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adegiulio

Service at a Restaurant

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Added by Rosie 9/23/04

I would like to open a discussion about service in a restaurant. If there is a problem what is the patron's responsibility? What is the owner's responsibility?

Some of the posts here were started in this thread:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=46608

Also, this topic was merged with another one which was on the same topic.

***************

Markk, your last two posts were spot on perfect. Though both of my meals at Rocca were good, the points you raise before and after Mr. Levy's post were well thought out and eloquently typed. If I were you, I wouldn't go back either.

Good for you for sticking to your guns and saying what needed to be said in a polite, constructive manner. Be sure to join Tommy and me next time we go somewhere other than Rocca.


Edited by Rosie (log)

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Markk, your last two posts were spot on perfect. Though both of my meals at Rocca were good, the points you raise before and after Mr. Levy's post were well thought out and eloquently typed. If I were you, I wouldn't go back either.

Good for you for sticking to your guns and saying what needed to be said in a polite, constructive manner. Be sure to join Tommy and me next time we go somewhere other than Rocca.

I agree. I thought MarkK was right on in his description of a restaurant’s responsibilities to its patrons (at least, if it wants to keep them as patrons). It’s their responsibility – not ours – to monitor and report on food quality and employee behavior.

But I must also disagree with Rosie that the topic has been covered and we should “move on.” I’d be interested to know what what others do -- or feel is appropriate -- when they encounter bad food or service in a restaurant.

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I was going to let this thread sink, but since it keeps bobbing back up, I'll ask the simple question I've been wanting to ask since I first read the recent comments here:

What time did Markk actually arrive at the restaurant? It's never mentioned, only characterized as "late."

To me that's an important part of the context.

Let me clarify that I'm not trying to drag out any controversy, only seeking information that I would find useful in my personal decision on whether to patronize Rocca.


Edited by ghostrider (log)

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Honestly, I can't see how it would matter what time he got there. Unless they told him, '"Markk, you are here kinda late, we are going to give you a 50% effort, please only pay us 50% of the bill" he should receive the same food and service as someone who got there at 6:30...

For them to drop the ball at every stage of this meal reveals a systemic problem, not one of bad timing or luck. I hope I am wrong, and judging from my own experiences there, I am. Only time will tell if Rocca will go the way of Fascino or the place on French Hill Rd. in Wayne that renames itself every 18 months...

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What time did Markk actually arrive at the restaurant?  It's never mentioned, only characterized as "late."

We arrived at 8:59, at which hour Mr. Levy insisted then, and insists now, that we were, in theory anyway, welcome - but I'd like to explain that arriving at that moment was - most assuredly - NOT our intention. We were scheduled to arrive around 8:40, and got lost following the directions, coming from Hoboken, and having never been anywyere near there; we did however, call, and he knew we were delayed. He also knew from the location I gave him for help finding the place, how far away I was, and he could have told me then that we'd not make it in time to be served.

But the salient point, I believe, is that he, in my initial call, when I asked if we could come 8:30/8:40- ish, insisted to me "you are welcome to walk in here until one minute of nine". (That's something he reiterated very clearly in his post as well.) And, although not intending to, that was precisely when we did arrive. I can't really see how that makes a difference. I upheld my part of the bargain, arriving in within the specificed time, and he did not.

I'd like to thank those eGulleteers who have posted their support for me, and those others who have e-mailed me privately with theirs!

I'd also like to address what I feel is the important issue here, and ask my fellow members: what do you do when you receive mediocre food, or bad service in a restaurant? Do you feel that you have a responsibility for this, or do you simply pay your bill, leave, and take the decision never to return?

In the Fascino thread last night, adegiulio posted a wonderful message about receiving a dish with which he was disappointed, (at a restaurant he assuredly loves) and that the waiter picked up on this, discussed it with him, and then a moment later the chef came out to see what could do as well. (I'm sure you can all find it.) I'd like to ask my fellow eGulleteers if they don't think that for the restaurant to notice something is wrong and take the iniative themselves to remedy it, should be the norm in dining out?

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Let me clarify that I'm not trying to drag out any controversy, only seeking information that I would find useful in my personal decision on whether to patronize Rocca.

personally i wouldn't let one person's clearly horrible experience taint my decision given the amount of positive reviews. i might be alone on that, though.

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Tommy -

I wasn't trying, in any way, to dissuade anybody from going to the reataurant.

I merely posted to the community that my experience there was a great odds to the majority opinion. Many of you, whose opinions I have come to respect from reading your posts about restaurants I like myself, convinced me that I hit the food on an off night, and I was perfectly willing to accept that.

And the fact that I got lousy food and rude service was not really a problem. If you don't try new places, you don't find new restaurants to love. I, certainly, don't try new restaurants thinking I will love every one of them. You win a few, you lose a few. Better to have experimentd and found new favorites than never to have tried at all.

As I said all along, I had a lousy meal with lousy service, and decided not to go back, and I shared this with my fellow eGulletteers.

For me the problem was the owner of the restaurant coming on here, and telling me that as restaurant patron, I had a "duty" to him, and I grealy resent the fact, that in just so many words, he told me I was wrong to post my negative expericnecs at Rocca, or criticise him on eGullet, without discussing it with him first. What nerve! This is insulting to the entire eGullet community. We have a right to share with each other the negative, as well as the positive.

And lastly, I think that his referring to my critical postings publicly as "ranting" and suggest that he would have preferred it if I were "fair and rational" - I think these comments are, while unprofessional, borderline libelous as well.

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I'd also like to address what I feel is the important issue here, and ask my fellow members: what do you do when you receive mediocre food, or bad service in a restaurant?  Do you feel that you have a responsibility for this, or do you simply pay your bill, leave, and take the decision never to return? 

I'd like to ask my fellow eGulleteers if they don't think that for the restaurant to notice something is wrong and take the iniative themselves to remedy it, should be the norm in dining out?

Uhboy. I wasn't going to get in this mix, yet here I am. I want to preface my response to Markk's questions by saying a few things...the first is, I've never worked in a restaurant--I've only seen that world as a customer and through the eyes of friends who have worked as wait staff in upscale places in NYC and moderately-priced restaurants in northern NJ. Secondly, I agree with Tommy--and if I could figure out the double quoting thing, I'd use it here--I wouldn't let Markk's bad experience prevent me from trying a place and forming my own opinion--precisely b/c the experiences posted on eG prior to his were so great. Finally, I'll tell you that my one trip to Rocca was terrific (both food and service), and having read all of the reviews prior to getting there myself and having had that experience, my mouth was agape as I read Markk's post. And again as I read the post from Mr. Levy. The reason I didn't want to get in to the conversation is that I genuinely see errors on both the customer and the management side of things.

All that said, I'd like to respond to Markk's question. If I receive mediocre food or service in a restaurant that I expect to be mediocre (let's just use a diner as an example), I feel that it is what it is--yet I'll still speak up if I feel strongly about something—and most certainly, if I find the food to be inedible. Why should I pay for something I find inedible? And why shouldn’t I give them a chance to remedy the problem? Of course, my displeasure is reflected in the tip and in my decision about returning to the scene of the crime when requiring a mediocre meal in the future. :laugh:

I don't think Rocca qualifies as mediocre, though. In a restaurant like Rocca, yes--I would expect the wait staff to notice that something was wrong, but if they didn't (a management issue if they’re not trained properly, a personal/personnel issue if they choose not to give good service in a SERVICE industry), I'd insist that whomever had the problem entree say something, and if the waiter didn’t/couldn’t handle it, I would ask to speak to someone else. Perhaps I’m too bi-partisan here, but I feel like we’re demanding of restaurants (and we on eG probably all the more so), yet I wonder how we can expect to get what we want without speaking up when it’s not executed well?

Markk, you ask “Do you feel that you have a responsibility for this, or do you simply pay your bill, leave, and take the decision never to return?” My baseline answer is yes, if we want decent restaurants to exist, grow and succeed where we live, play and eat, we do have to participate as customers! Do we bear the full responsibility? Of course not. And of course I think the first line of all of this should come from the restaurant’s end—but if it doesn’t, I think we all owe it to ourselves and the restaurant to say something.

As you said, you are paying for the service and the food—and I’m SO about customer service—don’t get me started on that as a universal topic. But when customers of any business don’t speak up when there’s a problem, how can the business know? Sure, the wait staff and/or the kitchen should have spotted the issue—but they obviously didn’t, or didn’t choose to address it. At that point, I think it’s up to you as the customer to say something. If you go to Target and buy a defective tv, do you return it? Do you tell them why? Do you expect to get your money back or at least a replacement? My assumption is yes. So why is that easier? Is it because you’re not face-to-face with a human being who ‘manufactured’ the item? Please don’t misread my tone here—I’m not trying to instigate more of a controversy on the topic—I’m really just posing the questions. I suspect that it’s easier to speak up when the item being purchased isn’t such a subjective one (i.e., the food is too salty).

I don’t pretend to think that I have all the answers—just decided to add my $ .02 to the pot.

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Curiz - I didn't misread your tone at all; I completely enjoyed your post and want to reply to some things that you and Anthony have posted...

But when customers of any business don’t speak up when there’s a problem, how can the business know?

It's my belief that in Amerca, customers speak up with their wallets. When their business falls off and they don't have enough return customers to pay their bills and they fold, that's how they know. And I firmly believe that that's the foundation of the American free market economy. As a consumer, I vote with my wallet. I do not believe that I have any obligation to tell a business of its shortcomings. If for any reason I like them, and want them to succeed, then indeed I will tell them of problems, because there's something about them, there's been some positive indication, that they mean well and are trying. But when I encounter a business whose attitude to me is one billion percent negative, when I'm made to feel that my presence in their establisment is an unwelcome intrusion, and when I'm give not only lousy service, but lousy product as well, I feel no desire to support or help them. I want to cut my losses, get the heck out of there, and forget about them. The concept that in additon to handing them my hard earned money at the conclusion of the transaction, I should teach them as well, rubs me entirely the wrong way.

Sure, the wait staff and/or the kitchen should have spotted the issue—but they obviously didn’t, or didn’t choose to address it.

That's right! Either way, for a restaurant with paying customers, and a restaurant who knew it had a first time diner, that's a seriously black mark. Did you read Anthony's comment about the people at Fascino being astute enough to pick up on the fact that he wasn't thrilled with one of his dishes? THAT'S the mark of a caring restaurateur who has trained his staff well.

Only time will tell if Rocca will go the way of Fascino or the place on French Hill Rd. in Wayne that renames itself every 18 months...

And, Bingo!

I don't feel that the diner has any role in correcting a restaurant's shortcomings. A restaurant should understand that it stays in business by pleasing its customers to the point that when they leave, they want more and want to return. As I said in a much earlier post, nobody at Rocca the night I was there could possibly have thought that we were enjoying our food, or the attitude with which it was served, and I am entirely within my right to want never to return.

Did I hit an off night? Apparently so. Still, it was a hateful dining experience, with rude service and mediocre, cold food for me. I'm glad that most of you have had better experiences there.

What I resent, and I say this one more time, was Mr. Levy's comment that I had no right to share my negative experience with my fellow eGulleteers. (And that he suggested in his post that my criticisms were 'irrational ranting' is to me, thoroughly offensive. )


Edited by markk (log)

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personally i wouldn't let one person's clearly horrible experience taint my decision given the amount of positive reviews.  i might be alone on that, though.

One person's experience is just one factor in my decisions on where to dine. Being late diners ourselves, though, I was particularly interested in the timing of Markk's experience (and thanks for the details on that), since it's likely that I'd find myself in similar circumstances were I ever to venture up to Rocca.

And yes, I'd still chance it, based on all of the positive experiences related here.

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You all bring up very intersting points, and I'm not going to beat the dead horse and talk about my opinion on them...I will only say 2 things:

1. My hubby and I tend to 'close the place' at many area restaurants pretty often given his late commute home and we've done so at Rocca on at least 2 occasions, once on a weeknight that didn't seem particularly busy. Never have I been there and felt a lack of caring or disservice and the food was always great.

2. Also, I've definitely been to 2 or 3 places that people loved (even in Manhattan) and been thouroughly disappointed. Haven't we all? IMHO, a place should be given some benefit of the doubt, esp. if they're new, and let the masses decide--do they like it? or not?

My $.02 too,

Lala

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I don't feel that the diner has any role in correcting a restaurant's shortcomings.  A restaurant should understand that it stays in business by pleasing its customers to the point that when they leave,  they want more and want to return.  As I said in a much earlier post, nobody at Rocca the night I was there could possibly have thought that we were enjoying our food, or the attitude with which it was served, and I am entirely within my right to want never to return. 

I guess the one thing I forgot to say in my last post was that it's obvious that you have no reason to return to Rocca, Markk; having read of your experience, I don't blame you one bit, nor would I try to convince you otherwise. I say here's to many ENJOYABLE meals for you at other restaurants!! :smile: For those who haven't been there, though, I still say it's worth a try--but that's based on my experience.

In terms of Mr. Levy, I'm not defending him nor do I know him, but here's what I see...a guy who hasn't ever posted on eG before, whose personality we don't know, and who feels he has to defend his livelihood publicly since you posted about your experience publicly--which I still agree was okay for you to do! Everyone has a different style; it seems that Lou wants to hear what people think of An American Grill whether it's positive or negative, but I'm sure there are just as many restaurateurs who prefer to handle these issues one-on-one. Perhaps Mr. Levy would have been better served all around if he had PM'd you and then posted a more general response on the board. And perhaps he has reamed out his staff and they'll all be far better from here on out because of your post! We may or may not know. I will say that we've all posted things here we later edited or removed or just wished that we hadn't.

Curlz

P.S. Rosie, I hadn't seen your last post b/c I was in the midst of writing; I respect the fact that you're the moderator here, but I think this discussion still belongs in NJ as long as the topic is Rocca, good or bad. There are enough of us who have been there to warrant having the conversation! Why is this different from the conversation that was started about Trattoria Fresco? There were good experiences galore, now there's been a fender bender, and people want to discuss it! Just my opinion.

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I guess the one thing I forgot to say in my last post was that it's obvious that you have no reason to return to Rocca, Markk; having read of your experience, I don't blame you one bit, nor would I try to convince you otherwise.  I say here's to many ENJOYABLE meals for you at other restaurants!!   :smile: For those who haven't been there, though, I still say it's worth a try--but that's based on my experience. 

In terms of Mr. Levy, I'm not defending him nor do I know him, but here's what I see...a guy who hasn't ever posted on eG before, whose personality we don't know, and who feels he has to defend his livelihood publicly since you posted about your experience publicly--which I still agree was okay for you to do!   Everyone has a different style; it seems that Lou wants to hear what people think of An American Grill whether it's positive or negative, but I'm sure there are just as many restaurateurs who prefer to handle these issues one-on-one.   Perhaps Mr. Levy would have been better served all around if he had PM'd you and then posted a more general response on the board.   And perhaps he has reamed out his staff and they'll all be far better from here on out because of your post!  We may or may not know.  I will say that we've all posted things here we later edited or removed or just wished that we hadn't. 

Curlz

P.S. Rosie, I hadn't seen your last post b/c I was in the midst of writing; I respect the fact that you're the moderator here, but I think this discussion still belongs in NJ as long as the topic is Rocca, good or bad.  There are enough of us who have been there to warrant having the conversation!  Why is this different from the conversation that was started about Trattoria Fresco?  There were good experiences galore, now there's been a fender bender, and people want to discuss it!  Just my opinion.

I like your style.

Incidentally, I've just received some news that will place me on-the-road, and completely out of electronic touch, for the next few days, so I won't be seeing anything posted on eGullet, and needless to say, won't be posting, until at the earliest, late in the week.


Edited by markk (log)

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it's obvious that you have no reason to return to Rocca, Markk; having read of your experience, I don't blame you one bit, nor would I try to convince you otherwise.  I say here's to many ENJOYABLE meals for you at other restaurants!!  :smile: For those who haven't been there, though, I still say it's worth a try--but that's based on my experience. 

In terms of Mr. Levy, I'm not defending him nor do I know him, but here's what I see...a guy who hasn't ever posted on eG before, whose personality we don't know, and who feels he has to defend his livelihood publicly since you posted about your experience publicly--which I still agree was okay for you to do!  Everyone has a different style; it seems that Lou wants to hear what people think of An American Grill whether it's positive or negative, but I'm sure there are just as many restaurateurs who prefer to handle these issues one-on-one. 

I'm totally with you! Thank you for saying what I couldn't get myself together to verbalize!

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Everyone has a different style; it seems that Lou wants to hear what people think of An American Grill whether it's positive or negative, but I'm sure there are just as many restaurateurs who prefer to handle these issues one-on-one.

Hey, I've stayed out of this for a reason and would prefer to. I've learned to use egullet as a way to get public opinion in addition to asking my clientele how everything was and not getting a staright answer.

I've been in the crosshairs in the past on egullet and chose to confront and to try to correct whatever's been posted or at least explain my side. Egullet is also damage control if used the right way. It allows us to explain what might have gone wrong and why. The normal customer might give us a 2nd chance if we explain why it happened instead of making excuses.

I feel for Chef Levy and while I agree with markk's comments as a customer and his right to post after a experience that wasn't up to par, Egullet is a difficult field to navigate, especially if we are the one putting our heads in the block. Not only do we face reviews from publications but we have to deal with personal dining experiences posted online.

I love egullet because it give me a occasional way to keep up with what my customers like and dislike.

I think Chef Levy given a little time to deal with this mess will fix what was wrong that evening. It's not easy getting hit with a bad experience and having it spattered all over the web. It hurts when you miss something.

Markk, go back in 6 months and as Rosie would say " Give us a report"


Edited by Lreda (log)

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I've decided to put up this post because I think it's relevant to eG and in particular, to our recent discussion about Rocca. I'm hoping the powers that be will allow this to remain, but I'm also saying up front that I'm not looking to start a whole other discussion here; I may put this up on the General Food Topics page if it seems of interest.

In today's Wash Post Dining Chat (which is where I discovered eG, by the way), Tom Sietsema responds to a comment about the pros/cons of posts about bad experiences in restaurants with the following:

Tom Sietsema: Good morning, and thanks for your comments. If you look over the chats in the archives, I think you'll find a diverse mix of topics from week to week, some of which deal with readers' restaurant experiences. I post both positive and negative comments, and I'm more than willing to air concerns or responses from restaurateurs (and have, in the past).

A lot of "the trade" follows this weekly conversation, and changes (for the better) often result from problems that get publicized here.

You and I agree: most of the people in this business work hard and their jobs are not always easy. But ignoring anything negative would be counter-productive and less than honest.

Personally, I think he sums up a lot of what many of us were trying to say VERY well! If you are interested in the full chat, the response was to the first question here.

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Once again, well done Curlz. This has had me seething. This post & occasionally the forum in itself has been rather mean-spirited. When Chef Levy stated in the beginning that he accepted constuctive criticism, markk said that "you're not a child, you're a business owner", that was over the top. All I know is if someone said that to my face I know how I would react.

Besides restaurants only books, the theatre and cinema are put under so much scrutiny since Al Gore invented the internet. ( No political referance just a attempt to put some levity into The NJ Forums ). We all know the facts, Markk had a lousy dining experience, Chef Levy attempted to respond but took a defensive approach that wasn't all that well received and is now lurking, worried about what's being said about his place. Mistakes were made. Hopefully Chef Levy will keep a better eye in the later hours of operation, if not he'll learn by the how many tables are full.

I wish you luck chef. It takes a great risk and a lot of time and love to do what we do. Don't be discouraged. Shit happens. We learn from our mistakes.


Edited by Lreda (log)

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chef levy can be assured that i'll continue to return to Rocca, and i'll continue to share my experiences, both good and bad. those around here who respect my opinion (and those numbers seem to be dropping :laugh:), will likely do the same.

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It's funny...the whole time I was reading this exchange I kept thinking to myself "I wonder what Lou thinks of all this?" because you had such professional and well though comments after your NYT review.


Edited by chefdavidrusso (log)

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Thank you, Lreda. I agree with every word you said!!! A bad meal should not be taken as a personal insult but an unfortunate slip up that can happen when it's late, people are tired or there are too many tables ordering at once. Voice your complaint to the manager, hope it doesn't happen again and move on. The manager/restaurant owner should respond in their own way as well: Understand what went wrong and make sure it does not happen again. A golden rule in the restaurant biz!

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chef levy can be assured that i'll continue to return to Rocca, and i'll continue to share my experiences, both good and bad. 

DITTO.

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The other day a most interesting discussion was ended by the moderator in a discussion of Rocca Restaurant in the New Jersey thread, and the moderator suggested placing it here.

So by way of a running start, here’s what happened. One eGullet member posted telling of a bad experience he had at the restaurant on his first try, getting what he described as “mediocre” often “cold” food, and “rude” service. The restaurant owner came on eGullet and addressed the disgruntled customer, telling him that when he was at the restaurant he had a “duty” to ask for the manager and say something; the restaurant owner also as much as said that the customer was wrong to post his negative experience on eGullet.

The original poster replied that as a paying customer, he felt no “duty” to the restaurant owner whatsoever, and that he considered that with paying the bill, he fulfilled the only obligation he had. Another member asked “if we don’t say something, how will restaurants learn?” and the original poster said that he “voted with his wallet” and felt “no obligation to help or teach a restaurant anything” that had given him bad food or service, but went on to say that in the case of a restaurant he generally liked which did have an off-moment (bad dish, bad server) he would definitely say something in the hopes of helping them.

And so there’s the background behind the question: “If you go to a restaurant and get disappointing food or service, do you feel it’s your ‘duty’ to say something, or do you just never return?”

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chef levy can be assured that i'll continue to return to Rocca, and i'll continue to share my experiences, both good and bad.  those around here who respect my opinion (and those numbers seem to be dropping :laugh:), will likely do the same.

I still respect your opinion on the Fleshtones. Spot on! :smile:

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If it is something dangerous, like not listing an ingredient that certain people cannot have (sugar for diabetics, peanuts, etc) then it must be brought to the manager's attention.

Otherwise, I think people who are going to operate a restaturant ought to have a clue. If they aren't on top of their game, I'm not going to pay AND serve as an unpaid consultant. I get paid $30 an hour for that. I just won't be back.

For example, the wife and I went for an early dinner Sunday at a not quite brand new coporate owned steakhouse. First time we ate there. She can't have sugar. Ordered the kabaobs, which arrived coated in teryaki sauce with some pineapple stuck on for good measure. She couldn't eat it, sent it back, didn't order anything else, since the waitress waited 20 minutes to come back and check on us, and I was nearly done eating. I ordered a 10 oz ribeye. 5 oz of it was fat and gristle. I left half of it on the plate. Her entree was comped, mine was not. We paid our bill (finally, after grabbing another waitress, since ours dropped off the bill and disappeared for another 20 minutes), and left, never to darken their door again. It's corporate owned.

If they can't get their act together, I'm just not going back. I don't like to complain. I know restaurant people don't often make much money. But I'm not going to tell a corporately trained manager and staff what is wrong. They are paid to notice it before I do, and take care of it. That's their job. If they won't do it, then screw 'em.

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Once again, well done Curlz. This has had me seething. This post & occasionally the forum in itself has been rather mean-spirited. When Chef Levy stated in the beginning that he accepted constuctive criticism, markk said that "you're not a child, you're a business owner", that was over the top. All I know is if someone said that to my face I know how I would react.

It doesn't seem to me that Chef Levy was very accepting of MarkK's constructive criticism, nor that MarkK was "over the top" in his comments. He's the one who wasted no doubt a good deal of money and had an evening, I would imagine, virtually ruined not by "mistakes" -- but by a pattern of problems that went well beyond a single bad dish or a single rude waiter. And then was subjected to the humiliation and frustration of having the owner say not "Gee, I'm sorry, I'll make sure that will never happen again." but gets accused of "ranting" not doing his duty by informing the manager, and now, of being "over the top."

If I were MarkK, NOW I'd be ranting!

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