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Poor Service


mzungu
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Greetings all

I am new to the eGullet and from what I've seen, the caliber of commentary is top-notch. (as an aside, if you are looking for travel info, the Lonely Planet.com website has a really great bulletin board as well..)

I'm just a student living on a meeger budget and I do like to go to some great places to eat out with friends. However, I'm a bit of a pansy when it comes to complaining about poor service or poor food. Most of the time, I've had a good time at any restaurant I've been to.

So here's the situation: I was at the Rugby Club on Saturday with some friends. I booked a reservation for 9 PM for 12. For those who haven't been there, the place is = Earls, Cactus Club, Sammy J's and notorious for it's cheap martinis and beers. (The martinis though only have about 1 oz of alcohol of booze in them so they better be cheap). All my friends and I enjoyed the foos and ambience but the service was atrocious.

We were seated 30 min late. It was a busy night (saturday) and most of my buddies weren't there at 9 so I didn't mind if they got us to our table 10 or 15 min later than expected. But 30 min?

So when we were seated the waitress took 10 minutes to even get our order and we practically had to wave our hands to get her attention for more rounds of drinks and food.

So here's my questions to you all:

Should I have bitched before, during, or after? In a medium cost place like the RC should I expect prompt service? If so, what do I say to the waitress or manager without having my food spit into?

I'm not the type of person to put on a big show. As the organizer of the night, I wanted to say something but it was my brithday and I was a bit tipsy so I figure I should talk to the manager another day.

Thanks for replying - I'll kick back and appreciate any advice you guys in the industry have...

Cheers

mzungu

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Not like my opinion has any professional weight, or is formed by anything other than being a consumer, but I would be wary of a booking for 12 and giving up a table based on only a few members of the party being there at the appointed hour. Particularly a party of young people. (Sorry, not trying to be condecending re: age, but when I was a kid, time was a very elastic concept and plans could change on a whim.)

Cheers

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yeah, time is eternally elastic when you don't have kids...

I should perhaps add that even though there was about half of us there at 9, the hostess told me that they had another group there at our tables. But should a restaurant honor it's commitment to a reservation even if some people in the party were running late?

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perharps the goup ahead of you took longer than anticipated, perhaps half their group showed up late. it may not have been due to the previous group at the table taking the extra time that caused your wait. as for a long time for drinks; sounds like it was busy. being busy is not a reason for poor service but remeber to take it all into account. i believe it is a good idea to mention your dissatisfaction to a manager as that may be their only way of knowing something is wrong and being able to sort it out. remember, you will always get the best results by being polite.

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It's pretty standard that a group would be waiting on a Saturday night for their table. Sadly, the reality is that this business can't just hold that table until 9pm, and it can't kick out guests who may be dawdling a little when it comes to payment time.

The most savvy of restaurants will make your wait a lot more enjoyable by offering a space to wait, perhaps start the first round in the lounge or some such thing.

I wouldn't think that this is anything to be upset about. Especially since you decided to go to this place based on the cheap drinks.

Rule of thumb, you always get what you pay for. . . .

If you had booked a table at a dining room as opposed to a more casual 'bar/burger joint' you would probably not had an issue.

Don't feel snubbed, most 'casual burger joints' don't even take reso's, and are suspicious of late, large party bookings, who rarely order a meal and even more rarely come on time.

Next time, however, as I know the management group there is extremetly professional and they are definitely quality people, if you simply asked to see the manager and let him know what he could do for you, they probably would have been great hosts.

A word to the wise.

When dealing with complaints at a restaurant, always think about what would make your particular issue go away. Be it an entirely new dish, free dessert, maybe a cocktail or two, or sometimes even just an honest appology. These things will help your maitre d' or host or manager fix the problem for you instead of trying to guess what would make you happy.

Sorry your birthday wasn't all it could be, next time have someone else handle the details so you can just sit back and enjoy. . . .

I'm no expert on the restaurant industry, but I know a thing or two about drug abuse ...

-Daddy-A (Kitchen Troll)

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I punish bad service or bad food with the only weapon I have. They get no more of my money. I would rather die then spend a penny at places like Brix, Elixer or Westwood Plateau Golf Academy, just because of poor service or disagreeable staff. I also make a point of telling freinds and acquaitances of my dis-satisfaction. I even feel the need to bore my fellow e-gulleters with my opinion of some where I was not satisfied with. Don't get me started with the Golf Academy and the head pro there....

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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I punish bad service or bad food with the only weapon I have. They get no more of my money.

I agree completely! I express my opinion with my wallet ... not only by not returning (or suggesting it to anyone else), but also in the gratuity.

The subject of tipping is probably another thread ... but it comes from the phrase "To Insure Prompt Service" (you all probably know that ... hey look at the know-it-all :biggrin: ). If I don't get prompt/good service ... no tip.

Coop ... bad service at Brix? Last time I was there (about 3 years ago) it was okay. You aren't the first/only person to have reported this on this or other boards. Duly noted.

DA

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Communication!!!...; it is an amazing thing, …yes; you should have expressed your feelings right away, ask questions, what's going on???; from there you at least know what’s going on, you can always bail, you can always just proceed and hope for your best, It is a fast food restaurant, so the level of professionalism is not that high, the manager is on his/her own, a captain fighting a war with a bunch of rookies.

stovetop

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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i agree that expressing your dissatisfaction in a polite manner is the first step. sometimes people are just having a bad day.

but, like coop and daddy-a, i'm big on the full-on ban for atrocious service. just don't give 'em your hard-earned $$!!

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Guys and Gals,

Thanks for all the advice - it all sounds right on the money( esp yours Stovetop - I think I was really thinking about "How" to go about doing it). I'll definitely mention the situation with the manager the next time I'm in there with a friend. I won't be going back there with a group that's for sure.

It was also true that the group before us was lagging. As for the T.I.P.S., the restaurant added it to the bill automoatically and it was noted as policy that for groups of 10 or more people, it was put on. A friend mentioned to me that restaurants are starting to do this b/c there's too many instances of people shorting on the bill at the end of the night. :hmmm:

Any comments on that zinger?

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i think it's justifiable and have definitely seen it done at many places. however, i certainly would take the automatic gratuity amount up with management if i had a genuine problem with the service.

Edited by tasty (log)
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  • 6 months later...

I'll preface this by saying i work in a restaurant. A fine dining establishment; but not in the front of the house...i work in the bowels of the kitchen. And very little disheartens me more when I hear from people via Tom's online chat or on egullet or some other avenue that the "food was great, but the service stunk..."

The real question is what do you people do when you encounter a condescending server or bad pacing, or warm wine or cold wine, or unattentive service?

It seems to me that in most other industries, if you encounter a rude salesperson at the Avis or a rude customer service rep. at the Microsoft hotline, or a rude sales clerk at the Gap, you would ask to speak to a manager. Now why is it that with all the "seasoned" restaurant goers we have at egullet does it seem that way more often than not, bad service is met with a passive-agrressive stance of not saying anything until they get home and then writing a missive about it to Tom or on egullet?

Restaurant managers want people to have a great time at their establishment. They are in the hospitality industry. Let them be hospitable. If you have a problem, let them correct it. They will never know what is going on if they don't hear from you. And therefore, by not saying anything, you are perpetuating the poor service around town.

Lets stop all the passive-aggressiveness that seems to fuel the relationship between server and diner. So customers can have a better time when they go out to spend their buck, and a restaurant can correct their problems or service issues, without having their dirty laundry hung out to dry so all of the washington metro area can read about it in Tom's chat and think to themselves "I'm never going there..." before they had a chance to judge it themselves.

Sincerely,

Hot Pastrami-on-Rye

Edited by pastramionrye (log)

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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Right on!

I think that those speaking up at the retail type outlets you mentioned are also speaking up when they have a problem dining out. I find it hard to believe that people are just passive-aggressive when dining out.

If someone is going to shout out to everyone, "I am never going there again", I would hope that they would talk to a manger about the problem and see the type of response they get. Now, if they are treated poorly for a legitimate complaint, I say shout away!

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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Couldn't agree more...as to the reasons why, well, I refer you to the kitchen-sink list of basic human deficiencies like insecurity, poor communication skills, anger management issues, passive-agressive habits, etc. Sounds familiar? Why should the dining room be any different from other forms of life?

You would think that nothing is easier than calmly describing what your problem is and suggesting a desired solution to the person who is empowered to do so and working from there. But not for some people. Go figure.

Resident Twizzlebum

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I think many people address "quality of service" issues via the gratuity. It should be management's job to police the quality of service and not left to the customers to do it for them. If there is poor service going on, then that means the manager is not doing his/her job and a complaint to the manager is just as much a reflection on the manager's performance as it is on the server's.

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I think many people address  "quality of service" issues via the gratuity.  It should be management's job to police the quality of service and not left to the customers to do it for them.  If there is poor service going on, then that means the manager is not doing his/her job and a complaint to the manager is just as much a reflection on the manager's performance as it is on the server's.

that is just not true.

First off, addressing poor service via the tip is EXTREMELY passive-aggressive. it doesnt address the issue at all. it just pisses off the server who then thinks that table was cheap.

Secondly, claiming that if a manager doesnt know about the poor service going on, than he/she is doing a poor job...!??!?!?!? that's just ridiculous. It is the customers RESPONSIBILITY to raise their concerns or their issues with the manager. Just like its the managers responsibility to do the best they can to oversee everything that goes on around them. but when things slip through the cracks, luckily, ideally, the customer is there to raise their concerns. The manager is the last line of defense, so if you raise a complaint to the manager and he/she mollifies the situation, that is not a reflection in a negative sense on the manager's performance. If they don't mitigate, then, yes, you can say that it is a reflection on the manager's performance.

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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Another perspective - the manager (or whatever front of house step above the table waitor there might be around) is part of the service. The manager is not just there to be a passive receiver of complaints.

I expect the manager or table captain or whatever to be actively involved in monitoring the room. If the service is truly bad then it is largely a fault of the manager's actions or inactions. Why complain to them when they are just going to scapegoat the waitor or (more likely) the kitchen to save their job?

To revise pastrami's comment - GOOD restaurant managers want people to have a great time at their establishments.

A good manager shouldn't have to have a patron seek him or her out to complain, he should be aware of the problem before the patron is. If the manager doesn't seem to notice that I've been at the table for 40 minutes and have no appetizer yet much less any bread then is it really worth my time to complain to them? Have complaints fall on deaf ears too much and you tend to say "Fuck it. Why bother?"

I'm not saying I never complain or point out errors, but frankly what we have on this board is not the typical in restauranteurs (FOH or BOH). There's a hell of a lot more paycheck grabbers out there than dedicated professionals even in good joints.

Just my 2 cents.

Joe

PS - I think lunch today is going to be pho-ntastic

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I think many people address  "quality of service" issues via the gratuity.  It should be management's job to police the quality of service and not left to the customers to do it for them.  If there is poor service going on, then that means the manager is not doing his/her job and a complaint to the manager is just as much a reflection on the manager's performance as it is on the server's.

that is just not true.

First off, addressing poor service via the tip is EXTREMELY passive-aggressive. it doesnt address the issue at all. it just pisses off the server who then thinks that table was cheap.

Secondly, claiming that if a manager doesnt know about the poor service going on, than he/she is doing a poor job...!??!?!?!? that's just ridiculous. It is the customers RESPONSIBILITY to raise their concerns or their issues with the manager. Just like its the managers responsibility to do the best they can to oversee everything that goes on around them. but when things slip through the cracks, luckily, ideally, the customer is there to raise their concerns. The manager is the last line of defense, so if you raise a complaint to the manager and he/she mollifies the situation, that is not a reflection in a negative sense on the manager's performance. If they don't mitigate, then, yes, you can say that it is a reflection on the manager's performance.

Just saw this reply and frankly I'm shocked.

If a server can't figure out that he gets shitty tips because he's a shitty server then he really is an idiot. What are tips for exactly then?

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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i agree with you that managers should not be sitting back passively and recieve complaints. most good managers try to head off these issues before they come issues, but some things get by. and that is when the customer must speak up.

for instance, the complaints busboy had re: service at palena; besides the pacing, there is not much the manager could have known (the wine glasses being filled too high or the condescending tone of the server....)if the manager came by and asked how everything was going, and the table simply stated "fine." how is the manager to know about these other concerns?

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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I think many people address  "quality of service" issues via the gratuity.  It should be management's job to police the quality of service and not left to the customers to do it for them.  If there is poor service going on, then that means the manager is not doing his/her job and a complaint to the manager is just as much a reflection on the manager's performance as it is on the server's.

that is just not true.

First off, addressing poor service via the tip is EXTREMELY passive-aggressive. it doesnt address the issue at all. it just pisses off the server who then thinks that table was cheap.

Secondly, claiming that if a manager doesnt know about the poor service going on, than he/she is doing a poor job...!??!?!?!? that's just ridiculous. It is the customers RESPONSIBILITY to raise their concerns or their issues with the manager. Just like its the managers responsibility to do the best they can to oversee everything that goes on around them. but when things slip through the cracks, luckily, ideally, the customer is there to raise their concerns. The manager is the last line of defense, so if you raise a complaint to the manager and he/she mollifies the situation, that is not a reflection in a negative sense on the manager's performance. If they don't mitigate, then, yes, you can say that it is a reflection on the manager's performance.

Just saw this reply and frankly I'm shocked.

If a server can't figure out that he gets shitty tips because he's a shitty server then he really is an idiot. What are tips for exactly then?

Look its just a lack of communication. A server should know if they are consistently making way less than their counterparts that it is due to bad service; but if they are having an off night, and get a bad tip or two because a customer viewed them as condescending and trying to drain their bottle of wine too fast; i guarantee the server isnt going to know that is the reason why he/she got stiffed. they will just chalk it up to the customer being cheap. and this will perpetuate the communication gap.

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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I think another part of it is that most often when we dine, we do so with others whether they're friends, family, clients or colleagues. There's often variability with regard to perception of what constitutes service that requires comment or not, and then maybe a certain reluctance to look like the crank of the bunch.

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i agree with you that managers should not be sitting back passively and recieve complaints. most good managers try to head off these issues before they come issues, but some things get by. and that is when the customer must speak up.

for instance, the complaints busboy had re: service at palena; besides the pacing, there is not much the manager could have known (the wine glasses being filled too high or the condescending tone of the server....)if the manager came by and asked how everything was going, and the table simply  stated "fine." how is the manager to know about these other concerns?

By hiring good people and training everyone to the standards of the restaurant. By listening to how the server interacts with tables. By sending in 'mystery shoppers' who dine and then report their experiences to management (this happens constatly in retail for instance).

A good manager is consistent in any industry. This person finds the right people and manages them individually as required. They do not simply trust blindly nor do they micromanage. But a manager in a service industry really should have a process in place where he/she seeks out comments, complaints and compliments from customers on a consistent and measurable basis. Simply waiting for the odd customer to complain is not proactive management.

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A lot depends on the type of poor service. If a server is having problems and verbally addresses them ("I'm sorry you don't have your coffee yet"), and I can see he/she is swamped, I try to have a sense of humor and patience, at least up to a point. Everybody has hectic moments or days, and getting crabby, or getting the server in trouble, just makes things worse--if indeed it's a simple matter of being swamped.

But if the server's attitude is indifferent and they find my respectfully-stated requests and complaints to be an irritation, I'm more likely to speak with the manager.

If it's something more outrageous, I can be pretty verbal and pretty rude.

One reason I often hesitate to talk with the manager is that in some restaurants, they go overboard on the customer service aspect. It's non unusual to be handed gift certificates for free meals, only to find the same problem the next time I go there. The bottom line that most managers--restaurant or otherwise--don't understand that staff training and management is more important than having a stack of gift certificates that attempt to make up for problems that continue to go unsolved.

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One reason I often hesitate to talk with the manager is that in some restaurants, they go overboard on the customer service aspect.  It's non unusual to be handed gift certificates for free meals, only to find the same problem the next time I go there.  The bottom line that most managers--restaurant or otherwise--don't understand that staff training and management is more important than having a stack of gift certificates that attempt to make up for  problems that continue to go unsolved.

Many years ago, I got food poisoning from a restaurant. When I called to tell them & get the charge removed from my credit card, the first thing the manager did was offer me a gift certificate for my next visit! :blink: I found it amazing that I had to explain to him that I would not be returning. Sheesh.

"What, after all, is more seductive than the prospect of sinning in libraries?"

Michael Dirda, An Open Book

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