Don’t force me to interact with you

Call it a pet peeve of mine. We’re out to dinner, we’ve just gotten our food, and we’re starting to eat. A manager comes by and says something like: “How is everyone doing? Do you need anything? How does everything taste?”

They mean well, but they are interrupting. Not only that, but they are asking questions that require an answer. Where I come from, it would be rude not to answer.

A better way to accomplish the same thing would be to say – “Thank you for coming out tonight. If there’s anything you need, please let me know.” Bonus points for moving on instead of waiting for a response (unless I indicate I’m about to ask for something).

When I was in college, I waited tables and trained many new waiters. I was surprised to learn that the most common mistake new waiters made was to check in with tables too often. The trick is to be available without interrupting. Don’t try to make yourself the center of attention.

This applies in all kinds of businesses, not just restaurants. If you work in retail, saying “I’ll be right over here if you need anything” is much better than “Can I help you?” A pop-up on a web page is definitely a bad idea. Like the waiter who stands to the side to be available without interrupting, design your website so that the offer is always there, but not in the way.