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Hey! Waitress! Yoo hoo! Over here!


jgarner53
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Last night, Mr. Garner and I decided to go out to a movie that started at 8. We chose a nearby, popular restaurant (one subway stop away) that we'd enjoyed before. At about 6:30, we sat down at the bar for a cocktail before getting a table. Around 7, when we got our table, the restaurant was, at most 1/4 full. We ordered, but didn't indicate to our server that we were trying to make a movie. Mr. Garner ordered the daily special (a chili), and I ordered a soft polenta dish with roasted vegetables. Neither of these should have taken very long to plate once the order was fired, right?

Wrong.

We got our salad within a few minutes, and when the waitress cleared the plates, she brought over another basket of bread.

At 7:35, after trying unsuccessfully several times to get her attention, as we were getting antsy about making our movie and still didn't have our food, I asked another server to find her for us. Eventually, she came over. I asked for our food packed to go, as we needed to leave to catch a movie.

She huffed that we should have told her we were in a hurry and then offered the excuse that the kitchen was sometimes slow because the order had been fired a while ago. I said that we didn't think we'd needed to tell her we were in a hurry because the restaurant was very obviously NOT busy when we had ordered.

When she brought our food, she asked us if we wanted the meal comped, or something taken off the bill. I said no, since we were taking the food. We paid and left, leaving no tip (yes, I realize that this is as much the kitchen's fault as anything, but I was pissed off).

First off, how long should one have to wait for the main course, assuming 1) the restaurant was only 1/4 full when we ordered, 2) we had ordered no cocktails or wine at our table, 3) this is not a "destination" restaurant where people go to spend the entire evening lingering over their meal and 4) we'd ordered relatively simple dishes that shouldn't have required a lot of a la minute prep? (The couple at the table next to us, who'd sat down at least 10 minutes after we did, received their overcooked steaks before we got our to-go package.)

Second, should the waitress have asked us what we wanted in compensation, or just made a gesture and then told us? "Please accept our apologies; I took one of your main courses off the bill." -- that sort of thing.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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I would have mentioned to her the 8pm show

That way she could be sure to accomodate you

Waitresses aren't mindreaders

�As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans.� - Ernest Hemingway, in �A Moveable Feast�

Brooklyn, NY, USA

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:unsure: Common sense will determine how long a meal should take to be served...each situation is slightly different, as you say.

But the missing point here was communication. It is a server's job to be sure that the customers/guests are comfortable and pleased, as much as possible within the parameters of the restaurant's ability. They don't get compensated for just carrying food to the table. That is the smallest part of the job.

To me, it sounds like there was some sort of problem in the kitchen that night. Could have been any of a zillion things. But regardless of that, your server should have seen, by a thoughtful glance at your faces and body language, how you were 'doing', and should have taken steps to keep you comfortable.

So no, I would not feel too badly that you did not leave a tip. If it WAS the kitchen's 'fault', next time she will cover her own a** better, ultimately providing better service to her customers and insuring her future 'tips'. :wink:

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I count on getting in and out of a restaurant meal in an hour only when I go Chinese...........telling the waitress your plans probably would have changed your experience...........and not tipping her because of the kitchen was probably unfair.

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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Just wondering, if you got there at 6:30 and the place was only 1/4 full, why did you sit at the bar for a half hour? Why didn't you just sit down at a table and order a drink there?

In any event, I agree that you should have told her that you had to be out of there in a hurry.

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Interesting thread...I do agree with the "not mindreaders" part especially. Communication is a good thing.

Yesterday Bob took me to lunch at a place in downtown Soquel that we've been going to for years. The place was fairly full (I'd say there are fewer than a dozen four-tops in there), and we took one of the three open tables in the back. Hostess/waitress put chips and salsa on the table, along with two glasses of water. Bob went to wash his hands, I slowly consumed chips and watched the scene around me. The owner was standing behind the bar, talking to customers. The waitress was taking orders: I saw her scoop menus from a table in the front and drop them off with her order at the kitchen window. I waited for menus and continued to watch. Bob returned. Waitress took the order of two old ladies at the table next to us, meanwhile my water glass was empty, the chips were half gone, and we had not even received a glance or menus from her. The owner continued her conversation at the bar, less than eight feet away from us and in plain view. The "mayor" of the town (a really really really rich man who hangs out there, and who owns most of the town), helped some people with something: I saw him filling glasses and making change.

We sat. And sat. At least ten minutes went by, and finally I said to Bob, "Let's leave. I'm too mad to eat here."

Under other circumstances, I would have flagged her down, but I thought on a dozen occasions she would at least glance our way. She did not.

So we got some free chips and salsa out of the deal--no, we didn't put any money on the table. Let them figure it out.

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Why didn't you just let the server know you were in a hurry?. She shouldn't have gotten "huffy" with you, but she might have just been flustered. Lots of things go wrong in all sorts of places, and observing the ticket time of the table next to you is usually no indication of where your food is. The kitchen could have dropped a plate, a ticket could have been lost, any number of things.

Your server could have been more graceful when trying to make up for the inconvenience, but I would have tipped her.

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why did you sit at the bar for a half hour?

$3 happy hour cocktails :biggrin:

Yeah, we probably should have told the waitress about the movie time. But again, considering how empty the place was, and the time we sat down (and that things moved smoothly until the point when we got our salad), I didn't think it would be a problem.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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Unless there's at least two hours between the time I'm seated at a table and the time I have to be somewhere spcific (e.g. a movie or a show), I always informt he server and aks if the items we're ordering will be reaonsable and allow us to be finished and out the door in time to make it to our event. It's always worked well for me. I agree in this particular instance that the kitchen should have been faster - some probably dropped the ball (or the dupe). That said... I wouldn't have stiffed the server on the tip.

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The reaction of your waitress, when she learned of your time constraints, is what would have killed the tip for me. The problem probably did start in the kitchen, but the tip reflects what the waitress did or did not do. Your tip was appropriate.

Nearly forty years ago, I regularly ate lunch at Bernie's Restaurant in Farmington, New Mexico. Bernie and I were in Jaycees, and my wife was in her last semester of college in Durango, Colorado. She left early and spent the day in Durango - so I was on my own for lunch. My lunch was from 1pm to 2pm and Bernie's lunch crowd was slowing down by the time I got there. The oilfield was booming and employee turnover was tremendous. I saw a new face or two among his staff nearly every day.

Bernie frequently brought a plate over to my table and joined me for lunch. One day he inquired about how long it had taken me to be served. I started paying attention to such details and passed the information on to Bernie. To this day, I look at my watch when we enter a restaurant. If we are given a time estimate for a table, I compare that to reality. How long does it then take for a server to appear with menus, water, etc. if they weren't left by the hostess? How long does it take to come back to take the order. How long does the meal take to arrive after the order has been placed? Do we need to send someone to find our server, or do they check on us from time to time?

Service at Bernie's was always impeccable once Bernie arrived at my table. Because there was so much turnover of staff, my waitress frequently didn't know that I was a friend of the owner. Service was less than impressive on occasion, but professional restauranteur that he was - Bernie found an opportunity to learn how his staff handled their duties. He never fired anyone because of my input, but he, on several occasions, used this information to help the staff learn to do their jobs better.

I just remembered a Chinese restaurant in Durango, Colorado - long gone, I am sure. We were aware that they were notoriously slow and always planned accordingly. If we were in a hurry, we ate elsewhere. One night while we were waiting for our dinner, the owner noticed that some guests had vacated a table near us. She was irate and let everyone in the place know about it. I still can remember that she told anyone who would listen that they had only been here an hour. Of all the nerve!

As others have suggested, when we have an event to attend, we always let the server know - even when we think there is plenty of time. Just in case. They usually assure us that there will be no problem, but they are aware. Sometimes, we come closer to having no time to spare than we wanted - but we don't miss our meal or our movie/play, etc.

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Hmmm. I seem to be the sole voice of dissent here. :wacko:

Here's my philosophy on the thing: Speaking as someone who has had a very successful career in managing both front and back of house, all aspects...

It is the burden of the restaurant to be sure the guest is happy. Each and every guest...as far as is reasonable...for if one person walks out unhappy, that is negative word of mouth, and that is not good! :unsure:

In a market economy, the customer is always right (uh, yeah, even when they are wrong, in certain paradoxical ways), and their dollar does the talking.

That the restaurant offered to comp the meal shows admission that something had been done wrong, and that is good...for even if you screw up, if you can then make it up to the customer, you may develop a good reputation and get a solid customer 'for life' so to speak.

Restaurant managers and owners WANT to know when something is not going well. A meal comp will show this, if the manager or owner can not be there twentyfour hours a day. It is documentation of some sort of problem, which can be followed up on and straightened out, however it happened.

In the EG baking forum, there is a thread which discusses why bakeries go out of business...and the comment was made, by someone who did go out of business...that in the transition of closing the doors, some ongoing mistakes that were being made by an employee were actually seen in person,(never noticed before) with the inevitable question of how much this inadequate performance had affected the demise of the business.

Good service should be tipped accordingly, excellent service abundantly. Poor service should be tipped poorly or not at all. This is the reality of consequences for behavior which teach us all...and there is no reason to tolerate mediocrity if you are paying for it, unless that is what you want...

Any restaurant worth its beans wants to know when things have not gone as good as could be, and any server should too and not get miffy about it.

Sorry to rant, but if we don't demand excellence, we won't get it. And it feels good to everybody when you get it...to both the receivers and the givers.

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Oh gawd. Is this going to turn into another bickering match over tipping?

I would have tipped her. I tend to agree that she was just as flustered about the situation and did her best to accomodate you, even offering that last resort of free food which restaurants never want to do.

However note that a server cannot make the kitchen go any faster. BOH barely has an ounce of respect for FOH let alone one that harps about ticket times. Managers can help, however they also walk on thin ice with the BOH.

Mostly empty restaurant doesn't ever equate they aren't busy in the BOH. Someone called off last minute, someone cut themselves badly, someone forgot to prep something or someone forgot to order an ingredient and the walk in is now devoid of any reasonable subsitute. Crap like that happens often. They are only human and something gets forgotten or overlooked creating the whole domino effect.

The server does not deserve to pay for that and get gipped of even a nominal amount of a tip.

Ever.

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the waitress didn't check in on the table for almost an hour

No, this is not true. The last time we saw her was about 7:20, or so, when she cleared the salad plate and dropped off more bread, but without any sort of "how are you doing," just cleared and left. Then we sat for close to 20 minutes before we could get her attention again to ask for the food to be packed to go.

I probably would have left her a tip if she hadn't been huffy.

AND, if the kitchen was having a problem with the order, we should have been informed earlier. I would have been more understanding.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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BOH barely has an ounce of respect for FOH let alone one that harps about ticket times.

That's a rather bold generalization.

Noise is music. All else is food.

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the waitress didn't check in on the table for almost an hour

No, this is not true. The last time we saw her was about 7:20, or so, when she cleared the salad plate and dropped off more bread, but without any sort of "how are you doing," just cleared and left. Then we sat for close to 20 minutes before we could get her attention again to ask for the food to be packed to go.

I probably would have left her a tip if she hadn't been huffy.

AND, if the kitchen was having a problem with the order, we should have been informed earlier. I would have been more understanding.

I would not have left a tip either. Yes, you should have mentioned the movie but that does not excuse the lack of attention. Things happen in the kitchen that may back things up. It is the servers responsibility to relay this information to the customer. She simply did not do her job. I would expect the server to stop by the table to let me know that she knows the food is not out and is trying to remedy the situation. If nothing else the restaurant lost the opportunity to sell an extra drink or two.

It comes down to simple behavior modification. Your tip is the reward for a behavior. Her behavior did not deserve a reward because it did not meet your expectations. Hopefully she will learn from the experience. I'm not going to hold my breath though.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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the waitress didn't check in on the table for almost an hour

No, this is not true. The last time we saw her was about 7:20, or so, when she cleared the salad plate and dropped off more bread, but without any sort of "how are you doing," just cleared and left. Then we sat for close to 20 minutes before we could get her attention again to ask for the food to be packed to go.

I probably would have left her a tip if she hadn't been huffy.

AND, if the kitchen was having a problem with the order, we should have been informed earlier. I would have been more understanding.

I would not have left a tip either. Yes, you should have mentioned the movie but that does not excuse the lack of attention. Things happen in the kitchen that may back things up. It is the servers responsibility to relay this information to the customer. She simply did not do her job. I would expect the server to stop by the table to let me know that she knows the food is not out and is trying to remedy the situation. If nothing else the restaurant lost the opportunity to sell an extra drink or two.

It comes down to simple behavior modification. Your tip is the reward for a behavior. Her behavior did not deserve a reward because it did not meet your expectations. Hopefully she will learn from the experience. I'm not going to hold my breath though.

Wow tough crowd.

I disagree. She did her job. She became concerned. She offered to have it comp'd, hence free food, which is an ultimate last resort sort of pitch.

What more should she have done? Come out and burden her guests by telling them some tale of woe about someone from the kitchen calling off, or another who has car trouble or one of the line cooks is freaking out?

Guests don't want to hear about that. They really don't seem to care and are only interested in the quick arrival of their food and not the excuses. A server cannot accelerate a cooking time or produce an ingredient/item that they have clearly run out of most unfortunately during a dinner rush.

Edited by beans (log)
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BOH barely has an ounce of respect for FOH let alone one that harps about ticket times.

That's a rather bold generalization.

Not really. There are plenty of other posts on a bunch o'threads about chefs having an amount of distain for servers and I've sure worked with plenty. Remember the staff meal thread where I posted about our exec chef ordered and prepared windings for 30 straight days in a row as punishment because of some sort of FOH day shift antics? :wink:

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BOH barely has an ounce of respect for FOH let alone one that harps about ticket times.

That's a rather bold generalization.

Not really. There are plenty of other posts on a bunch o'threads about chefs having an amount of distain for servers and I've sure worked with plenty. Remember the staff meal thread where I posted about our exec chef ordered and prepared windings for 30 straight days in a row as punishment because of some sort of FOH day shift antics? :wink:

in every restaurant that i have ever become close with, the FOH and the BOH had a love/hate relationship. lots of disrespect all around. lots of talking behind backs. and then lots of blow, booze and sex. could be worse, but yeah, i think beans is right.

Edited by tommy (log)
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I've gone out to eat before a movie, and most of the time we have plenty of time before the movie. One time we only had an hour and a half. The restaurant was busy. The server came by after we ordered and said something about the kitchen being backed up but we didn't look like we were in a hurry. :hmmm::blink: We told her we were catching a movie. I'm not sure when we would have gotten our food if we hadn't told her to go ahead and bring it. :huh: We'd already been seated 30 minutes. We did tip her. If we're really rushing it, we do tell the server when we sit down. Its good to be on the safe side.

it just makes me want to sit down and eat a bag of sugar chased down by a bag of flour.

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