we ordered cold food; we got cold service
The other day, the husband (Mike) and I decided we could really use a nice meal out together, so we walked to one of our favorite “special dinner” spots. Within five seconds we were seated. Within thirty seconds we were greeted. Five minutes later, our order was shot through Micros and our mouths were watering with anticipation.
A half-hour in (with empty water glasses), Mike started getting antsy and decided to “stretch his legs.” Upon returning from his walk to the cold food prep area (we didn’t order anything hot), he told me that our food was nowhere in sight. The restaurant was pretty busy, so despite my growling belly, I remained calm and told him to do the same.
Because of my restaurant experience, I do understand getting unexpectedly slammed and have spent many a shift “in the weeds.” I also know the only thing that can typically save you when tickets are flying and people are incessantly peering around the restaurant to see what the heck is going on is a little bit of good ol’ customer service.
(It’s a long downhill slope from here—for a blog post, at least—so if you’re short on time and must move on, thanks for stopping by…)
Forty minutes in, with not one touch to the table from our waitress since ordering, I grew less patient. I called her over and asked kindly, “Do you know when we can expect our food?” She replied that they had been extremely backed up all night, and suggested we order something from the kitchen since it would likely be a while longer.
…To which I replied (still kindly), “No thanks; we ordered a lot of food. If you knew the food that we ordered would take an extraordinarily long time to prepare, we would have really appreciated you giving us the heads up.” Since she just stood there looking at me blindly, I added “I think it would have also been a nice gesture to send something small to the table to hold us over if you knew we’d potentially be waiting an hour and half for our food…”
She apologized, filled our water glasses—finally—and told me she 100% agreed with me (with extremely questionable sincerity).
Fifty-five minutes in, our glasses were empty again. Tables all around us now had food (hot and cold). We’d received no update from our waitress, even after chatting with her. An hour and five minutes in, she dropped dipping sauces on our table but said nothing, and didn’t come back to replenish our water after seeing our empty glasses (and even if she didn’t see our glasses, that’s a problem too!). After an hour and twenty minutes, the food came. We were finished eating within eight minutes. I’m pretty sure Mike skipped chewing.
I joked with him that I hoped we wouldn’t get a complimentary dessert because I was ready to leave. “We will just take a bite and then go,” he said. But, no complimentary dessert came. Instead, the waitress cleared our plates, left, and came back to drop two dessert menus. “I think we’re going to pass on dessert,” Mike and I said in perfect unison.
I saw our waitress go to speak with the GM. In my opinion, the only acceptable ending to this wretched evening at that point was a comped meal, especially since we didn’t go for any big ticket items. Nearly two hours in, the check presenter landed.
No adjustments—not even any minor ones—had been made. Mike got up, and I knew he was headed to speak with the GM, who just so happened to be standing on the other side of the ½-wall I was seated next to. I heard him tell Mike: 1) the restaurant was busy and food is prepared to order, 2) our waitress told us to order hot items and we didn’t listen to her, plus, we shouldn’t have ordered all cold items and 3) we should expect this type of thing at a busy restaurant. Before I knew it, Mike was rounding the corner and his face was bright red. I thanked my lucky stars that he didn’t cause a major scene. Simultaneously, I heard the GM cursing under his breath (really?).
At that point I told Mike to just go home and workout. I knew things would only escalate if he stayed. As he was leaving, he said, “I hope you know we’re never coming back.” My heart sank a little, as this restaurant truly was one of my absolute favorites in the city; our go-to spot to get a…certain fix (sorry, doing my best to keep the restaurant anonymous).
I paid the bill, and as I walked home, I realized he was right. Despite the unparalleled gastronomic satisfaction this particular restaurant had given me countless times, I wouldn’t be able to get over this ONE awful experience. Any little bit of effort to cater to us—the customers—could have reversed the feelings we were left with. Alas, this experience brought new meaning to the ever-popular Twitter hashtag: #FAIL.
Dawn and I have said it before and we’ll say it again: People will go to a restaurant for the food, but they’ll keep going for the service. (Turns out Tom Colicchio says the same thing.) This was the perfect example of how true the statement is.
What was your most recent experience with poor service at a restaurant?