Musings on Restaurant Service

check from Gloria’s Cafe, where I’m a regular

My dad was in the restaurant business. I’ve been going out to eat as long as I could remember. My family went out at least twice a week for dinner and more in the summer when I was off from school Every major holiday was celebrated at a restaurant.

I am somewhat sensitive to bad service. When you eat out as much as I do, you can’t help but notice that.  I just expect people to do their jobs. I come in, you greet me, I order, you give me food in a reasonable amount of time, you ask if I want anything else and we’re done. But when someone goes out of their way to make sure I have a good time, I remember that and will patronize a restaurant again, talk it up to friends, review it here and on popular web sites.

We all have bad days though. Usually I give people the opportunity to explain bad service. The other night, Obar said they were short handed. AMMO didn’t explain why service was terrible. Today, I got a note from Elements Kitchen asking me to come back on their dime.

I’ve been invited back by restaurants and bars before and I never take them up on their offer. I am a journalist at heart. Taking freebies is not my thing. Knowing a restaurant wants to rectify their initial blunder is good enough for me. The offer is the nicety I can live with.

I also don’t like to name the particular person who “did me wrong.” It’s not my job to make their life worse. But I like to think my musings, my reviews and my commentary help shape the restaurant to a place I would like to frequent.

The restaurant I probably went to the most last year was Bottega Louie. Service is brilliant there. It’s almost their raison d’etre. However, sure, I’ve had bad service there. Having gone as often as I have, I know every person who works there is supposed to greet you. Our server never introduced himself and by the end of the meal, I still wasn’t sure who he was, partially because the general manager was helping out our table and our server disappeared a lot.

I had quite a bit of lasagna to take home. A food runner was going to box it up for me. Our server came by and dumped it onto a tray of dishes to be removed and then dumped more plates on top of it. I was shocked. My entire table was silent. The food runner scolded the server!

The server said to me, “Well, it looks like barely anything touched your lasagna. Do you still want it.”

I was so disgusted I said no. But I tell you what he should have done. He should have immediately offered me a new piece.  A place like Bottega Louie can certainly afford a $15 slice of lasagna.

I still went back to Bottega Louie, hoping this server would be trained better but I’ve yet to see him again. And no, I did not tell the general manager the server’s faux pas.

I have tons of stories similar to this. Like I said, I eat out a lot.

Tipping is a sensitive subject. In general, I tip 20%. I may scale this back according to (lack of/bad) service. I tip 25% if service is exceptional. Some people tell me they tip the same no matter what. I disagree with this. I never leave less than 15% though. And apparently that was “not enough” for one server at a local Silver Lake Mexican restaurant. The server actually ran after us stating “standard” tip is 18%! Well, I was appalled and though I really like the food there, my preference is not to patronize that restaurant. I’ve seen similar occurances at other restaurants, thankfully it wasn’t me on the end of the umbrage of a server.

But really, I’m pretty easy going. Make me good food and drinks and I’m happy. Ignore me, give me lukewarm/cold food and act haughtily I’m even in your restaurant and you’ll know when I’m unhappy.