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  • Taking us to the cleaner

    It can be summarized in one word: Upsell

  • Anon NS

    What’s wrong with this? For the record I think they have great service!

    • INWDC

      Agreed, Le Diplomate does have good service. Restaurant options in DC improved substantially in the past 10 years, but too many spots still have a laughable level of service and could benefit from studying this manual.

  • anonyme_maman

    Speaking of Le Diplomate… Does anyone know why they have a “curfew”? My husband and I were perturbed at being denied an outdoor seating (at empty tables!) at 8:45pm on Sunday. We then proceeded across 14th and sat (gasp!) outside at Ghibellina. Just curious why Le Diplomate would turn away customers at such an un-French dining hour.

    • Ben

      Did you ask them? Probably a neighborhood agreement to reduce noise.

    • ustreeter

      Why didn’t you ask them instead of complaining here?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

      • Anonymous

        What fun would that be?

    • Joshua

      Do either of you get loud after a drink or two? And if so, are the staff at Le Diplomate aware of it?

    • MadMax

      I dunno, maybe RTFM.

    • Hill Denizen

      Maybe they don’t have enough servers at that time for the outside, and if you had been sat outside and servers hardly came out to wait on you, you’d be here complaining that you went to Le Diplomate and were ignored by the waitstaff instead.

      • wdc

        This. They no longer had staff for every section. Very common.

  • Manamana

    Whatever is in there, it works. They have the best waitstaff in DC.

    • MadMax

      They definitely have the best staff for a French bistro on 14th Street in DC.

      • Bloomy

        lol

  • brightyellowhouseonsherman

    Churchkey/Birch&Barley’s was maybe bigger, with multiple tests.

    • Hill Denizen

      I’d imagine a lot of that is just beer knowledge.

  • Rich

    They need something to distract from the mediocre overpriced food.

    • Ugly Betty

      The food is great bistro food, well prepared, and almost always by professional servers. We once had a dude who tried to push a bottle of wine when only one of us was drinking a glass (saying we could take the rest home!) but he was the exception. Washington Post food editor seems to think so too, so I don’t know what planet you’re coming from, maybe the planet of small expensive plates?

      • kitty

        Maybe they’re from the same planet I’m from, the one where a 28 dollar hangar steak seems a bit pricy. I think the food is good, but every dish is a little more expensive than it needs to be. You’re definitely paying for the atmosphere and experience, in addition to the food. I do enjoy le Diplomat’s nice, festive vibe. Since so many restaurants in DC seem to care so little about customer service and creating a pleasant dining experience, I respect that le Diplomat is at least trying.

        • Popdc

          Would two dollars less be reasonable? Is $26 a bargain? I never understand price point complaints at relatively expensive restaurants.

    • Mug of Glop

      As much as I’m not really a fan of Le Diplomate, the overpriced food is pretty good, to be perfectly fair.

      • MadMax

        Yeah I think the food is perfectly solid, but I agree that it’s overpriced by at least 10-20% depending on dish.

        • MadMax

          (although one could argue given that they’re regularly full that it’s priced exactly right, if you trust in the market)

          • Mug of Glop

            The food is overpriced compared to a dish of comparable quality and ingredient costs with comparable service in the immediate area. What the market reflects is the premium for the ambiance (eh, whatever) and the prestige (fine, I guess) of *that* fancy French restaurant where all those big motorcade types eat all the time.

          • Truxton Thomas

            I really like their half-chicken. Just thought I’d share.

        • TJ

          There are other French bistros with prices that have felt out of line with where they should be – Brasserie Beck, DBGB, the other bistro on 14th St. that closed, etc. Seems to be a French bistro thing and given the popularity of most bistros price is probably in line with demand. Le Diplomate is good, but because it is a favorite for destination diners from the burbs it has an odd vibe. I miss Chez Billy but still have Bistrot du Coin to turn to.

    • Joshua

      True, it’s not cheap, but I wouldn’t call any of it mediocre. My only complaint is that the menu barely changes, ever. It’d be so much better if they had more seasonal offerings.

    • B

      I don’t understand the constant need for negativity and snark-for-snarks sake on here. The service at this restaurant is impeccable. I have been there many times, and have never had bad, inattentive, pushy, or uninformed servers. The food is far from mediocre. And, indeed, Tom Sietsema (likely a better judge of food quality than me or you) consistently provides high marks. And, while not cheap, the price of a meal out is no different than any number of neighboring restaurants – Ghibellina, Cork, Barcelona …… The fact they have actual training for waitstaff is evident, and should not be criticized..

    • wdc

      How long did you live in France, Rich? I lived and/or worked there for six years or so, and according to that experience, Le Diplomate is better than authentic: the food is as good or better than a comparable restaurant in Paris, and the service is better. (As skilled, but friendlier.)
      As for the prices, I had the steak frites at Bisto du Coin last week, and it was over $25. So…

      • MadMax

        Yeah I think compared to the other French bistro style places in DC for sure their food is better, which is why I don’t mind paying more (although ideally those places would be better, but they just can’t seem to get it consistent).

    • lizcolleena

      Agreed that the food isn’t that great – my husband thought their steak au poivre was inedible (we love pepper and have had many in the past elsewhere) and the scallop dish I had was overpowered completely by the accoutrements. Haven’t been back.

      • Covfefe

        They don’t miss you!

  • Mug of Glop

    1. Effect a vaguely European accent – French preferred.
    2. Be always very slightly too pushy. Master the art of always arriving ten seconds before anyone’s ready to make a decision.
    3. Make sure to be subtly condescending whenever a patron asks for clarification on a needlessly obtuse reference in a French menu item name or description.
    4. Identify the Midwestern tourists – they’re the good marks!

    436. That sparkling water, though!
    437. Profit!

  • Petworthington

    I previously worked at a Stephen Starr restaurant in Philly and the training was pretty tough. But it made for a well trained, professional staff with little turnover.

    • Bloomy

      I waited on Steve Starr when I was working at Table in Shaw… it was right before he opened up Le Dip. He ordered (literally) one of every item on the menu, never two at a time, and sat by himself for several hours. He was just tasting for comparison’s sake. He was very friendly (complimented my service -insert sassy emoji here), and tipped about 30%. Just sharing.

      • Bobert

        What’s a sassy emoji? Seriously, curious which one that is. Help a geezer out.

        • Truxton Thomas

          I’m thinking in this case it’s the one wearing sunglasses. I do like the story, Bloomy. [smiley emoji]

        • MadMax

          eggplant

          • Bobert

            Seems rather par for the course that you’d use the eggplant as a sassy emoji.

          • MadMax

            It’s the only one I know (thanks to TV jokes). I don’t use emojis. My wife sends them to me all the time (not eggplants) and I just ignore them.

          • Bobert

            Heh, yea, I too ignore emojis. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

    • PretzelThirsty

      I went to Parc and Dandelion last week in Philly. Both times the staff were amazing; making sure our courses were well timed and attentive without being overbearing. Top notch.

      • CatieCat

        I was at Parc last week and had terrible service! ugh. Service at Le Dip was amazing when they first opened. in the last year or so ide say 50% of the time i go service is odd or bad.

  • navyard

    If anyone hasn’t ever waited tables in a business where the servers are actually trained, you should try it. It’s eye-opening.
    I worked at a fast casual place back in the 1990s and had to take a course on selling and serving alcohol responsibly and another on how to upsell, or as they called it “suggestive selling”. It was a fantastic introduction to using psychology on consumers and I was able to experiment every night and see immediate and quantifiable results in my tips. Great learning experience and I think I learned more there than in any college course.
    I later worked at a more formal restaurant, where the training was focused on customer service and knowing and understanding the food. I was a complete failure at that and didn’t last long. Although I did learn that there is a standard way to set the table, including where the condiments go and on the tea tray, how to arrange the sweeteners so that the blind will know which is which is sugar and which is saccharin (see how old I am). Not sure why they don’t just label those packets in braille because even back then it seemed pretty easy to get it wrong.

    • Bobert

      Sugar packets are fuller and have noticeably larger granules. There’s absolutely no need for Braille, much less the pretense for arranging them a certain way in a sugar caddy.

  • M

    I worked in a restaurant where the training included knowing all of the details of the art on the walls. On Le Diplomate, few spots are as consistent and tasty. My husband and I go regularly, share the same three plates every time, and appreciate that they split the food to make it easier to eat.

  • MadMax

    One of the biggest faults with restaurant service in America, and increasingly in DC, is the lack of people who take it professionally. You accept it as a standard until / unless you’ve traveled extensively through areas that rely on the service industry heavily where working in a restaurant is seen as a career, not merely a step towards something else or paying the bills while you do / look for something else. I think it’s great that there are places out there that push this level of professionalism, and I’m sure those who take it seriously reap the benefits in tips (assuming it’s not a pooled tip business).

    • jaybird

      I will add that the drain on skilled labor has been tough on the front and the back of the house at all levels of dining in DC. The restaurant expansion over the last 20 years is incredible and double edged.

      • MadMax

        Yeah I’ve read numerous articles (and FB posts from friends in the industry) about how they’re desperately hiring people with the only requirement of having a pulse. The real kicker is that even if people from other areas saw the expansion and wanted to move here to support it it’s unlikely they would be able to afford to do so without living 5 deep in a group house.

      • Bobert

        I’m genuinely surprised that there’s this continued demand for new restaurant openings. You’d think that as crowds move around, the places left behind would lose talented servers looking for more steady income.

        • jaybird

          They do. And chefs, cooks, dishwashers, etc.

      • lizcolleena

        I think it’s a pretty nationwide problem. In Minneapolis there is a huge shortage of both BOH and FOH and they pay better than most states (servers earn min. wage plus tips) and the cost of living there is one of the best in the country (in terms of cost of living ratio to average income).

    • Bobert

      Justin – regarding your point on “career servers” – would you want to be a career server yourself? Why do you begrudge folks who see serving as a temporary stop-gap between college and a (non-serving) career?

      • MadMax

        I don’t begrudge them at all. I’m just pointing out that there’s a general lack of people who fit into that here in DC (and to a similar extent, the US, save a few pockets), compared to other equally developed / touristy cities across the globe, and it shows when you routinely get served by the less-than-professional ones more often than those in the other bucket. I wonder how much of it also has to do with the fact that we are one of the few countries who rely on the antiquated system of tipping as the primary means of paying these employees.

        • Bobert

          Good point regarding the tipping system acting as a possible deterrent to more folks wanting to seek serving as a career, haven’t considered that earlier.

    • Hill Denizen

      Where are you travelling that working in restaurants is considered a career? Obviously high end and historic restaurants are a different story, but in most places I’ve traveled, service is usually more indifferent than in the US since servers don’t care about tips.

      • d

        +1 have been to 40 plus countries and have no idea what MadMax is talking about. Outside of high end restaurants, propensity to make serving your career has much more to do with the local labor market than anything cultural.

        • MadMax

          I’ve only been to about half as many (24) and by far the majority of the ones I’ve visited treat serving very differently, so I guess YMMV.

        • Rich

          Ditto–about 40 countries and in many places, particularly in Asia, I’ve done the gamut from the most basic to the high end with opportunities to get some depth in the local culture. I would guess that in most of the world, outside of the true family operation or the most established high end-ish places, most restaurants function as a first job for rural migrants or young people. Even without a culture tipping it’s a segment where workers often get stiffed on pay and that’s one reason they move on to other things.

          People also complain about service in retail stores and where once people could make a living–owning a car, living in an ok neighborhood, etc. working full-time at Macy’s or even at a store like Walmart, that’s no longer the case. There’s no incentive to learn the merchandise and “keep up the stock”. I did Christmases and a summer at an upper middle brow store and more than training, the example of the permanent staff established the standard of the place. Dillard bought the chain and predictably wrecked it. I did the same at a mid-range discount store before that–there was a reasonably high standard of knowledge and courtesy expected and decent benefits (we had a union), but the chain vanished after over-extension by the parent company.

      • lizcolleena

        Well I knew several servers in Germany that took it much more seriously as a career than is common here. They don’t have that bend over backwards level of service, but there isn’t the “stopgap” or “side hustle” attitude. There also isn’t the same kind of shame (for lack of a better word).

      • wdc

        France. There are restaurant schools all over the country that train not only cooks/ chefs, but also servers, sommeliers, and maitres de maison (maitre d’).
        When I lived in France, I used to hold professional events at a local restaurant school. They did inexpensive dinners for big groups a couple of times a month for practice. We’re talking 9 courses, each with its own silverware and wine. Restaurant service is considered a career requiring 1-2 years of training, and every region has a few of these schools. Some are more prestigious than others.

        • BRP

          I had no idea that maitre d’ stands for maitre de maison! thanks 🙂

          • Contessa of Cleveland Park

            I think it stands for “maitre d’hotel” (sorry, I can’t reproduce the diacritical marks!), meaning, “master of the hotel” where “hotel” means “front of the house.”

      • suzy555

        France… And Le Diplomat is a French restaurant so..

  • John

    Makes sense. I’ve always had outstanding service there. It’s probably the only hyped up restaurant on 14th St. that lives up to the hype.

  • spookiness

    I was a server (and other roles) for Marriott decades ago in college. Our restaurant and hotel management staff was tough but fair, and we had regular compliments from guests. The place was run like a swiss watch and the more formal training showed. I try to tip well, but its fairly obvious to me when servers have had some training, or when they’re thrown into the fire. Its not that hard of a job, but to do it well requires preparation and practice. That job really shaped my work ethic, and to this day I’m also kind of funny about food handling & safety, which even extends to how I have my kitchen setup and organized.

    • MadMax

      Yeah I worked in a lot of food service jobs in high school / college, and it definitely gave ma respect for how to properly handle food prep (especially watching some of my coworkers, ugh), as well as the people who do it.

    • lizcolleena

      To your “it’s not that hard of a job” comment, a study I recently came across actually showed that a la carte serving is more stressful than most jobs, including pretty much any white collar occupation. I would entirely agree based on my own experience (10+ years in f&b and 10+ years in offices). Hotels can be a pretty different experience, because if you’re in banquets it’s almost entirely predictable and if you’re in room service or the cafe you’re not seeing traffic the way a neighborhood restaurant is usually. Some hotels do have decent restaurants that attract a more local clientele though.

      • spookiness

        I wasn’t that hard of a job, for me. The structured/corporate training and hotel experience definitely paid off in later bar tending and neighborhood restaurant kinds of food service jobs where being organized and efficient really mattered. Oh yeah, first “corporate” foodservice job was at a Friendly’s, new store opening. That was crazy and I almost quit, but I carried on.

  • skj84

    This looks like your standard fine dining training manual. When I worked at a high end steakhouse we have a book just as thick. Not only were we trained on food and beverage, but also on customer service. We would do follow up trainings thought out the year, and the servers would be tested on the menu and wine knowledge. We would also do pre-shift meetings which sometimes included wine and food tastings, and in person training sessions with industry pros.

  • L.

    Makes sense to me. The $$$ fine dining waiters can make is no joke. Good spots want professionals who are serious about doing a good job and willing to be trained to do so, because everyone makes more money that way. Plus I imagine there’s more in there besides just how to be a server — probably lays out time off policies, benefits package, dress code, code of conduct, etc. The manual for my current desk job is about the same size of the manual pictured for this reason.

  • Judah

    Having worked there, the money is unreal. A lot of that packet covers things like sexual harassment, wage laws, labor laws that take up space due to basic legal reasons. It’s like any other business they have to have pages devoted to things to subject of CYA (cover your ass). There is nothing about upselling and it’s strictly forbidden. I’ve worked in lots of places (offices and other places)and the manual is always large.In so far as the patio it’s a pretty strict patio cut off. The patio as you know is right in the middle of houses as where Ghillibena is right in the middle of busiest areas of DC. So it’s governed by different neighborhood by laws.And if there is any kind of a wait to get sat in patio which there often is at 8:45 that lessons the experience of the guest. It’s a great place to work and the money is really good. Also the staff takes great pride in delivering an amazing exerience.

  • lizcolleena

    Unfortunately that seems to be the norm. Every corporate restaurant has that kind of manual, including 5-10 training shifts even for seasoned servers, and more and more non- or less- corporate like places are following suit. I interviewed and was offered a job at Cafe Deluxe probably 7 or 8 years ago and they had those kinds of requirements. With 10 years of experience, I passed.

    • MadMax

      I’m curious why more training, to provide a cohesive standard of operations for all employees, would be viewed as an “unfortunate” thing?

      • Q

        +1. I don’t know lizcolleena, so I’m not saying this applies to her, but ten years of experience doesn’t mean you’re good at something. I waited tables for that long and in the decades of dining out since have come to realize that no, I really wasn’t a good server. And without training shifts, how do you learn how a place is run? Restaurants–their food, rhythms, routines, and customers–are absolutely not interchangeable. Even the most experienced employees need to learn the ropes. Hell, I’ve been in my field for 20 years and it still took me a solid month to figure out how this office works. Training=good. Hubris=not so much.

        • lizcolleena

          It doesn’t apply to me 🙂

      • lizcolleena

        Well those kinds of systems generally require an hourly employee to spend significant time, unpaid, doing rote memorization of the menu and whatever other random info they feel like requiring (once had a manager require servers memorize a bio of the owner including closed restaurants he had operated in a different country and language). So not only is it unfortunate for the servers, it’s not a very effective system in that rote memorization doesn’t yield very effective results, usually. The accompanying training shifts are certainly more effective, but unfortunately those don’t yield much better pay for the trainee in that they aren’t usually getting tips. It’s a shame in an industry that is as paycheck-to-paycheck as hospitality is.

  • asdf

    Good. Wait service in DC is mostly abysmal. I waited tables at Clyde’s in Chevy Chase decades back and not only did we get a manual that size but went to multiple days of offsite training. Every good restaurant, especially small chains of which Le Diplomate and Clyde’s are part, should do this.

  • Jay

    Anyone remember Top Copy from The Chappelle Show. That’s all I could think about when I saw this.

  • suzy555

    I was there this weekend and our server was polite, knowledgable, attentive but not overbearing, and HOT. Some of the best service I have had in DC. Keep on keepin on.

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