? American servers always ask you if you’d like the check. Sometimes they’ll even bring you the check before you’re done eating.
It’s all about turning tables. More tables, more tips (it’s not all greedy — servers are paid less and rely on tips as part of their salary in America). And diners have places to go and people to see, right?
The pace of meals in America is a reflection of this service style. People come in for dinner, eat, and leave.
Many European cities have a different view on service — a very opt-in style. It would be rude for your server to ask if you’d like the check. It’s up to you when you want to leave.
In Barcelona, once you’re done with the meal your server comes by to take your plates away and asks if you’d like some coffee. Encouraging you to stick around and enjoy the surroundings.
The pace follows. Meals last longer. More conversation, more time at the table. There’s no pressure to move on to the next item on your task list.
A lot of people I talk to label this change of pace as “european cafe culture”. But I think it’s really just a culture of people comfortable staying at restaurants without eating/drinking something as fast as possible.
A few weeks ago I was in Barcelona taking a break from life. At one point, my friend was sketching out a tattoo and I was reading while we enjoyed an after lunch coffee. We were both doing things I often hear people say they wish they had more time to do.
I hate that phrase. We all have the same amount of time. We choose how to spend it.
Pace. I want to spend more time conscious of the pace of my life.
If you'd like to keep in touch, I tweet @kneath on Twitter. You're also welcome to send a polite email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't always get the chance to respond, but email is always the best way to get in touch.
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