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How important is "service"?

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Recently, to celebrate my birthday, Jeremy and I went
to La Luncheonette. The meal was nice - nothing
spectacular. But what really brought it down a notch
was the service. There was only one other table being
served, yet the service was slow, disinterested, and
cold. By slow, I mean I had to indicate we were ready
to order. Disinterested - I had to ask for a water
refill. Cold - no eye contact or connection of any
sort. I walked away feeling that this was a place I
would not return to. Granted, I might feel differently
if the quality of the food had knocked my socks off. I
am no fan of the overly solicitous style of table
waiting, but the fine line between on and off service
is one that really affects my experience of a
restaurant.

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  1. I'm with you. I don't want to be fawned over, but I do
    want to feel that my business is appreciated.

    I recently went to a place for dinner (up on Cape
    Cod). It's a great spot for breakfast, very funky.
    They try to do it up a bit more in the evenings, but
    we had to tell them we wanted to order, and then my
    main dish (delicious grilled halibut) was cold. I
    wasn't able to get the server's attention at the
    moment, and I was starving, so I shrugged and dug in.
    But when I told her later that it had been cold, she
    reprimanded me for not having told her sooner (OK, so
    I should have tried harder, but still I didn't
    appreciate being saddled with any blame at all), and
    then the dessert we wanted turned out to be
    unavailable, and the espresso machine was broken, so
    espresso was out, too.

    I left with a bad feeling about the place. In
    retrospect, if they'd perhaps given us a different
    dessert on the house, we would have left happy, our 3
    disappointments forgotten.

    1. Ellen,

      Sounds like I'm in your camp. Most restaurant
      reviewers judge a restaurant by the food,
      "atmosphere," and service. I think for most
      chowhounds, the food is paramount. And I agree.

      I'm sure my restaurant experiences have been enhanced
      by "atmosphere," but offhand I can't remember any time
      when an experience has been ruined by "atmosphere."
      But many meals have been saved by caring and skilled
      service, and more that have been ruined by poor
      service.

      We might infer that the wonderful food prepared by the
      chef is made with "love," but that doesn't necessarily
      mean affection for the customer. The waitstaff and
      host are our connection to the soul of the
      restaurant. There are many situations, especially
      when eating in one's own neighborhood, when one isn't
      reaching for the stars, but just wants comfort and
      sustenance. I'd guess for some people, the look of a
      room might be more important, but for me, the
      congeniality of the restaurant staff is more crucial.