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La Viola - Inconsiderate and greedy? [moved from Pennsylvania board]

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Whew, I’m glad last night was over. We had a surprise dinner party planned for a friend’s 40th birthday party. We settled on the location as recommended by those on this site. La Viola BYOB was the definite choice to host our party of 15. I called a couple weeks ago for availability and to book the reservation. I was referred to their new restaurant across the street that would be more than willing to accommodate our large party. I spoke with a gentleman, who I presume was the owner. I requested Friday night at 8pm. He hesitated....then took a long pause and said, “How about 9pm?” I said, “No, we would like the reservation for 8pm.” He said, “Possibly 8:30pm?” I said no again and was adamant about having that time for our reservation. I hung up the phone, content that I had a place booked, though had a feeling it wasn’t going to go as I planned.

I called again a week later to confirm the reservation, this time speaking to a woman. I confirmed the number of 15 and the time for 8pm. Again, there was another attempt to talk me out of the 8pm reservation. I explained that it was for a surprise party and that we would like the table ready.

Yesterday, 4 hours before the reservation, I called again, spoke to the same gentleman who booked the reservation, and confirmed our party and time.

With the uneasiness of the reservation, I decided to have our party meet at 7:00pm at the Brasserie Perrier, with the birthday girl coming at 7:30. Our plan was now to surprise her there and then head over to the restaurant.

Everything went as planned at the Brasserie. One person did not show up, so we were down to 14. Everyone was on time, so at 7:45, my boyfriend and I left and went to La Viola, leaving the entire party waiting at the Brasserie. We got there and the hostess said our table would be ready and asked where the rest of our party was. I told her they were right around the corner waiting for our call....no sense in having their tiny foyer overflowing with people. So she told me that we wouldn’t be seated until everyone was there. I called my friends and the party promptly shifted to La Viola........where there was no table to be found.

We waited and waited, very impatiently, with the hostess saying 5 more minutes, 5 more minutes. Finally at 8:45 my friend asked to speak to the owner or manager. The gentleman came up, apologized for the wait and then proceeded in telling me that whoever took the reservations over the phone, made a mistake. Funny thing is, I know it was him that actually took the reservation, since I recognized his accent. Honestly, from that point on, I don’t know how they did it, but within 5 minutes we were seated. I think they asked diners who were seated too long that they had to leave.

Now for the table......try fitting 14 people at a table that only sat 12. There weren’t enough seats! No seats....and they had no room to move another table to seat us. My boyfriend and I crammed in at the end, sharing about 15 inches of the table space. At this point, I couldn’t even tell you about the food. I was too irate and worried my plate was going to fall into my lap, since I was delicately balancing it on the edge of the table.

Now, please know, I realize BYOB’s are not always ideal for larger parties though do not commit to a party size that you can’t handle. The owner again apologized and said they can’t really do large parties.....funny thing, as I went to the bathroom and there was a party of 20 and another party of 12 in the back room.

What I am so angry about is that I called 3 times to confirm this reservation....3 times!!!!! What time did we get seated? 9pm....9pm! Exactly the time THEY wanted to seat us. So if you think dining out is all about the consumer, think again.

Will I go back? I doubt it. I am really upset with the place. They knew exactly what they were doing when I booked this reservation and they knew exactly what time they were planning on seating us. To me that is just inconsiderate, rude and greedy as a restaurant owner.

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  1. Geez, I'm sorry to hear that. There is really no excuse for the way you were treated, especially since you called them multiple times to confirm. I've sworn off places that didn't treat me half as badly as that.

    This was the new branch of La Viola, on the same side of the street as Monk's, correct?

    1. Sounds like a bummer. Many restuarants seems to have a problem dealing with bigger parties. I have been dissppointed so many times over the years that I really hesitate to book a party of more than 6 unless I have really good confidence that the restaurant can handle it.

      In your case, their original hesitance to book the 8PM time was probably a warning sign that they weren't confident. From my own experience, I would have bailed out at that point instead of pressuring them to agree to a time that they weren't really comfortable with.

      Now it certainly is their fault for a agreeing to a time that wasn't going to work, but ultimately your party sufferred.

      1. It sounds to me like they knew when you first called that they wouldn't have a table of that size available at 8:00. You insisted anyway, refusing 9:00 and 8:30 reservations.

        They shouldn't have booked the reservation, but rather than greedy and inconsiderate, it's more likely that they were trying to accomodate a demanding customer.

        4 Replies
        1. re: coolgeek

          While Hellolaura would have been wise to "read between the lines" and realize early on that they were hedging about the time commitment, it is entirely upon the restaurant to be honest and follow through with a reservation of that size.

          Restaurants tell people "no" all the time when they can't accommodate a reservation. Greedy, perhaps, insonsiderate, definitely. Extremely unprofessional.

          1. re: george2

            Coolgeek, I wasn't a demanding customer. My initial call to the restaurant was to inquire about reservations and they SAID they could accomodate our party, so I booked the place. If they couldn't accomodate us at 8pm, I would have called another place. Plain and simple. What they did was lead me to believe we would be accomodated and what they did was not accomodate us at all. Inconsiderate and greedy in my book. They just wanted as much business as possible.

          2. re: coolgeek

            It seems to me that they knew perfectly well they couldn't accommodate her, but told her they could anyway so they could fill the table at 9 pm and get paid. It is incumbent on the restaurant to tell the customer that they just can't accommodate them at a certain time, not on the customer to read between the lines.

            1. re: Buckethead

              Agreed. They knew that the group would wait, because once you've got 14 people together, you're not going to look for other options.

              At 8pm, it's harder to fill those tables for a cycle earlier in the evening than it is at 8:30-9pm.

          3. I'm surprised that they agreed to take a reservation for your group at 8 pm. In August, tried booking a party at La Viola for 25 people at 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday night and was told that they could not accommodate us until 9 pm. After reading your post, I'm glad that they were so candid with me. (I chose Monte Carlo Living Room instead and had a wonderful meal.)

            1. The handwriting was all over the wall. Which is why you tried to reconfirm your reservation, what 4 times. You insisted on that restaurant and a specific time, yet even thought every instinct should have told you it was not going to work. Then you feign surprize when your not accomodated correctly???

              3 Replies
              1. re: shoeman

                Bottom line is La Viola said they could accomodate and they did not. The end result is that a special night was ruined and that my friend, is unacceptable.

                1. re: Tonyjlive

                  You were accomodated. Accomodated about as well as any reasonable person should have expected to be accomodated after you made the intial reservation. You bullied your way into a restaurant that gave you about every warning sign that this was going to be a stretch for them. They tried thier best. But, then when things don't go perfect, you complain?

                  1. re: shoeman

                    Then they should have just said, "We're sorry, but we cannot take your party at that time."

              2. Yes, I confirmed 3 times. Why not? The first time was to find out if they could accomodate us and to book the reservation, the second time was to confirm the headcount as they requested me to do a week prior.....and the LAST time was the day of the dinner....just to make sure things were confirmed with the restaurant.

                Listen, try coordinating a party for 14 people. Wouldn't you insist on a restaurnat after THEY committed to the reservation? THEY were the one's who agreed to take the party size! I was insisting on WHAT THEY COMMITTED TO. Was I to cancel a reservation for 14 people and try to find a place in less than a week to accomodate us? Yeah, good luck with that!
                It was enough work to find a place that would accomodate us, without renting out a room, putting a huge deposit down, making us do a limited menu. Yeah, I'm going to hold them to it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Hellolaura

                  I plan parties for large groups all the time. The first thing you learn is not to try and screw a large lid onto a small jar. You may get parts to fit, but the outcome will be less then desirable. Two seconds into my first attempt to secure the reservation would prompt most to look elsewhere.

                  1. re: shoeman

                    You're obviously a professional and you're expecting an amature to handle as you would.

                    It seems that after you got screwed as did Hellolaura you learned quickly not to believe it when a restaurant lied to you.

                2. Uh, are you referring to me or the restaurant when you say, "The first thing you learn is not to try and screw a large lid onto a small jar. You may get parts to fit, but the outcome will be less then desirable?" To me, this should be the restaurant's philosphy, as I do not have their reservation book in my hand to see what was already booked for the night. It is clear your definition of accomodation is only getting a seat at a place, not at the time you reservered a table. And yes, I complained....as any other normal person would have too. There wasn't bullying going on, just a lack of respect this restaurnt showed. And what? How do you know they tried their best? Trying their best would have been saying that to me...."We'll try our best"...or maybe trying their best should have meant not accepting the reservation.

                  1. Hello hellolaura.

                    There are insinuations that this is your fault and you bullied your way into a reservation.
                    That is clearly absurd in this situation, the fact is stories like yours have occurred to me on two ocassions for different parties at the old La Viola. One party stayed, the next time the other party left.
                    If you ask for a time (8pm) and they counter-ask you for another time (8.30pm) and you say NO ,I want 8pm, that isnt bullying, they accepted the time you asked for and they should honor it. The same exact thing happened to a party of 8 I was invited to a month ago.
                    PLUS you confirmed TWICE.
                    By the way I found out it wasnt even an Italian restaurant, seems all the owners are Albanian.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Chowtalk

                      Perhaps Shoeman is a litle jaded after all that party planning...
                      Having worked in restauarants for 20 years, I know some managers will accept any and all they think thay can accomodate and have often complained "who the heck did the booking for tonight." 20/20 hindsight next time if they seem to waffle ask "if we want to sit right away, what would be the best time" and you will probably get your answer. Hope your next outing is a winner!

                    2. 51% restaurant's fault for not meeting their obligation; 49% your fault for being bullheaded.

                      Clearly, from your initial post, you were bullheaded about getting this reservation at this time. The resto was hesitant initially and hesitant on each follow up. You continued to pester and insist on your way despite your concerns.

                      Both of you got what you deserve. The restaurant gets a bad review for taking the reservation, then not really honoring it. You were inconvenienced because you were so stubborn.

                      The scales of justice are balanced.

                      Go somewhere else next time and listen to what they tell you.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mojoman

                        Geez Mojoman, I didn't realize requesting a specific reservation time was being bullheaded. It sounds like you don't expect much from a restaurant...or ever get seated in a timely manner. Way to set standards.

                        How stubborn was it that I couldn't move a dinner reservation to 9pm? It wouldn't have worked with the party timeline...and if they couldn't have done it, they should have said so right then, not taking my reservation.

                        1. re: Hellolaura

                          Re-read your post.

                          Let's see. On the initial contact, you requested, they resisted, you requested, they dilly dallied and "compromised", you requested, they (wrongly) acquiesced.

                          On the follow up phone call, you requested, they resisted, you said it's for a surprise birthday party and said you expect that your table to be ready. It's not clear that they acquiesced at that time.

                          All in all, this is an example of bad service on their part and bullheadedness on your part. Both of you got what you deserved.

                      2. i've been in the restaurant business many years. this absolutely was not laura's fault. it is not the guest's responsibility to "read between the lines".

                        owners constantly press to overbook, concerned about revenue. it is their bottom line after all. however, if a party is kept waiting an hour, regardless of the reason, amends must be made. apps or drinks for the table, something. doesn't sound like any effort was put forth by the house.

                        people who have a lousy time tell far more people then do people who have a good time. bad word of mouth can kill a place, and it's stuff like this that rightfully makes guests nuts.

                        but perhaps a lesson can be learned about booking large parties in small spaces. generally they can't handle it, and they obviously were already overloaded by the 20 and the 12. again, though, not laura's fault.

                        1. If I could copy and paste in this new site, I would go back to HelloLaura's initial post, which, I confess, left me nonplussed. HelloLaura repeatedly requested a time that the person one the phone avoided. She then writes-- leaving what I imagine to be a gap in which the person agreed to the booking-- that she hung up, satisfied that she had her reservation.

                          I wish that there had been a bit of filler between here and there, because, frankly, in spite of what seems like the restaurants acquiescence, it seems like the whole scenario had 'bad news' written all over it.

                          Yes, I agree, that if the restaurant agreed to this booking (which I still don't fully get, save for the fact that they seemed to know who HelloLaura was when she called back repeatedly) they made a huge error in judgment. It seems they thought they could get around HelloLaura's demand/request. That was wrong and clearly didn't serve them. They should have told HL '9 or never' and risked the consequences.

                          That said, I'm still on the side of those who think HelloLaura ran right into a scenario that couldn't have been more redflagged. Frankly, if I were trying to arrange an event or get a reservation for over ten people at a restaurant, I would want nothing but the most clear and willing agreement. One doesn't need to be a professional, one only needs to know that a 15-top is a major investment of everyone's time and effort (guests and hosts) and that clarity is paramount.

                          Although I am miles from this restaurant, I can't say that I'd avoid them if I were in the area. However, I do appreciate that HL's story lets us know that they respond poorly to coercion and that if they drag their feet on a reservation, it's best to listen to their reluctance. Then again, that's a good rule for all interactions: if people sound reluctant, one best heed that.

                          HL- I'm not blaming you (you seem to be sensitive to this); I'm merely stating how this looks to me from the outside, and how your information and unfortunate experience translates for me. I simply can't judge them beyond the possibility that they will, when pressured, eventually say they can do something they can't. I won't assume they can't do the things that they readily agree to do.

                          1. -----

                            Hellolaura wrote::: "I requested Friday night at 8pm. He hesitated....then took a long pause and said, “How about 9pm?” I said, “No, we would like the reservation for 8pm.” He said, “Possibly 8:30pm?” I said no again and was adamant about having that time for our reservation. I hung up the phone, content that I had a place booked, though had a feeling it wasn’t going to go as I planned."

                            Obviously, YOU insisted on the time, and they had only available a 9 PM spot.

                            -----

                            Hellolaura wrote::: "What I am so angry about is that I called 3 times to confirm this reservation....3 times!!!!! What time did we get seated? 9pm....9pm! Exactly the time THEY wanted to seat us."

                            Bingo! You got what was available all along.

                            BTW it isn't "THEY wanted" unless you are referring to pre-booked customers. First booked - First accommodated

                            -----