In the November Issue, Editor Mike Sanson discussed a scenario where a bartender in an upscale casual restaurant asked, “What will you have, hon?” It was well intentioned and did not bother him, Sanson wrote, while his female companion thought the server was too familiar and unprofessional. There were arguments presented on both sides of the issue by those of you who responded to the editorial. The following are excerpts from those responses.
If you are in Baltimore, it's perfectly acceptable to say “hon,” as it is part of our vernacular. There is even a famous café in Hampden called Café Hon. The owner tried to trademark the name Hon and people were outraged, She has since dropped the trademark. I (formerly from Baltimore) agree that servers can be too familiar. I hate “you'se guys” and such similar slang.
“Hon” or “honey” does not bother me, since we are in the South and I grew up with Mel's diner on the TV. But the word “ma'am” is taken very badly. People who say it just do it out of respect. The line is drawn when the “hon” turns into an invite to sit at my table or be my friend. Restaurants that let one thing slide tend to let more slide until there is a problem. True story: I ordered a Blue Moon with an orange at a restaurant. When my server returned it had two oranges on it. She took one off and sat at the table to eat her orange and take the order.
Jason E. Clark
BIN112 on Trade Street
The Strip Club 104, a steak house
Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I do not agree with you giving a bartender or server the freedom to call you anything they want. While casual is the trend, it does not give the people who work in the service industry the right to be impolite. I expect to be called “hon” in a truckers' hangout or local bar and grill out in the boonies. Bad language does not go with a $10 to $20 glass of wine.
Eric R. Eitner
West Palm Beach, FL
I believe the server did not cross the line. Because of my geographical relation to the South, I'm rather used to dealing with it. You have to take into consideration that in some parts of the country people talk like that every day regardless of where they are. If I were in a very posh fine dining establishment I'd expect more from my server, but overall I don't really think it's something to truly fuss over.
I think people are a little too sensitive about servers who call guys “hon.” I'm more interested in hospitality and great service.
Your column always hits so close to home! In this day and age there are too many rules. What about a simple, “Hello, how are you this evening?” Very simple, classy and casual. Don't over think it.
I think this is so subjective. Ultimately, what it boils down to is whether or not a server can accurately read a table to determine if a more casual demeanor is acceptable. These days, I feel that has less to do with the surroundings and more to do with the individual guest or climate of the table as a whole. It's hard to tell if your server overstepped her bounds. While I don't mind being called “hon” by anyone, I absolutely detest when my table is referred to as “guys.”
On another note, it is sometimes possible to defuse an uncomfortable situation by using more casual language. If I had a guest who had clearly never been to a fine dining establishment before, and they are very nervous, quietly calling them “dear” when asking a question, or for their order, can put them immediately at ease.
I'm a fine dining restaurant manager. To put it simply, my servers wear tuxedos, follow all the formal rules, so on and so forth. I thought considerably about your question. Ultimately, the single most important ability a server must possess is that of reading people. I think, at first, it pays to be slightly more formal, then work your way up (down) to “hon” or “buddy.” I once was even yelled at for referring to guests as “friends” while doing a table visit. Ultimately, people need to relax a little and not look for reasons to be offended.
Seriously, people have a problem with that line? If you were on a date with your female friend (who was offended by the server using the word, hon), that's a clue to skip another date. She's a little too uptight! A lot of people think “diner speak” is amusing, not offensive.
The Belton Chalet
West Glacier, Montana
I Teach a class in hospitality sales and marketing at a local college. I polled my 22 students with the following results: 10 men thought the server using the greeting “hon” was no problem. Twelve women in the class were 50/50. The most passionate were those who thought the comment was inappropriate, but if the comment were made in a diner it would have been okay with them.
Water's Edge Resort and Spa
I am age 77 and still active with a summer-season restaurant at Westport Marina on Lake Champlain, upstate New York. I do not like to be called “hon.” It seems rude and ridiculous to me.
The Galley Restaurant