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Sir, you have no standards!


TAPrice
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I was interviewing Kevin Vizard this week, and he thought that customers are holding restaurants to a higher standard. At first, we tolerated any kind of service as long as we were fed. Now, we're starting to demand service that's worthy of the menu prices.

I have noticed that my tolerance level is dropping. I know it's still hard to staff a restaurant in New Orleans. On the other hand, every time I get great service, and Vizard's on the Avenue provides that, my goodwill towards less competent places drops.

Is this fair? Am I the only one feeling this way?

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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My tolerance level is dropping too, and I was attributing this to age, but if it is part of a trend, so much the better - if diners are getting more discerning, it has got to be a good thing, surely?

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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Janet, I think that Todd is referring directly to the situation in New Orleans, where the needs and desires of the good citizens are beginning to revert to pre-Katrina levels of expectation.

To that end, Todd, you say that it's still hard to staff places. Can you say more about that situation and its effect on dining experiences in NOLA these days?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Sounds like New Orleans quality service is being delivered somewhere already, so someone isn't willing to use the "staffing" reason. The sooner you and others demand a higher level of service the sooner other restaurants will be forced to deliver it. In turn, the sooner things can really get back to normal.

-Mike

-Mike & Andrea

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Is this fair? Am I the only one feeling this way?

You're not alone. At first we were happy just to find a place open, but enough is enough. To be fair, when food/service/anything was not up to standards, I just let it go and tipped 20% anyway and tried not to say anything negative about anyplace, with the exception of one chef who shall remain nameless. :hmmm:

Enough is enough, though. After being TOTALLY ignored for at least 10-15 minutes, I was fuming. The waitress just totally ignored me, although she saw me sitting at one of her tables. Not even a glass of water. Nothing. Nada. Maybe she thought one single woman at the table probably wouldn't be a good tipper, or some such nonsense. I told the manager that I had never been treated so poorly in a restaurant and that I wouldn't be back. Probably not fair to punish the restaurant, but I can't even drive by the place without remembering how fuming angry I was.

Rhonda

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I was in New Orleans last week for work. Had dinner at K-Paul's, service was OK, with some flashes of good. What was disconcerting was the police office stationed outside the restaurant, paid by the owner for the customer's safety. I heard that the Brennan's group continued to pay their employees and provide temporary housing until they got rebuilt so they could keep their employees as they knew it would be hard to find good staff.

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No, frankly, I am still just dealing with it. It's the way that it is and if any of you think that it's going to get better during a SUMMER in New Orleans, I highly reccomend that you take your vacations somewhere with swell service-Westwego or Baton Rouge come to mind. The Summer here will, in all liklihood, be the end of some very familiar, but not very well financed, names.

I eat out. To a large degree I get PAID to eat out. On the other hand, I would be doing it anyway and when you get right down to it, I know that for both operators and for much of the wait/kitchen/whatever staff this is a learn on the fly propostition. I know where to go if I want great service (Herbsaint, Brigsten's, August, and happily, Cochon all come to mind), but generally, these days, I am not going to spend a great deal of time worrying about it.

I just spent the week on a trip, in what is, effectively, the third world of the United States, and the service was better there than ANYWHERE except one place that I ate in Memphis. And the one place was a really great, but catered dinner. It's not about who's waiting tables, it's about whether they get what service IS in the first place. The problem here is that, by and large, we are dealing, generally, with a very inexperienced pool from the front of house management on down. It's the blind leading the blind for Pete's sake. What do you expect? The chefs are having to stay in the kitchen and cook because they are short there so there's only so much that they can do about the front of the house. When you are in the back, good service means moving the food off of the pass line efficiently-after that? Not so much.

Sure, there's a higher standard to be met, and it's nice when it happensl ike it used to, but this ain't like it used to be. I still feel like there are things things that are more important to worry about. Like giving people a place to live. Just think, if we did that, the waiter pool would be back to bottomless! WhooHoo!

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Janet, I think that Todd is referring directly to the situation in New Orleans, where the needs and desires of the good citizens are beginning to revert to pre-Katrina levels of expectation.

Without being able to comment specifically on New Orleans, for obvious reasons, I would say that however frustrating it might be for all of you (whether diners, reviewers, writers or restaurateurs), it is a very healthy sign of a recovering society that people are starting to have expectations of normality. So it is still "a good thing", Yes?.

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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No, frankly, I am still just dealing with it. It's the way that it is and if any of you think that it's going to get better during a SUMMER in New Orleans, I highly reccomend that you take your vacations somewhere with swell service-Westwego or Baton Rouge come to mind. The Summer here will, in all liklihood, be the end of some very familiar, but not very well financed, names.

I eat out. To a large degree I get PAID to eat out. On the other hand, I would be doing it anyway and when you get right down to it, I know that for both operators and for much of the wait/kitchen/whatever staff this is a learn on the fly propostition. I know where to go if I want great service (Herbsaint, Brigsten's, August, and happily, Cochon all come to mind), but generally, these days, I am not going to spend a great deal of time worrying about it.

I just spent the week on a trip, in what is, effectively, the third world of the United States, and the service was better there than ANYWHERE except one place that I ate in Memphis. And the one place was a really great, but catered dinner. It's not about who's waiting tables, it's about whether they get what service IS in the first place. The problem here is that, by and large, we are dealing, generally, with a very inexperienced pool from the front of house management on down. It's the blind leading the blind for Pete's sake. What do you expect? The chefs are having to stay in the kitchen and cook because they are short there so there's only so much that they can do about the front of the house. When you are in the back, good service means moving the food off of the pass line efficiently-after that? Not so much.

Sure, there's a higher standard to be met, and it's nice when it happensl ike it used to, but this ain't like it used to be. I still feel like there are things  things that are more important to worry about. Like giving people a place to live. Just think, if we did that, the waiter pool would be back to bottomless! WhooHoo!

Define "healthy". It's not that. Whatever it is, we're just tired. We're tired of defending ourselves; we're tired of insurance adjusters; we're tired of contractors; we're just tired. Going out to eat is about the only thing we have left, and then they mess it up. I went to Drago's last night, and the charbroiled oysters were great, but service was horrible AND if the crabcake I had was not the worst I have ever had, it was Miss First Runner-Up.

How much do we have to take? How much do we swallow?

Rhonda

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I eat out. To a large degree I get PAID to eat out.

[snip]

Sure, there's a higher standard to be met, and it's nice when it happensl ike it used to, but this ain't like it used to be.

I still feel like there are things  things that are more important to worry about. Like giving people a place to live.

First, I don't think we can really control our individual reaction to good and bad service. Personally, the more times I get good service, the harder it is for me to excuse bad. Other folks I've talked to have had the same reaction. Chef Vizard indicated that this is his impression of New Orleans diners at the moment. The expectations are rising.

I also get paid to eat at restaurants, but I'm expected to judge them. When I'm not writing, I also get paid to judge students as a college professor. It would be swell to give all the kids an A+. Most are pretty nice, and it would sure make them happy. But it's not fair to the students who really work harder to receive the same reward as the rest. This is why I have stricter standards with my students.

I feel like considering good service as just a pleasant surprise, instead of something we expect, is the equivalent of giving everyone an A+. It's really humane and kind, but is it fair to the restaurants that exceed the norm despite the problems? Are they being properly rewarded?

As someone who does review restaurants (and music), I'm really asking when criticism is appropriate in a situation like post-Katrina New Orleans.

When the Gambit Weekly (the local alt-weekly) resumed publication in November, the arts editor told me that he wanted to publish tough criticism. He thought it could be done, and should be done, even in light of the struggles that artists faced in post-Katrina New Orleans. I admired that stance.

And yes, Brooks, I know there are more important issues. So what? There are always more important issues everywhere in the world. Plenty of people might call all of us eGulleters superficial for obsessing about food when someone, somewhere in the world is starving. That people might actually spend their lives performing great acts of charity, instead of wasting time debating the merits of El Bulli. I'll concede that such a saint is a better person than me.

But I would argue that life isn't a zero game. We can care about the suffering, while also caring about food, art and music. I'm not a monk. Life is too short to become so overcome with suffering that you eschew aesthetics pleasures. Haven't people in New Orleans always found a way to celebrate in the face of tragedy? That's why I live here.

Edited by TAPrice (log)

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I don't disagree with much of that and as far as I am concerned you can review away, especially if the reviews are more concerned with the food coming out of the kitchen than with the whole package. These days, really, what I want is well made food. I'm so far from worrying about the rest of it that it actually kind of suprises me. I was, pretty much, one of the most demanding assholes in the place for a very long time. I would not eat at a number of otherwise well regarded places in NO just because I couldn't deal with slipshod, amateurish, not even good on the most average scale service. These days? Not so much. I'm more concerned with what finally hits my table or ends up in the glass. But, that's just me. There's no reason not to expect more, I guess, but I really don't. So, consequently, my happiness level is higher than it might be if I spent a bunch of time worrying about it. The food? I'm still looking for great and it's happily pretty easy to find these days-if only in a more limited way, geographically.

So, I come down firmly on the side of a pass/fail standard. If you do a good job and I leave happy with the food, and NOT unhappy with the service-you pass and I will put you on my list of places that I will happily march into and have another meal. If the service is great-I call your mom and tell her how hard you are working and not to worry about the tattoos and the facial piercings-you know, that it's just a phase.

If you fail, I'll check you off for a while and not go back until I get the high sign from someone that I trust that all is well again. It's my system and I like it-though I just kind of made it up as I was defining it.

And Todd, you know some of those kids really deserve and A. Don't be such a hard ass.

Happily, I don't and never will write reviews so I have the luxury of taking this cavalier and daring stand-you and all of our other cohorts do not. I'm glad that I'm not in your shoes. You and I both know that it doesn't take much negative toned ink to generate a big old pile of hate mail these days. People are pretty sensitive. They kind of feel (whether right or wrong is not the point) like if it's bad and it's not pointed at the inept recovery efforts but at someone just doing what they can to make it here, well, they don't like it much and are pretty quick to tell you about it.

But, I know one place that has SWELL service and is doing land office business since the reopened. Give me a call and I'll take you for a bowl.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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When I was down in New Orleans working on the Willie Mae project in February with you guys (Todd and Brooks) I ate at Stanley!, Dick and Jenny's, Felix's Uptown, the Longbranch, and few other places. And I'd say that I had reasonably good service by anyone's standards at all of those places. Which is to say that four more months on if I had bad service somewhere I'd definitely say something about it.

Service isn't a different beast in New Orleans post Katrina than anywhere else if some number of restaurants, bars, and cafe's across the economic board make good. Those restaurants that just don't cut it either aren't trying or don't realize that they should be. And a chef or restaurantuer that complain about the help not being available are going to be making that same excuse when the creditors come calling.

The restaurant business is more than other industries about making choices to be successful: how much do I charge for this dish, can I make any money selling better ingredients, how many covers should we aim for in a night, how do I keep my staff and keep them happy. If a place can't do that last one, even in the face or hard times, then they aren't going to make it and customers don't deserve to suffer while the owner is putting that off.

Bryan C. Andregg

"Give us an old, black man singing the blues and some beer. I'll provide the BBQ."

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True enough. The real issue with service, if you ask anyone who isn't working with long term employees, is keeping people on the floor long enough to get them trained. Job jumping is a new hobby here. Also, we are working now, and will be working in the future, with a much smaller pool of college age kids who would have been in many of the positions.

I'm not saying that it's terrible, and I know lots of places that won't put up with anything much less than perfect, but it's not easy and even though managers and owners might be willing to put in the effort to train and supervise, they still have the problem of constantly being shorthanded and working with people who are not trained to a level that would be acceptable in most fine dining.

ANd, speaking of Willie Mae's-doing anything on the 4th? Want to lose some weight? Get a good workout?

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Depending on money and John M's schedule (that's John Currence), it might be a long work weekend-but it kind of depends on him, plumbers progress, and money

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Maybe I should have been more specific, but I meant New Orleanians' tolerance post-Katrina.

Service in general has probably taken a nose dive, but it was a pretty dramatic falling off in New Orleans.

I haven't been to New Orleans in an eating capicity "Post Katrina" so I can't really comment on how it is now, but I was there in June of last year and I would have to say that service was probably 40 % of our experience. I will be going back soon and I will expect the same service as before....

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Brett Anderson wrote a very good breakdown, as positively as humanly possible, on the situation in New Orleans as far as the Summer, Convention business, and employee situations go.

Lemons? Make lemonade. If you can find someone to squeeze the damned things

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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And, speaking of Willie Mae's-doing anything on the 4th? Want to lose some weight? Get a good workout?

I'd love nothing more than to come back down and help out, but life is changing for me and in very good ways. I'm giving up an eleven year career in the computer world and going to culinary school up north (New England Culinary Institute). My wife and I are in the last stages of getting the house ready for market and in the first stages of planning a move, otherwise I'd be there in a heartbeat. For anyone who cares to read my application essay, you can find it at,

http://www.loopback.net/essay.html

I may just find my way back to New Orleans on internship, and I'm seriously thinking about contacting the Rushings at the Longbranch to see if they'll create and intern position and work with the school on that. But, no matter what I'll be back to see Willie Mae cook again at some point.

Bryan C. Andregg

"Give us an old, black man singing the blues and some beer. I'll provide the BBQ."

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To be honest, AS A WHOLE, I never thought service in New Orleans was that great to begin with. There were difinitly men and women that were true service artisans working in the city. But, it always seemed that there were sooooo many restaurants and only so few true professionals that you only got great service when you dined at a place where the average server age was over 30. I cant count how many times I stepped into a restaurant where the floor manager or GM was like 25 years old.

Take Katrina out of the equation. Every new restaurant has an incredible hard time finding good help. Katrina just compounds the effect. But no one said the restaurant business was easy anyway. If you are good and you take pride in what you do there is no obstacle that you cant overcome. It just takes will, determination, more hard work than you ever imagined and never allowing yourself to have an excuse. My pet peve is excuses at restaurants. I have fired many a server for giving excuses to customers,,,ie: "The kitchen is short staffed tonight" or "I got double sat, I'll get to you in a moment". The customers are there to relax and forget the troubles of the day, not to get caught up in someone elses problems.

With all of the problems that the people of New Olreans face every day, they do need an escape. A decent meal with great service can provide that. Maybe the chef does need to step out of the kitchen a bit more and crack the whip.

Im a chef and even I'll admit that service is more important than food. Mediocre food and great service=restaurant lives on. Great food bad service=restaurant is dead.

PS-If my spelling is horrible, everything I own is in a box because Im moving. Sorry.

Gorganzola, Provolone, Don't even get me started on this microphone.---MCA Beastie Boys

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Mes chers, I am heartened by the existence of this discussion.

I found nothing amiss about the service I received when we were there in Jan/Feb. In addition to the whole inexperienced staff thing, PTSD can rear it's head in all kinds of funky ways. But, life (such as it is) is going on. Keep the standards.

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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  • 2 months later...

We were in New Orleans for four days last week. We had dinners at Herbsaint, Muriels, and Red Fish Grill. The service, compared with many of the places that I eat in the Hudson Valley of New York, was fabulous.

Even though I dine in New York City only a dozen or so per year, my husband and I eat out almost everyday. I wish we had that service here.

I'm surprised at the posts here, but I'm thinking that maybe it's because they are a couple of months old.

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