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Celebrate waiting staff, as they're an essential part of the eating out experience, says Gaby Soutar

They’re the ones who can make or break your visit to a restaurant

Published: October 14, 2021
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The hospitality staffing crisis seems to be worsening.

Restaurants are reducing hours to cope with fewer staff members, and job adverts remain unanswered.

Alongside their VAT rates creeping back up, less of our favourite venues are able to operate at the usual run-up-to-Christmas tilt, thanks in part to a perfect post Brexit and Covid storm.

One chef and restaurateur told me that everyone is off to work for Amazon.

Another said that if he opened a restaurant now, he’d have to do everything himself.

Anyway, this got me thinking about how much I love waiting staff - one of those positions that is proving increasingly hard to fill.

My restaurant reviews always rate the food and the ambience, but I think there should be a separate score for the server.

Recently, there was the youngster with a Germanic accent and blue hair, who explained the menu concept at the new Johnnie Walker 1820 Rooftop Bar.

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“Don’t worry, there isn’t whisky in everything,” they said, making a supernaturally accurate assessment of our interest in the amber nectar.

Then there was the young woman, with a multi-coloured manicure, who enthusiastically talked me through her digit design, at Edinburgh restaurant, The Palmerston. She made me feel like I was her peer, and I shed 20 years, just like that.

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On our visit, there was some great banter from chef, Lucky Singh, who co-owns this street food business with his brother, celebrity chef, Tony, and has a customer-facing role. Waiting for my food was like going to a micro stand-up show. It was an endorphin hit.

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Sometimes I think I might enjoy interacting with strangers in restaurants more than I do with friends and family. It’s a beautifully uncomplicated relationship.

Despite this, my own experience in hospitality is minimal.

I was stymied after one endless night as a silver service waitress, which yielded a tiny pay packet and some budding varicose veins, and a spell behind the bar at Edinburgh’s seediest nightclub. I lined up shots like I was in a Western saloon.

Overall, I would rate myself a three out of ten, so huge respect to those who have actual skills.

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You’re more important than you know.

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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