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adegiulio

Service at a Restaurant

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Then the billing debacle occurred with several runs back and forth to the credit card machine to properly trisect the bill and put an even third on each of the cards presented.  After the first round of slips added up to 150% of the bill they had to go back... then the second round had 1/2 on one card and 1/4 on each other card... back it went... then it looked right.. This never, actually occurred, as it happens, me being the lucky party charged for 100% of meal when the credit charges were posted, necessitating a fax of my 1/3 of the bill signed slip in order to dispute the charges.

FYI Chris, charge voids are often only handled by management . So it was management that failed to rectify the matter with the credit cards and didn't balance that night causing your over charge. (I'm remembering the horror days of Verifone).

edit to add: Also, years back some POS could only accept up to x forms of payment. I know, I worked on them.


Edited by beans (log)

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Of course, if someone didn't eat half their entree, then they should be asked if there's a problem or the manager fetched by an inexperienced server to inquire.  But if you don't let someone know, then the eloquent three page nasty letter you write and send a week later SERVES NO PURPOSE.

I'm simply suggesting a little TWO WAY COMMUNICATION if there's a problem...  A customer that is displeased and says nothing is doing neither themselves, the restaurant or any future customers a favor by remaining silent.

May I point out to you that the disgruntled Rocca patron who posted the message criticising the meal said very clearly in his post that after the waiter had had ample opportunity to notice the uneaten appetizer (once when returning with the other diner's re-heated soup, and once five minutes later when he came to clear all the plates), the diner who could not eat his appetizer told the waiter "this was way too salty to eat" and the waiter simply grunted. Did nothing, said nothing, offered nothing, apologized not at all, and brought it to no one's attention.

At that point, don't you think that everyone at the table realized there was no point whatsoever in complaining again?

I was that diner. You've made this comment several times now, and you've refused to acknowledge that we DID complain. To no avail. I'm glad to see that the overwhelming opinion here is that complaining is awkward and uncomfortable for the diner. Now imagine what it's like when everybody serving you is hateful. You'd have to be a fool to invite more trouble. You cut your losses, eat what you can, pay your bill, and get out of there.

Please don't put the burden of this on the customer. I resent that. If I go to a service business and have a problem that can be rectified, I speak right up. If I'm given a bad or dirty hotel room, I demand another one immediately. And if I'm shorted on the length of an hour's massage at a spa, I don't pay for a full hour.

But I assure you that there's no way that in mid meal, the owner of Rocca could have fired his hateful staff and hired a new one in time to finish serving our dinner. And if after the kitchen served me cold soup (in the hopes of shortening the meal by a few minutes) and I sent it back to be reheated, wouldn't you think they'd have the brains (or concern) to remember to check that the rest of the dinner went out properly hot? (Please don't answer that, it was rhetorical.)

And just so that you know, I did not send them a letter after the fact; I never contacted them again, and I think you should have your facts straight. I was in no touch with them whatsoever. I wanted nothing from them, and felt no obligation to them. What I did was post my negative experience on eGullet, after which the restaurant owner came on and told me that I had no right to do that! How dare he.

I realize that you're a restaurant owner. But have you ever thought of looking at things from the customer's point of view? I think that the views expressed in this thread by members say overwhelmingly that complaining puts them in a very uncomfortable position, that they and they alone feel they have the right to decide when, based on how things are going, if there's any point in complaining at a restaurant, and that they overwhelmingly do not feel that it's their responsibility to educate the restaurant in how it should operate.


Edited by markk (log)

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When the waiter/manager or whomever asks how is everything and it sucks (food and/or service or bathroom or whatever), what do you say?

I tell the truth.

I never lie when people ask my opinion of something. If the food was lousy and somebody asks me how it was, I reply "not very good", but I always say it nicely.

Part of it is that I just can't lie, and part of it is that I think it's a bad idea to lie when asked that question. There are lots of times when the food is lousy and nobody asks, and for all the same reasons that people have stated here I don't feel like complaining, so I say nothing. But if they ask, I answer.

About two years ago we dined at the famous 3-star Auberge de L'Ill in Alsace, France. The meal was just horrible. Perhaps we got it on a very off night, or perhaps the place is horrible, as many suggest, and is resting on its laurels. I don't know. We got a meal that tasted like airline food. And the waitstaff was actually condescending and unfriendly, which in my experience is the opposite of what French waitstaffs are like, most especially in that region.

So we finished, and paid our check, and were leaving, when the hostess came up to me and asked us how it was. I replied, "disappointing".

She looked at me, horrified, and said, "do you mean the food or the service?" I answered, "both". She then asked me "was it the case that you were expecting it to be great and it was not?" and I replied, "yes, exactly." Then she helped me on with my coat and asked if she could offer me a souveinr menu to take home. I said "no, thank you", very nicely, and left.

But when asked, I never lie.

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I realize that you're a restaurant owner.  But for goodness sake, have you ever thought of taking the customer's side?

markk, Katie is an accountant for a very busy restaurant.

I stand behind all she has written on this thread, and elsewhere as she is writing from experience. A universal experience that I without ever knowing her, in person, I've seen as well. :smile::cool:

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I have to agree that unless you tell the restaurant that you were not satisfied they will never learn. I also agree that it is awkward, can put a damper on your whole evening, and many managers don't really care and will stick up for their staff no matter how ridiculously bad their service was. I figure that if the service and/or food was really that bad, the restaurant isn't going to be around very long. There is no point to my getting upset or ruining my evening arguing with an owner or manager. In my experience most of the restaurants I really didn't like never made it past the first year. Sure, maybe if I had said something they would have made things right and might be around today, but the way I figure it; Fuck 'em. It's a competitive business and I am not interested in providing constructive criticism to people that should know better in the first place. My job as a diner extends no further than being polite, saying please, thank you, and paying the bill. Let them crash and burn. I can always find an open table elsewhere.

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Yes fiftydollars!!!

Good communication is effective communication.

You have no ground to stand upon if you don't speak up in the first place, as awkward as confrontation is for most to grasp.

A couple of random thoughts:

Griping after the fact is never a solution. It is just being vindictive, however communicating one's experience to others. I've been there and sometimes I'll still try to express the positives as well as the failings, IMHO.

From a service point of view: Sometimes when a plate is only half finished, perhaps it as a result of someone ordering something that they thought they'd like but turned up they didn't, not by any fault of the kitchen.

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May I point out to you that the disgruntled Rocca patron who posted the message criticising the meal said very clearly in his post that after the waiter had had ample opportunity to notice the uneaten appetizer (once when returning with the other diner's re-heated soup, and once five minutes later when he came to clear all the plates), the diner who could not eat his appetizer told the waiter "this was way too salty to eat" and the waiter simply grunted.  Did nothing, said nothing, offered nothing, apologized not at all, and brought it to no one's attention.

At that point, don't you think that everyone at the table realized there was no point whatsoever in complaining again?

I was that diner.  You've made this comment several times now, and you've refused to acknowledge that we DID complain.  To no avail.  I'm glad to see that the overwhelming opinion here is that complaining is awkward and uncomfortable for the diner.  Now imagine what it's like when everybody serving you is hateful.  You'd have to be a fool to invite more trouble.  You cut your losses, eat what you can, pay your bill, and get out of there.

Please don't put the burden of this on the customer.  I resent that.  If I go to a service business and have a problem that can be rectified, I speak right up.  If I'm given a bad or dirty hotel room, I demand another one immediately.  And if I'm  shorted on the length of an hour's  massage at a spa, I don't pay for a full hour. 

But I assure you that there's no way that in mid meal, the owner of Rocca could have fired his hateful staff and hired a new one in time to finish serving our dinner.  And if after the kitchen served me cold soup (in the hopes of shortening the meal by a few minutes) and I sent it back to be reheated, wouldn't you think they'd have the brains (or concern) to remember to check that the rest of the dinner went out properly hot?  (Please don't answer that, it was rhetorical.)

And just so that you know, I did not send them a letter after the fact;  I never contacted them again, and I think you should have your facts straight.  I was in no touch with them whatsoever.  I wanted nothing from them, and felt no obligation to them.  What I did was post my negative experience on eGullet, after which the restaurant owner came on and told me that I had no right to do that!  How dare he.

I realize that you're a restaurant owner.  But for goodness sake, have you ever thought of taking the customer's side?

I am most certainly NOT a restaurant owner, but an employee. I simply run the financial and beverage departments of a restaurant. And in fact, I'm an extremely frequent restaurant customer as well. I eat in restaurants at least five times per week between lunches and dinners, so I'm perfectly capable of taking the customer's side. If the appetizer was too salty to eat I'd most certainly expect it removed from my bill. Hell - I'd demand it. And I'd ask to see a manager to make certain that happened. You're right - complaining again to the useless server would have been, well, useless. And if your standard is to hire and train a new waiter before your meal is over then you will most certainly be disappointed. Another option might have been to ask to speak to a manager and request that another, more competent member of the waitstaff be assigned to your table. Or you tell management that your service was subpar, and that you made a legitimate complaint to your server and nothing was done about it and give them the opportunity to fix it. Do you resent having to take any responsibility for your part of the "relationship" between other service providers and yourself? Like your doctor or car mechanic, for example? I'm just curious. You say you'll pipe up about a bad hotel room, so explain to me how a dining experience is a transaction with utterly different expectations. I'm genuinely not understanding that.

As for posting your negative experience here, I applaud that. I'm a strong proponent of the First Amendment. And I think it was very wrong for the restaurant owner to attack you or say you had no right to do that. But I wonder if the thinly veiled hostility and rage I'm seeing in your response here was not evidenced that evening and perhaps not eliciting an appropriately cordial and professional response from the restaurant staff. Just as you saw no point in complaining, perhaps the waiter saw you and your dining companions as an equally lost cause. I don't excuse or condone that in any way, but it's certainly a possibility.

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Restaurants are NOT clairvoyant.  If you don't bring your problem to the attention of your server or a manager and simply nod and say "Oh yes - everything is fine, thanks!" when the server comes back to check on you, you are denying the restaurant the opportunity to fix the problem at the time.  Of course, if someone didn't eat half their entree, then they should be asked if there's a problem or the manager fetched by an inexperienced server to inquire.  But if you don't let someone know, then the eloquent three page nasty letter you write and send a week later SERVES NO PURPOSE.  It's too late, the relationship is poisoned, and the restaurant can't possibly make it up to you at that point.  What - should we send you a gift certificate to a place you've sworn you wouldn't eat at ever again even if it were the only thing left standing after a nuclear Holcaust? :blink:  Think about it.  Address the problem calmly and civilly AT THE TIME and the results will be astounding.

I agree wholeheartedly and I usually say something. In fact I had a very salty (take out) crane adovado burrito from my favorite health food store today and I will call tomorrow and speak to the prepared foods person. But to be honest. If I see the place has no chance of ever getting a clue and they're rude or indifferent I don't say anything. I just don't go back, post and tell at least ten friends. Bad news travels alot faster than raves for some strange reason.

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I agree wholeheartedly and I usually say something. In fact I had a very salty (take out) crane adovado burrito from my favorite health food store today and I will call tomorrow and speak to the prepared foods person. But to be honest. If I see the place has no chance of ever getting a clue and they're rude or indifferent I don't say anything. I just don't go back, post and tell at least ten friends. Bad news travels alot faster than raves for some strange reason.

Exactly. Which is precisely why the competent and professional restaurant will do everything in their power to have you walk out happy, rather than try make it up to you later. If someone enjoys a restaurant they tell two or three people. If they have a bad experience they tell EVERYONE. Any business exchange is predicated on good communication and the decency and civility of each party toward the other.

Do you think if you call up your health food store tomorrow and start off by screaming and yelling or giving them attitude you'll have as positive an outcome as if you were to call and politely explain what the problem was, what your expectations or prior experiences with them have been and why you were disapppointed?

And obviously if a place sucks that badly and attempts to communicate with management have failed, then surely no one would go back and they will fail under the crushing weight of their own incompetence. It takes care of itself much like Darwin explained it would. :biggrin:

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Do you think if you call up your health food store tomorrow and start off by screaming and yelling or giving them attitude you'll have as positive an outcome as if you were to call and politely explain what the problem was, what your expectations or prior experiences with them have been and why you were disapppointed?

Katie, you are spot on here. I have worked in customer service for an entertainment industry, and fielded all sorts of complaints. The well-worded, succinct, and "not blasting" complaints were handled much more kindly.

As a side note, most of us are wont to complain when things are not right. How many of take the time to compliment when things are right? About a year ago, Paul and I had a wonderful dinner at a nice (read not local burger joint) restaurant. We were among the last to leave, but not so late we were bugging the staff. At the end of the meal, I asked if I could speak to the chef. The waitron, concerned with this request, asked if everything was all right. I said, yes, I just wanted to let the chef (who is also the owner) know.

The chef came out, we talked about our experience, and what a good time we had had. Talked about the ingredients, the fact that the staff very clearly understood everything on the menu, etc.

The chef/owner was blown away.

They comped up the bottle of wine we had. We stuffed the same amount of cash in the neck of the bottle that the price on the wine list indicated they charged for this bottle.

When I have a complain about the food or wait service, I state that to management at the time. Sometimes they are so busy justifying whatever to whoever owns the restaurant they may miss things. Just don't do t in a bitchy manner or they will figure you have PMS or whatever.

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P.S. Even a corporate chain or a McDonald's deserves an occasional 'thank you that was good'...for good service. The people that work there are human too, and they have the ability to do well or do poorly. Motivation goes a looooong way in making things work well...and the customer can provide that.

Absolutely. That is one thing I will go out of my way to do. Every time.

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Whenever I'm unhappy with the food or service, I make sure to voice my complaints at the very end of the meal. That way, you're not likely to wonder if the froth in your coffee is really froth.

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Even if my food is comped *and* I'm given a certificate for a future meal, that still doesn't balance the scales if I've had to get my stomach in knots for a confrontation about sub-standard food/service *at a time when I wanted to be pampered*.

I've noted sub-standard meals at my favorite places and returned...........but if it's a new place, or the place is small enough so that there is no manager FOH (he's the chef/owner), I just don't go there again.

I can bring problems to the attention of the appropriate people most of the time - -I just don't like to have stress at mealtimes. No. No. No.

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Whenever I'm unhappy with the food or service, I make sure to voice my complaints at the very end of the meal.  That way, you're not likely to wonder if the froth in your coffee is really froth.

I was thinking the same thing.

A bit of spit here. A booger there. Yuk. Wait until you've finished the meal to launch a complaint.

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It occurs to me that dining out is a bit like going on a blind date. Sometimes, no matter how hard both parties may try, the chemistry is just never going to be there. In such cases you just move on. Complaints are superfluous & pointless.

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I think the decision of whether a person decides to state what they feel about a dining experience and then how, exactly, they choose to express that feeling.... has much to do with their own personality.... and their own past experiences (in the arts of both assertiveness and speaking clearly and kindly ) in hopes of improving a situation.

As with any potentially confrontational situation, it should be approached both calmly and with some sort of internal emotional preparation.

If you are frightened of 'confrontation' or too angry half the war has already been lost.

If you are unable to objectively and clearly and calmly voice specifics of what you see the problem being...again, you've put yourself at a loss.

Many people have been raised to avoid confrontation.

Confrontation is not pleasant to start with but it is unavoidable in life, and if you do not speak up your two cents will not be heard and the people in the other 'camp' will continue on as they have been.

Should there be confrontation at a mealtime?...at that one very special time that people demand more of than say...an oil change?

Not in a perfect world. But if a calm clear voice is not heard, the world will get no closer to perfect.

Sniping and declaiming, after the situation has passed, to other people, about how terrible it all was....well....is it something you would want done to you?

Or would you prefer to hear it to your face in a helpful manner.

What we give is what we get. If not always and immediately in day to day reality, then eventually. (i.e. what comes round goes round).

And certainly inside ourselves we get what we give. And that is who we live with at the end of the day.

I try not to 'complain'. I would rather attempt to find the good, state that, then also state what I saw as bad....if the situation warrants it. Sometimes I'll ask if they can tell me 'why' this happened. It helps to not put a person on the defensive.

Then if they are still blooming idiots, tell them so with a smile and walk away.

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Markk doesn't have an obligation or a duty to inform management at the time of the meal, and no patron is obliged to do so in general terms when eating at a restaurant.

However, my experience with eating in restaurants, working in them and writing about them on the Internet would have led me to speak up in this particular situation. At the very least, I would have called someone to the table and asked about, say, the mushrooms. I would have wanted them taken off my bill, frankly.

The service, according to Markk's report, sounds horrible. I would be horrified to learn of that kind of behavior in any restaurant I managed.

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well no one is obligated to do anything but pay taxes, read egullet, and die. however, it's often a nice thing to do, especially if you're going to trash every aspect of the experience on the internet.

i'm a firm believer in speaking up at the time of the crisis. i believe it is fair to give a manager or owner a chance to make things right. i believe this should happen during or at the very least immediately after the meal if possible. i believe that i don't need to be treated like a child and wait until i'm asked "is everything OK" before i speak up. i also believe that i am capable of finding fault in every meal and every server. but i choose to not.

those are my beliefs.

respectfully, well-fed, and generally pleased,

tommy

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I was just going to write in and add a quote I recently saw...but it now sounds dreadfully dull after you, tommy.

But I am not afeared of being dull, so will add it anyway:

"Dialogue is the oxygen of change".

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I would normally have asked to have an unsatisfactory dish replaced or taken off the bill. With the service issues he was having on top of problems with the food, and the fact that he was being being rushed, it would have seemed like kind of a hopeless or even risky thing to do. Yes, it is good to get things rectified on the spot, but it doesn't sound like that was a serious possibility.

If I ever had service issues like that in the future, I think having read this thread I would be inclined to email the manager or send a letter, describing what happened. At the very least, the manager would know that s/he can't confidently tell people to come in at the last minute. That sounds like the biggest problem right there.

I feel sorry for the owner who never heard word one about this until it was on the internet but it sounds like he was really let down by the wait staff, not the customer. The people had been told they were welcome at that hour but the wait staff didn't think they had to make them welcome. Perhaps they hadn't even been told that the customer had checked ahead of time and thought he was inconsiderately barging in at the last minute.

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I think the decision of whether a person decides to state what they feel about a dining experience and then how, exactly, they choose to express that feeling.... has much to do with their own personality.... and their own past experiences (in the arts of both assertiveness and speaking clearly and kindly ) in hopes of improving a situation.

As with any potentially confrontational situation, it should be approached both calmly and with some sort of internal emotional preparation.

If you are frightened of 'confrontation' or too angry half the war has already been lost.

If you are unable to objectively and clearly and calmly voice specifics of what you see the problem being...again, you've put yourself at a loss.

Many people have been raised to avoid confrontation.

Confrontation is not pleasant to start with but it is unavoidable in life, and if you do not speak up your two cents will not be heard and the people in the other 'camp' will continue on as they have been.

Should there be confrontation at a mealtime?...at that one very special time that people demand more of than say...an oil change?

Not in a perfect world. But if a calm clear voice is not heard, the world will get no closer to perfect.

Sniping and declaiming, after the situation has passed, to other people, about how terrible it all was....well....is it something you would want done to you?

Or would you prefer to hear it to your face in a helpful manner.

For some people, though, getting to the point where they can get anger under control and calmly and objectively make their case may take longer than the dinner takes. I don't get angry very often (it's been years since a restaurant experience made me angry), but when I do, I need time and a little distance from the situation to calm down.

Which is more important, voicing a complaint immediately, or controlling one's emotions while making the complaint?

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well no one is obligated to do anything but pay taxes, read egullet, and die.  however, it's often a nice thing to do, especially if you're going to trash every aspect of the experience on the internet. 

i'm a firm believer in speaking up at the time of the crisis.  i believe it is fair to give a manager or owner a chance to make things right.  i believe this should happen during or at the very least immediately after the meal if possible.  i believe that i don't need to be treated like a child and wait until i'm asked "is everything OK" before i speak up.  i also believe that i am capable of finding fault in every meal and every server.  but i choose to not.

those are my beliefs.

respectfully, well-fed, and generally pleased,

tommy

Well, I can’t stress strongly enough that I have no interest in beating a dead horse, and I also feel that I’ve had my fair say, and that everything about my meal has been discussed to death. But I really like and respect Tommy, and in the interest of dialog, wanted to reply one thing to him about his last post, hoping very much that it’s not out of line…

We did actually speak up a few times during the meal. Of course, when my soup arrived cold, I said so, and of course they reheated it. When they brought it back, and when they cleared it five minutes later, they didn’t notice the uneaten mushroom appetizer either time, and so we spoke up again and said that it was too salty to be eaten, which was greeted with a grunt. No offer to remake it, no offer to bring anything else, no apology, no offer to call anybody over - and nobody told a manager, or if they did, no manager came over to try to make amends. (And, while we weren’t expecting this either, no mention at the presentation of the bill of anything like “we didn’t charge you for the dish you were unable to eat”, which is something many restaurants say when this happens.) And then when the risotto came out lukewarm two courses later, (and I’d have thought that after being called on the soup not being hot enough, they’d see that the rest of he meal was served piping hot), we decided there was no point in complaining further. And truly, if I’d sent it back for reheating, my companions would have finished before I did (or let theirs get cold waiting for mine), and I’d have to wolf it down when it came, prolonging the meal, and with the people standing over us, this wasn’t a pleasant prospect. I mean this nicely, but by the end of the meal we figured, what was the point in complaining? To ask for a manager and say that much of the food was cold, and that the staff was rude, what could they have done to “make it right” at that point?

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m thinking: probably nothing. And maybe you’re going to suggest that they might have done something with the bill. But you know, the whole deal, for three, was a big hundred bucks before the tip, and that’s just not a big deal. That’s gentle enough that all we wanted to do was settle up and go home. And my post about the meal was genuinely not meant to trash them, nor do I think it did - it was meant to tell some of you who loved the place about our dissimilar experience there; and then, you all did convince me that we hit an off night, and I was happy for the opportunity to discuss this on eGullet. Some people suggested that we give it another chance, many wrote in to say that if they had the same first-time experience at a restaurant, they’d say nothing to the place, and wouldn’t return either. And it’s exactly this kind of dialog on eGullet that makes it so wonderful, and makes me happy to be a member. Not to mention how many wonderful, now favorite, restaurants I have discovered thanks to member posts.

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Which is more important, voicing a complaint immediately, or controlling one's emotions while making the complaint?

Good question....I guess every person has to decide that for themselves...

Anger can be a very strong emotion...

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markk,

If validation is what you are seeking, yes, you truly did have poorly prepared food and equally disappointing service.

There are many effective approaches to recifying this matter, all of which discussed ad naseum all over eG.

There are plenty of rants, naming the restaurant outright, all over eG, as well.

Then there are also plenty of constructive reviews, all over eG, of a restaurant's service and food preparation and presentation. Not all of it stellar, maybe all of it stellar.

They are what they are, all with varied levels of expectation and enjoyment -- as varied as the differing individuals that frequent here and post!

Don't go back. Don't look back. Find a new restaurant and enjoy. :cool:

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Well, I can’t  stress strongly enough that I have no interest in beating a dead horse, and I also feel that I’ve had my fair say, and that everything about my meal has been discussed to death.  But I really like and respect Tommy, and in the interest of dialog, wanted to reply one thing to him about his last post, hoping very much that it’s not out of line…

actually i was speaking to the larger/general issue. not to your recent meal in particular. :smile:

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