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First signs of a bad dining experience...

post #1 of 86
Thread Starter 
First off, let me say that I am by no means a snob... I almost never get to frequent those fancy/expensive (TV reviewed) places... I often find myself a patron of local deli's and restaurants, and of course throw into the mix some of the "Franchise" restaurants.

The fact is that regardless of the "class" of restaurant, there are tell-tale signs in every restaurant that will either leave you with a good feeling about your upcoming dining experience, or make you decide that a stiff drink at the bar and the trip home would be better served.

I live in a community in the East Bay Area, California and in my town we have quite a large variety of restaurants. (We are even getting a Trader Vic's in a couple months). Of all of these restaurants, some of the things I ALWAYS look for when walking in are the following: (please feel free to add to this list!)

1) The Hostess - The first representative of the restaurant you see. The body language, attitude, and demeanor of this person leaves you with an immediate impression of what the mood of every other employee is. Even though your encounter with the Hostess is brief, the impact is lasting.

I can't tell you how many times I walk into a restaurant and see a teenaged girl or boy who is more interested in chatting with fellow employees over making me feel welcome to the establishment. Often times they will wrap up their conversation, grab a couple of menus, and start walking (assuming you will follow)... Occasionally they will mumble the required "Welcome to <restaurant>"... In many cases (without even looking you in the eye), they will take you to a table, put the menus down, and utter the "Your server will be right with you" line. (Which really means I am leaving you here so I can go back to the front and continue my conversation.)

While nothing here is overly "offensive"... Without even looking at the menu, I immediatly feel like I am second class.

2) The Waiter/Waitress - Your tour guide and interface to everything about the restaurant. There are so many places to go here, I have trouble finding where to start. Here is a list of things that in my opinion detract from a good experience:

- Not appearing within 2 minutes of being seated is often annoying... As soon as I sit down and get comfortable, one of the first things I like to do is get something refreshing to drink... (Water, beer, wine...) Having to wait more than two minutes gets my foot tapping...
- Inconsistent service... There are many times while in a restaurant (usually in the Franchise restaurants), that I will notice a Waiter/Waitress visit another table 2-3 times before revisiting mine. When I notice this happening, it is usually because I would like their attention (perhaps for a refill of my beverage)... Waiters/Waitresses who are experienced know how to develope a routine for table management, and they shine like a star when they do it.
- Getting the check in the middle of your meal. This doesn't happen often, but in my opinion this is somewhat of a rude gesture. It implies to me that they would like me to hurry up and leave, and secondly that they aren't interested as to whether I wanted something else with my meal. Some servers view this as a way of "saving some time" but in most cases this is viewed as "being pushy".

There are MANY more items I could come up with, but let's move on.

3) The Floor/Shift Manager - The one who is supposed to make or break your experience. The shift manager could be considered the "Sous Chef" of the dining area... He/She ensures that food is being served, tables are being waited and cleaned, and also ensures that the customers experience is a pleasant one. This being the case, one should be able to breath a sigh of relief when they see the Floor Manager approach their table. Here are some pet peeves of mine about Floor Managers:

- Checking in with guests with Waiter/Waitress along side. I would guess that most people (not all) don't enjoy confrontation in a restaurant, and in many cases get too embarrest to raise an issue if bad service is in play. The Floor Manager is supposed to make the guest feel comfortable enough to share that and it is then the manager's job to make sure that it gets set right. When the Waiter/Waitress accompanies the manager to the table, it is often intimidating and ultimatly unproductive because the guests will not give the true feedback to the manager if it has to do with the service.
- Invisible Floor Manager. I know they are out there... but seem to either be unavailable the entire time, or are avoiding a large portion of their duty.

I suppose I could go on about things to look for... (maybe I could even write a book on this), but the point is watch out! It is easy to spot a "soon to be" bad dining experience, and you can avoid this simply by observing the hostess.

Why did I write this? Because I saw a few other opinions regarding Franchise restaurants, and those discussions reminded me of a very bad experience I had at a "Johnny Carino's"...

Hostess did all the bad stuff mentioned above, I saw the waitress a total of five times, one to take my order and drink order, the second to deliver those items (at the same time), third to complain about the hair I had found in my seafood pasta, and fourth was in the company of the Floor Manager who apologized and brought me a new one, and then I never saw him again. The fifth and last time I saw the waitress was to give me the bill. (which wasn't adjusted at ALL for the dish with a hair in it.) --- Think I will ever go there again?

post #2 of 86

You are "Right On"

Good post...and so true! Sometimes you just get the feeling people don't care whether you're there or not.






post #3 of 86

It might be......

....a good idea to give it a couple of months and revisit. Places DO pick themselves up, they Do get newer personal. The places I wont go to are those with a menu out front of the building, yellowed by age, curling with condensation, dead flies garnishing the glass fronted cage, down there with the 'specialty' deserts and liquor coffee. Apart from anything else, I have to ask myself, how on earth do they get in there. The flies I mean.
post #4 of 86
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the feedback, I have seriously considered writing a book on this... I can't tell you how many times I see restaurants that have teeny bopper hostesses... It seems like a Restaurant manager tends to not give the Hostess position a second thought.

I will say that I have seen some Franchises use a good hostess strategy, one in particular is the "Claim Jumper" chain of restaurants... The hostess position is really a team of 2-3 hostesses all of whom always smile and interface with the customers (even in the waiting area). I distinctly remember being pleased as soon as I walked into that restaurant.

Anyhow, I do agree with Diane, I will sometimes revisit a restaurant that didn't treat me as I expected... (unless of course the experience was absolutly horrible).

The ideas for this book include what I mentioned in my original post, but also so much more. I think that a book about this stuff from a customers point of view (as well as someone who loves culinary arts) would be a unique perspective. I'm sure that other books similar to this idea have been written, but my head is so full of ideas... (I also have recipricol ideas about the tell-tale signs of a good restaurant...)
post #5 of 86

No Rice?

I live in a small city that has recently blown up with sushi restaurants. There are only a few that have been here 10 or more years, but within the last year and a half 7 or more have opened. As a professional cook I rarely get a chance to get out to eat in the evening (have been trying to as of late), so when I get the chance I REALLY hate to be disappointed.

I recently went to sushi at more neighborhoody place. From one previous experience I wasn't expecting much but there weren't any other sushi places open on a Sunday evening and...ok a gal that works there was my main intrest in going there anyway :lips: (so partly my fault). I sat down right in front of her (she rolls there). The waitress (who I knew from previously working with at another restaurant) was my server and I ordered a chimay which they had on draft. After she walked away the exec chef leans over the bar to tell me that he might not have enough rice for me by the time he gets through all his other orders. SO Im already bummed. The waitress shortly later came to ask what i needed and I informed her ....? about the rice shortage. I ended up ordering a poki and some edamame with the intention of ordering more if there was rice left. The waitress said something to the effect of "Surely you understand, I mean, don't you run out of beef cheeks (popular menu item from the place I work) every once in a while?", and I said "Well no we actually don't" and I'm thinking to myself that the cheeks are only one menu item versus something like rice in a sushi restaurant which is a catalyst for half the menu...Its like me not having enough plates to put food on. Long story short I left hungry, disappointed , and with no phone # from the cute girl I wanted to talk to in the first place. Too bad.
post #6 of 86
No rice? No nookie?

No return!
post #7 of 86
That is funny Pan Man. I had a cricket in my mushroom sauce once. I gave it back to the waiter, who told me not to fuss. But I couldn't, just couldn't eat that meal.
post #8 of 86
OOOOOH BUT WHAT THE F YALL of course i wont go there to drop dough on weak sushi for big $...funny thing is i read a great review on the place right after i had a crappy experience there ..... dunno if they deserve it or not......

post #9 of 86

I thought being hungry in an hour...

only applied to Chinese ...


post #10 of 86
Just saw this thread - looking for a place to report a really poor dining experience - and am reminded of a rule of thumb by the operating partner in a chain of 20-odd Sizzler family restaurants, where my wife was head of administrative operations.

He said the first thing he looked at was how clean the glass was - doors, sneeze guards, booth dividers, whatever. If they weren't sparkling clean, he would assume they weren't particular about other things (like service and food :rolleyes: ) either.

With five couples, I went to the Wolf's Head Inn on Joliet Road in Indian Head Park (IL) for their Sunday brunch- one couple said they liked it a lot. We ordered Bloody Mary's and the celery stick in mine had started to decay- it was light brown and squishy at the top.

I should have taken the hint.

The buffet had only a few items, every one of them EXTREMELY mediocre. We paid the bill - which included a 20% gratuity, and walked out. Four couples had left, when the manager came out into the parking lot and told the fifth that we owed another $6 per couple for coffee. Showing less fortitude than I would have expected of him, he forked over the additional $30.

So, now I gotta pay him another $6.

My wife and I didn't have coffee.

How soon will I be back the the Wolf's Head Inn??? :mad:

Mike :roll:
travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #11 of 86
a cricket, or a roach?
Not to fuss? Call the Health Dept!
post #12 of 86
We just returned from a nice dinner on a deck on a river. The menu was nice, the atmosphere was welcoming, the food was very good, and the service was fine UNTIL the waitress called me "my dear" as in "would you like another cocktail, my dear?" I gave her a withering glance and said "yes, please".

Later in the meal when she returned to pick up the plates, I started to say something and answered me by calling me "my darling". My husband gave me one of those oh oh looks because he knows my pet peeve is being called some diminutive pet name by someone I've never met before. What is it with servers that they think calling you hon, dear, or some other name usually reserved for babies or people in nursing homes will get them a better tip? One would think that after the first glare they receive from a customer, that they would get the hint and use sir or ma'am...or nothing at all which is preferable to a pet name. I paid the bill and left a 10% tip to the penny.

On the way out, I asked to speak to the manager and explained that everything was wonderful from the moment we walked in the door until we left except for the fact that the server wasn't professional enough not to use baby names.

Am I the only one who is bothered by this condescendingly fake "friendliness"? These people are not my pals, they are my servers and I tip very well when the relationship is professional one between a server and a client.

My produce guy called me "young lady" until I told him it was 2006, I was at least his age, and I started every conversation with "Hi,this is Susan from....", He asked what he should call me. I reiterated that I started every conversation with "hi, this is susan....." :crazy: What a bozo.
post #13 of 86
LOL, it never stops does it. They call you dear because you are young, they call you dear because you are a white haired woman. They call you dear because you are visibly pregnant. "They" never call a man 'dear'.

It is my opinion that this word, among others, is the most offensive form of address Possible. It is right up there with the 'N' word. Determinedly offensive. Foul denigration. Loathsome little power plays. Utterly disgraceful vernacular. Showing a paucity of vocabulary, wit, but mostly, manners. My husband does not call me dear, he knows better.

I will react with extreme vigour to this, and associated terms, no matter how public or potentially upsetting this is to others. My family are used to me, but it can give fright to others.

The only person on this planet who can call me dear, is Billy. Because I believe him. So there. giggle. (and a few others of course.)
post #14 of 86
No,Diane, they have other terms of endearment for men. A waitress in a local, upscale Italian rest called my husband "Hon". She actually called everyone hon, but one night, she said something like, "Would you like another scotch, Hon?" and i looked at him and said, "I hadn't realized you and she were so close." My husband looked a little shocked and the waitress scurried away. She has never called us hon since, and I have found that she's a very good server and compansate her accordingly. Of course, she probably sees us coming and says, "Here comes that miserable biotch."

At another restaurant where we had gone to celebrate my DD's new job, the waitress took all of our orders and looked at my 14 and a half year old son, and said, "And what would the little guy like?" I smiled sweetly and said,"You should be VERY glad he's not responsible for the tip." She was much more respectful of him throughout the rest of our meal.

What gives with this type of service? Do they actually think we find it endearing? I find it nauseating.
post #15 of 86
I believe that these "Nauseating" servers are just trying to be friendly and hospitable. Some individuals are raised in an environment where certain terms of endearment are regularly used. To make the statement that you become physically ill could mean that you may have some past issues that you need to deal with.
post #16 of 86
Thanks, BigGrizzly, for your learned opinion of my psyche.

Let's call it what it is, shall we? The overuse of terms of endearment by total strangers is nothing more than a cheap stunt to make bigger tips. The irony of it all is that if these so called "friendly and hospitable" servers used some common sense and learned to read their customers a little better, their tips would improve markedly. You may get warm fuzzies at being called "my dear" by your server, but I find it insulting. An astute server would know that after the first foray into his or her saccharine vocabulary.

I still find it nauseating and what's more, insipid behavior like that is degrading to the person using it. What's wrong with being a professional at whatever your career chioce happens to be?
post #17 of 86
I am afraid, Big Grizzly, my stance remains firmly with Lentil. Over familiarity is something we might expect from a drunk, perhaps. A gauche, or untutored person. It is further my opinion that these terms are used to diminish the stature of the person being served. A kind of equaliser if you like. From a silently resentful server. As for putting down a young man in his fifteenth year, well that is just insanity. He would be likely to eat the largest amount of all. And he will never forget.

My view on children in restaurants is that it is my job to keep them sitting correctly and quietly, from the earliest practical age. It is the servers job to treat them with the respect I expect for myself and my husband. So, I don't care if they are 3 years. Let alone coming on 15 years. Both my boys could order for the family with great aplomb by the time they were 8 years.

We only had one incident as far as I recall, I was with both my sons to meet my husband in Rotorua. and stopped for a meal in Hamilton. We were shoved in a corner as is normal with a woman and children, Older son was 12, Other son 10. For once I was grateful. Older has a very sophisticated and deadly humour. Even at that age. He made some crack, and Younger was convulsed with laughter, he had his hands over his mouth, but a bit leaked through, this set Older off, it esculated. Still very quiet. They were crying, then younger, in efforts to avoid rupturing his ventral abdoninal wall, leaned forward and banged his head on the table. He was only a little fellow (at the time). I was catching up fast, the next table caught it, not that they knew what they were laughing at, it didn't take long for this epidemic to spread through the dining room. There were about 50 people howling their heads off, we took shelter in the general cocophany to remove our hands from our mouths and transferred them to holding our aching ribs. Above all the laughter I could hear Younger, his laugh like a mad bugie. Setting people off again. All settled down again about 20mins later, just a few sporadic outbursts. I had chicken liver pate, with extraordinarily hot vogel toast points. It was lovely, I don't remember what the boys had. After we left, Older said to me that it was an interesting if unplanned window on crowd control.

Now I shall just hop off, Grizzy, and put another log on the fire. Tea?
post #18 of 86

Your children sound delightful! I sympathize with your younger one as I am cursed with the same affliction that leaves me unable to control my laughter. I used to work with another bartender who would, like your older son, say or do something that would leave me hysterical, but patrons completely unaware. There were times I'd have to scootch town behind the bar until I could regain my composure so as not to offend some customer. I loved working with him, but there were days I wanted to squirt him with the seltzer. I was, and am still amazed that he could reduce me to helpless giggles and not even crack a smile! On the other hand, when he was in an ugly mood, watch out!

Your take on overly familiar servers is interesting. I hadn't thought of their comments as equalizing before. It makes sense. If you can call me darling or dear or hon, I am just like you. As I said before, I'd prefer a professional relationship with my server, and when the shoe is on the other foot (and it is since I'm a caterer), I want a professional relationship with my customers/clients.

Recently, I was short some staff and asked my sister to help with a wedding. She owns a business, and has never really worked as a waitress. She was really hurt that the guests didn't pay much attention to her. Her comment was "they don't even know me and they treated me like I wasn't even there".

I thought it was quite funny looking at it from my perspective. I told her what I thought all banquet servers knew; that we TRY to be unobtrusive and maybe even invisible. We don't ask if someone if finished, but wait for the signs that they are- knife and fork placed on the plate, etc. I like the service to be attentive without being in their faces. It's not necessary to ask each person at the table if they want a coffee refill- simply fill an empty cup or make eye contact with the person. It's easy to know whether or not to fill it. My poor sister smiled and asked if she could take their plates, if they wanted coffee, whatever, and expected a warm reply and all she got in most instances was a nod. The guests weren't there to make friends with her, but to celebrate the wedding of the hosts.

Another woman who does some work for me was helping at a house party. We were in the kitchen prepping the apps when the hostess and a guest came in for something. They were admiring her new appliances when my helper joined in the conversation. She was having a grand old time talking about all she knew about appliances and the like when she caught me looking at her from across the room and shut up insantly. On the way home from the job, she apologized and said she didn't realize she wasn't supposed to talk to the guests. I told her it's not that we're not supposed to talk, but that we're the hired help-we don't have to grovel, but we're not part of the party. The next time she worked for me, she wasn't quite so chatty.

She's definately more used to being a guest than the server, though. Yesterday, we were leaving after a drop off and set up when the hostess arrived. She asked which of us was Susan/me as we had only spoken on the phone. I stepped forward, shook her hand, and introduced myself, and my helper said- with a little edge- "I'm Debbie." as if she should have been introduced also. I probably would have done so, but she was making it known under no uncertain terms, that she was not happy about not being introduced immediately. :rolleyes: I don't call her all that often. Funny thing,though, I've been at her home when she's had hired help there, and she acts like the queen. :D

Anyway, this is my day off, so I'm going to get out of her and go home to get ready to go out to dinner with friends. Husband just called and suggested we not go to the place where the server called me darling. Smart man.:lol:
post #19 of 86
LOL Lentil, people are hilarious, they really are, and don't even have to try. I remember with great pleasure taking Oldest to Invercargill for a convention, he was 14 years then, and I got lonely, wanted the company. I had invited one of my clients to dinner, which was very nice. After dinner Campbell asked to be excused, I gave permission, he bowed to the wife of my client, kissed the tips of her fingers, smiled at her as only he can, bowed to my client, said a few right words, took one step back, a brief nod and smile to the wife, and withdrew. Now this is the point of this epistle. She cried. After she had recovered her composure, she said she thought she would have to go to Buckingham Palace for that sort of thing to happen. This Lady had spent 40 hard years in business with her husband, and she went home wearing glass slippers. All because someone has good manners.
post #20 of 86
To put a little bit different spin on the "Dear" thing...

Jim-Bob was the occasional sportsman, and finally brought home game for the family to eat...

After his first successful hunt, he had prepared some venison for dinner.

He placed the meat in front of his young children, who asked, "What's this Daddy?"

Not being sure if he should tell them that he's killed Bambi, dressed it and had it butchered to feed the family, he replied, "It's something that your mother calls me sometimes."

At which point, little Betsy-Sue yells, "Spit it out John-Boy!! It's butt hole!!!"
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
post #21 of 86
:D That's great!
post #22 of 86
"Hello, my name is --- and i will be your server" is a pretty good sign of an impending disaster.
Don't mess with dragons. You will be crispy and taste good with catsup.
Don't mess with dragons. You will be crispy and taste good with catsup.
post #23 of 86
We were just talking about this last night.

As if I really need to be told that the person standing in front of me with a tray, pad, and pen is my server. I really couldn't care less what their name is most of the time, but if they want to tell me, they could just say, "my name is Deb if you need anything." I'd really prefer that they just be attentive so I don't have to flag down a busperson and ask them to go find Deb.

Will bank tellers soon be saying, "Hi, my name is.... and I'll be handling your transaction today." or "My name is...and I'll be bagging your groceries." ? Ugh.

When I do a catering job, I introduce myself to the host as we've already met by phone, I'm taking their money, and I own the business. I have a woman who works for me who'll step right up and introduce herself, too, as if the host really cares who she is. I've told her that (in a nice way, of course...), but the bottom line is that she really looks down on servers herself, and tries to elevate herself (in her perception) by becoming one of the "management".

I don't use her very often.....:)
post #24 of 86
Restaurants here in italy are very different. The things that most depress me (which are very common here) are
1. food exactly as you order it - you ask for roast veal, you get that, and only that, a slice of roast veal. If you want a vegetable, you have to order a vegetable. No side dishes, no attempt to make the food look good, just a piece of meat splopped on a dish. (most places here are like that unfortunately)
2. a really bad sign is when you ask for pepper and they bring you a pepper shaker, rather than a grinder. Once i ordered "bucatini cacio e pepe" (cheese and pepper bucatini) - i couldn;t taste the pepper, asked for more, adn they brought me a pepper shaker. You can't make a dish with pepper as it's main ingredient with pre-ground pepper. Tells you a lot about the level of care they put into their cooking.
3. no soundproofing, noisy place
4. no attempt at decor except a few souvenir plates on the wall and a couple of signed photos of famous people who purportedly have eaten there
5, salad with water in the dish
6. waiters who seem to think that if they come soon they're rushing you. as well as those who seem annoyed if you haven't selected your dish after five minutes
7. no written menu - the waiter recites the dishes, one at a time, hoping you'll say yes before he finishes the list to save time. "penne all'arrabbiata?" no "bucatini all'amatriciana?" what else? "gnocchi al pomodoro?" etc.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #25 of 86
Now there's an economic reason for that. "menu cost" = it takes time and money to re-price items when they are printed on a menu. If you simply recite the menu, you can change the prices second-by-second if you want to.
post #26 of 86
Free rider, they do this a lot and they don't recite the prices at all!
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #27 of 86
Even better, then they can charge you whatever they want at the end. :eek:
post #28 of 86
There's a café that I sometimes visit in part because the witress calls me (and everyone) "Hon." I think it's great to find such a lack of pretense every now and then. It's just a different atmosphere than the more upscale and priggish places, which also have their place.
post #29 of 86
I understand what you're saying. "Hon" has it's place, but it's when the sweet endearments ARE the pretense that it bugs me.
post #30 of 86


I went back and read this thread...LMAO at some. I agree that being called sweetie, hon, or dear is very irritating. But on the other end, I have people that get upset with me for calling them sir or mam- (these are usually people that I know and I feel I am showing respect to)- it has nothing to do with their age (younger or older than myself). Some people tell me not to call them sir because they actually work for a living (I presume this is implied to military titles of officers who don't work hard) or I am told that their parent is sir or mam, not them. (this also has nothing to do with the age of the customer). So my question is- what is appropriate???? obviously most don't like to be too friendly or feel belittled, some don't like too formal...... what do you all prefer? (from either side of the transaction)
Bon Vive' !
Bon Vive' !
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