By Marsha Fottler –
In a recent newspaper interview, Dan Cathy the CEO of the fast-casual chain Chick-fil-A, explained that it took him 10 years to get his servers behind the counter to respond with “my pleasure” when customers said “thank you.” They kept wanting to say “no problem,” the common comeback line that in modern times has completely replaced “you’re welcome.”
I wish Mr. Cathy would come to my town and hold classes at restaurants both budget and haute. “No problem” makes no sense except that it implies whatever we wanted from servers or did to them was of so little consequence that they dismiss us with breezy “no problem” finality. When someone says “thank you,” I vote for the response, “my pleasure.” It is what most Ritz-Carlton hotel staffers have said for years. Classy, personal, hospitable and apparently no problem to utter.
While Mr. Cathy is in town, I also want him to find a way to discourage restaurant servers from greeting a table full of women as “you guys,” as in: “Welcome to our restaurant, my name is Gloria and I’ll be your server today. Can I start you guys off with a glass of wine?” I always want to reply, “Gloria, can I start you off with a lesson in gender and syntax?” Instead I usually order the wine.
The “you guys” phenomenon isn’t just diminishing language skills in the restaurant world. It’s completely pervasive in all aspects of family life and the corporate world. “You guys stop jumping on the sofa.” “I’m ordering lunch for the office, what do you guys want?” More precise English with dressing on the side.
The term “guy” comes to America from England where it was used commonly (in the 19th century) to describe a chap or fellow who dressed flamboyantly or engaged in bizarre behavior. The origin dates back to 1605 and to a real person, Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up Parliament. In England, the word evolved into a casual way to talk to or about another male. We’ve gotten carried away with it in 21st century America where we routinely call animals, children, adults, co-workers and friends “you guys.” At my local garden center, I overheard a staff person address some shrubs with, “you guys could use a little fertilizer.” Actually, they did look sickly.
Since I’m a food person, my plea is to restaurant employees. Please stop saying “you guys” when you simply mean “you” in either the singular or plural. Instead say: “Would you like bottled water or house water?” Isn’t that easy? And economical too because you avoided a needless word.