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    Pittsburgh, PA
  1. I don't think it's fair to automatically assume it's the server's fault. It may have been, but consider that if the diner gave the food order and the wine order at the same time, it only makes sense for the server to ring both items at once. Most bottles of wine are kept in locked storage away from the bar, so when the order for a bottle comes in to the bar, it might not be convenient for the bartender to leave the bar right that second. Conversely, when an order for soup comes into a busy kitchen, it only takes the chef 30 seconds to ladle, garnish, and hand off to a food runner, and that's one more order gone. If both wine and food were ordered at the same time, I don't think it's such a big deal as long as the wine arrived before the soup was half gone. That is my preference, too, as both server and diner. Some people have different expectations, though. I find it's always a good idea (unless you're in a top-flight place or one that you've been to often and know what to expect) to make your preferences known at the outset: "Bring the wine with the main course, please". Any good server should be able to accommodate you, and this can help avoid confusion.
  2. I love the basket idea! My restaurant is in a strip mall with a lot of other businesses nearby; I'm in the habit of bringing menus around once a month, but how great would it be to bring some housemade chips and salsa as well?! Not great for the morning, but could work very well around the 3:00 after lunch lull.
  3. I've done it. Myself and a coworker were waiting on a party of about 20. It was the restaurant's policy to add an 18% gratuity to parties of 6 or more. We added the gratuity to the bill and the host paid by credit card. When I collected the check, there was an extra 25% in cash in the check presenter. My colleague and I discussed it, and I discreetly approached the host to make sure that he understood that the tip was already included in the bill. He replied that he had understood, and he thought that the two of us did such a nice job that we deserved it. Made my year! To be fair, although we did want to be honest, part of our motivation was that we knew that if management found out that we had pocketed money that wasn't clearly designated as a tip, we'd be out of a job. I'd have no choice but to fire one of my servers if they did otherwise-- or if they confronted a guest about a crappy tip.
  4. I'm sure it felt great, but I agree with Maitre d'Hell that it was absolutely the wrong decision. It's never ok to call out a guest for leaving a poor tip; it doesn't point out any shortcomings, it just gives a difficult customer cause for righteous indignation. In a situation like that, it is appropriate for the manager to talk to the customer to make sure everything was satisfactory, and if the customer says that it was, the right response should be, "I'm so glad to hear it; hope to see you here again soon". The guest leaves happy, and tells their friends (at least some of whom are apt to be less stingy and more polite). When a guest leaves embarrassed and angry, they will tell EVERYONE, and they will have a point. I've been in the restaurant business at every level from busser to GM for the past 16 years, and the sad fact is that some customers are unbearably rude, and that some customers don't tip. There's nothing we can do about it, but accept that part of the job with professionalism.
  5. Bona Terra in Sharpsburg and Vivo in Bellevue are two of the best restaurants in town AND they are BYOB. There was an article not too long ago in the P-G that listed most of the BYOB restaurants in town. ← Gypsy Cafe is also a great little funky BYO place on the Southside. The owner, Melanie, is a truly lovely person who will go out of her way to make sure you enjoy yourself. I should probably disclose that I've known her for a number of years (and even worked there on occasion), but most of my experience has been as a mere mortal customer, and I've never had a less-than-fantastic experience.
  6. I definitely agree here that you should feel free to order whatever the restauant offers, in any combination that you please. No restaurant worth its salt would ever refuse a request to have two starters instead of one main course (the profit margin is usually better on aps, anyway). But I feel obligated to add, that if you know you want to share a whole bunch of appetizers, you might be better served in the bar or lounge. First come the simple logisitcs-- most tables in restaurants are small and designed for course-by-course dining, whereas you can always fit something else on the bar. Furthermore, most servers expect that anyone sitting at one of their tables will be ordering a multi-course meal, while most bartenders are happy for whatever food sales might come their way. So, whether it is right or not, you are much more likely to get better service in this instance from the bartender or cocktail server, who feels that you are augmenting his sales, rather than from a table server, who feels that you are diminishing his. Trust me, take a tip from the Spanish here.
  7. In my experience, which comes from both sides of the table, the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The fact is that servers have a vested interest in both making the customer happy, and in making the chef happy. Guests pay servers' bills, but chefs can make servers' lives hell! The customer is happy when he receives a meal that pleases his palate. The chef is happy when his food cost is under budget (a very rare occurence), but also when the dishes that he creates please the majority of palates. If the server gets the notion that your palate is not particularly developed, he will try to sell you whatever he has been told to, or whatever is the most expensive. But if your server has an idea that you have a sophisticated palate, he will steer you towards the chef's "babies"-- those dishes that the chef has lost sleep in perfecting, and that might well be gone tomorrow. I think the best approach for getting the best meal is to develop a sense of trust. On your first visit, you can ask the server which dishes the restaurant specializes in, and order one of those. These dishes are most likely to be "crowd pleasers", but if they are executed well, on the next visit you might ask your server what he would order if he were dining here that night. This is the question guaranteed to deliver the most varied and creative responses. My finest moments as a server were those when a guest trusted me to choose his meal-- I would consult with the chef, and all of us- customer, server, and chef- were always happy at the end.
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