Well, first of all it's subjective. Good service means different things to different people.
For some, it's all about having everything you want exactly when you want it. For others, it's a pleasant smile and a sincere hello. Then, there are those who love a table of dishes served at precisely the same time. What about clearing the plate as soon as you're finished with your dish, or even waiting to clear any plate until everyone is finished?
The bottom line is everyone has a different definition, but when you add them all up, they can be summarized in one basic phrase:
Good service is figuring out how to make your meal the best experience it can be.
I had this revelation the other night at a relatively new, local restaurant here in Boulder that we had yet to try. It's owned by a former winner of Top Chef, so you'd expect a high level of quality on a variety of fronts, but what truly made the meal for me was the service.
Shortly after we finished our initial cocktails and appetizers, right after ordering our mains and a glass of red wine, the waiter came back to me and said he hadn't put my wine order in yet, that he had another suggestion if I was open to it.
These guys know their own food way better than I do, and apparently I had missed on my expectation for how the dish was composed. The red chili béchamel on top of the seafood enchiladas was more béchamel than it was red chili, and instead of that Malbec, he asked, how about a glass of bubbles?
I agreed, and it changed my entire experience. The thoughtful server recognized I was about to bomb the dish with a bigger red wine, possibly talked with the chef, and then threw me a curveball that I smashed out of the park. Those bubbles were perfect with that dish.
Even better, he asked my opinion, which was of course positive. We then heard him through the open kitchen give that positive feedback directly to the chef.
Good service means creating a better experience. And it goes both ways.