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Feb 11, 2007 11:27 AM

Is attitude affecting your dining experience?

I know the answer seems obvious but.......

Let me start by saying that Chowhound has not failed me in the 4 or 5 years I have been watching and posting. And...I'll add that I'm a pretty positive person overall. So, when I do my research here to find a new spot or recommendation, I arrive with possitive expectations.

Last night, I experienced 2 separate instances where I think attitude affected 90% of the outcome.

First, I had made arrangements with another couple (she's a non-chowhounder and a Mayven) to try a new place that i have heard rave reviews about in San Rafael on the the SF Bay Area board (thanks rworange). We had to cancel but our friends decided to go anyway. I returned home to an email explaining how disappointed this couple was with this restaurant and what a poor choice it was to try a spot so new. She had not read the reviews, often comes off as an expert and frequently nit-picks and finds fault in experiences that I've enjoyed (other than that, this couple is a pleasure to be with).I can't help but think that if we had accompanied them, our experience would have been different. We would have gone expecting good things, not looking to be hyper critical.

Second, we needed to cancel this engagement because we needed to transport our kids into SF with 3 hours to kill around dinner. I did a search and decided that Plouf was a good choice. I was excited by the consistent positive comments. All who know the restaurant know that the tables are very close so you can overhear many conversations. We sat next to a group of 4 who were served by the same waiter and ordered some of the same dishes.

We Loved it! The service was fun and energetic (I'm not sure if it was standard practice or just our waiter's preference to determine if you spoke French so you could speak it the whole meal.......this from someone who does not speak was presented in a fun/not snooty way). His recommendations were right on and food was wonderful. The table
next to us however, could not find a positive thing to say!This was too salty, this was too spicy, the portions were too large/small, the waiter was slow/not informative ....etc.

Here were two sets of diners having nearly the same experience and coming out with completely different takes on the situation.

Is all about attitude?????

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  1. I'm with you on this! My SO and I dine out a LOT and I can honestly count the bad experiences we have had on half a hand. We always get excellent service and have a great time. Every so often the food may not meet our expectations (we are Chowhounds, after all) but the experience itself is pleasant. I think attitude plays a large part in this. We dine out to have a good time and that is exactly what we end up doing.

    1. With you all the way! Dining - out or in - is a social experience. We're always out expecting to enjoy ourselves. Maybe it shows because we generally get good tables and service. The food being great takes it over the top.
      I hate eating - notice I didn't say "dining"- with people for whom it's all about nit-picking the details of the food. My kids say I'm as detail-oriented and precise about food as anyone they've ever know and, believe me, I could out-nit-pick the best of them, but it destroys the overall pleasure of the experience.
      Like hrhboo, we've had disappointments and some downright bad experiences, but, we were in them together, and got over them pretty quickly. None of us ranted on about them. Some of them turned into good, funny stories later.
      It's all about attitude.

      1. I have been thinking abut this exact subject for about a week.

        My fiance' and I consider the process of eating to be a "dining experience", and a necessary part of our life; and I mean necessary like sex and breathing. We approach a meal with a purpose, whether it's in our favorite 24 hour diner, a noisy pizza shack, our usual breakfast or dinner place, or a white tablecloth room. The purpose, cut down to it's most basic element, is to provide energy for the machine. But consider the dining experience beyond the molecular level, and you delve into, what Making Sense just mentioned above, a Social Experience.

        The individual experiences have their own unique beauty and depth. The loud, fast, down and dirty-lets-throw-our-jeans-on-and-grab-a-pepperoni-pie is a fun end to a busy day. After we have been house-hunting all day (which is a demoralizing process in Southern California), our favorite pizza house is a place we can just sink into like a down comforter. The experience is casual, delicious, and simple. On a more regular day, we will take more care and time to get "dressed for dinner". We will dine late at one our local haunts. This experience is quieter, slower, more conversational; a necessary moment of carving another nuance into the road. And the new places! We dress appropriately for the room. We arrive ready to soak up a new menu. We ask questions. We eat slow. New restaurants have provided us with mostly delicious meals and excellent service; the few bad places have given us hilarious stories. Whether excellent, good, or mediocre, each dining experience provides another stitch in the fabric.

        This ritual of dining, is as much a part of us as our skin. It is part of the act of living. I suppose this is why the majority of our dining times are positive. We dine to feed the body and mind, not to torture the waitstaff and rip into the chef. This is not only about attitude, it's about ritual, good manners, being social and creating living framework.

        1. Attitude is the most important part of a dining experience and if you're not going to be positive, don't go out to eat. Stay home and make it yourself the way you like it. I've also found that even when the service is horrible, terrible, disasterous, you can still have fun if your relax and go with the flow. Over Christmas my two daughters, their husbands, a baby, my husband and I went to a local Chinese restaurant. I quickly became convinced our waitress was seriously impaired in some way. She disappeared for long periods of time -- 25 minutes was her personal best. She delivered the food a dish at a time as it came up in the kitchen. It took forever to get tea. The entire dinner took three hours -- no joke. And this was with a 9-month-old. But it was one of the happiest dinners we had. We just made fun of the whole situation and sat around talking to each other. We were busting up. We started to try to anticipate what our waitress would do next and how long it would take her.
          Sure, we can get uptight and we have on occasion -- the entire pitcher of Coke dumped on my husband's lap with no apology and no offers of comps or anything got us a bit riled, and we ended up with a free dinner.
          But why go out ready to pick a fight? A lot of people confuse complaining and negativity with "high standards" and "discerning tastes." They're not the same thing and rudeness, under any circumstances, is tacky and low-class.
          I live to be delighted when I dine out and I like to focus on the things I enjoy. It makes it so much more fun that way.

          1. there do seem to be people who come into a restaurant determined to have a terrible time. i can only assume they're miserable about everything in life, so i know better than to take it personally. however, i've worked with plenty of people who can't grasp that concept and react badly when confronted with an irrational guest. or worse still, with a guest whose complaints are justified. indignation is never the tack to take!

            knowing how many variables go into accomodating guests, i never get upset when out. whether by myself or with friends. thankfully most of my friends are also in the business, so we can make fun of something for days afterwards.

            it's just dinner. it's not brain surgery.

            5 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Sometimes I don't know how you folks in the restaurant business deal with some of the arrogant customers I've seen at nearby tables who seem intent on showing that they know ever so much more than you and the chef do.
              I've heard them ask for changes in a dish for which the chef is know only to complain that it's doesn't live up to what everyone had told them. The cork-sniffers who send back two bottles of wine before settling on one that they still whine about. Those who argue something ought to be comped because it's not what they expected also seem to pull out the pocket calculator to figure the tip.
              I'm exaggerating of course, but there are customers who seem incapable of being satisfied. I think they're really insecure people who have to act this way to feel that they're better than others.

              1. re: MakingSense

                Funny, I was just talking about this topic with a co-worker last night. Often times, people will come in to the restaurant automatically on the defensive. No matter what table you bring them to, they are convinced it is a bad one. You offer them something to drink, they look at you suspiciously like you are trying to sell them something they don't want. I look at these customers as a challenge. No matter how surly or difficult, I always approach and leave the table with a smile and a cheerful demeanor. 9 times out of 10, MY attitude wins them over and by the time they leave, they are smiling.

                It is amazing how people let silly things get in the way of their good time. Like when people say, "the waiter addressed us as 'you guys' and it ruined our evening". Come on. Irritating, yes. Evening ruining, only if you let it.

                1. re: hilltowner

                  I think you're right about some people being on the defensive. Maybe letting their insecurities get in the way of having a good time, a good meal and expanding their horizons.
                  We recently overheard the conversation at a nearby table as one diner explained to his companions, at excruciating length, his choice of the wine to go with their meal. It was downright goofy. He was obviously on a steep learning curve and might have been better off - not to mention having learned a good bit himself - had he asked for the advice of the waiter or that restaurant's very able sommelier. He would have saved some money too.
                  He had quite a number of pissy little complaints that night, constantly pointing out flaws to his companions, never to the waiter, as if to show them how knowledgeable he was. I wonder if they enjoyed the meal at all.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    i had a table of 3 gentlemen one night. the one with the wine list was awkwardly trying to impress his guests. but it was like he was living in "opposite land" because everything he told them was just plain wrong. he wasn't asking me for help, so i kept my mouth shut, smiled, opened, poured.

                    on the 3rd bottle he finally asked me if i agreed with him on a particular point. given how he phrased it, i could admit that no, i did not and whipped out some facts for attribution. "clearly we read different books," he sniffed. "yes, sir, clearly we do." my tone was light, and he and his friends took it good-naturedly. at the end of the meal one of them pulled me aside, admitted he dreaded dining with this guy and thanked me for setting him straight!

                2. re: MakingSense

                  I, too, wonder sometimes how waiters/managers etc are so patient with demanding customers. Maybe it's because once you get rid of them, you probably don't have to worry about seeing them again, so they shouldn't ruin your day.
                  Once, I was in a restaurant and the table next to me was discussing wine with their waiter. He had suggested quite a few nice wines to accompany their dinner, when the one woman (and I am not exaggerating) lifted her nose in the air and exclaimed, "Oh, I do NOT drink Australian wines." Then, her husband asked the waiter if they could return the bottle of wine if they didn't like the way it tasted.
                  I couldn't help but giggle. Fortunately, they liked the non-Australian wine the waiter picked for them, but darn if they didn't complain about one thing or another through the whole meal.

                  I always say that some people just aren't happy unless they have something to complain about. Me, I'd rather enjoy my life and my food.