“Multitasking is essential. There is no downtime.”
Michael Montoya – Alamexo
Michael Montoya is telling me about how he grew up a chef’s son in New Mexico—“I knew how to properly cut an onion before I could write a sentence,” he says—when he jumps up to greet a customer who has walked in the door at Alamexo, where he’s been a server for two years. Montoya makes some small talk and connects the diners with a server before he comes back to resume our conversation about service in Salt Lake restaurants.
Service, he says, is a relationship and “you treat others how you would like to be treated. Our job is to meet you at the door and make your experience so good that when you walk back out, you’re thinking ‘I’ll be back.’”
You have to instantly “rate the table,” says Montoya. That means assessing the sophistication and expectation of the guests. “The customers dictate the style and type of service you’ll be giving. Is it a celebration? Are they a loving couple? Do they drink? There’s a fine line between stereotyping and taking the correct measure of your customers.” Customers are the first priority and everyone in the restaurant is your customer. “You have your own tables to attend to,” says Montoya, “but you have to keep your eyes on everyone else’s table, too.” In a small restaurant, he says, nothing is prescribed—you’re always looking out for the whole place. Montoya has done everything from washing dishes to bussing tables to cooking on the line—he’s hyper-aware that a single individual cannot provide good service: It takes a team.
Written by Mary Malouf
Photographed by Adam Finkle