What do you think of cafes that don't have waitstaff? I'm talking about cafes, delis or restaurants where you order at the counter and seat yourself with a table-flag in hand. You grab your own water, maybe your silverware and napkins, etc., then someone comes and brings you your food a bit later. Maybe you even have to bus your dishes.
There are a number of really great establishments in Minneapolis that fit this bill. Birchwood Cafe in Seward, Mosaic Cafe at Midtown, and French Meadow Bakery in Uptown come to mind. I can personally attest to the fact that all three of these places have fantastic, local, homemade, delicious, vegetarian-friendly, health-conscious, as well as pleasantly indulgent food. However, a recent visit to Mosaic Cafe for dinner one evening got me thinking.
For one, some people bristle at the idea of going out to a restaurant and not being waited on (ahem, husband and his grandmother). Let's create jobs and hire some waitstaff, right? If I'm going to go out to eat and pay good money for my food, shouldn't I enjoy the opportunity to have someone refill my water for me and take away my dirty dishes?
Now, I know that at French Meadow, once dinner service starts, they utilize waitstaff. And my recent visit to Mosaic confirmed that they follow the same practice. However, by the end of the evening at Mosaic I wondered if our waiter had much experience in that role. When he brought our drinks, he carried them over by the rim, blissfully ignorant (I guess?) of the fact that he was pawing all over the area on which I was just about to clamp my lips. If I wanted to kiss your fingers, I'd ask, thank you. *Lady bartender at Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub, are you also reading this? When he came to bus our dishes at the end of our meal, he dropped silverware on the floor and table, and knocked a pickle across our table. Granted, these are fairly innocent mishaps, but I got to thinking, maybe we'd rather just do the self-service thing?
Aside from the benign jumbles of our Mosaic waiter, who was otherwise friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable, I got to thinking, perhaps the self-serve deli model is what enables these establishments work in the way they do? In other words, maybe by bypassing waitstaff, they're better able to deliver the quality offerings they do at their fair prices and desirable locations? I don't have enough experience in the biz to know, but regardless, I'm going back for more.