HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Choosing a Restaurant Because of the Service

Just wondering how many people find themselves returning to a restaurant primarily because of the service that they've received, not because of the food. And if you do so, is this in conflict with a CH-orientation, where one is seeking out the food, regardless of location or service?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't think food is the only consideration when dining. Service definitely play a huge role in how a restaurant is perceived, regardless of how good (or bad) the food is. I would return to a place with okay food but excellent service anytime over a place with great food and terrible service, or where I did not feel welcome. Years ago my SO and I went to a restaurant in Providence RI that had acceptable, but not great food. The staff, however, went out of their way to make us feel welcome and well-looked after, going so far as to give us an umbrellas as we were leaving because it looked like rain. We often remember that when we think about how service can make or break a place. A restaurant's success is based on food and service combined, IMHO.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kbee

      I SO agree on all your points! We went to a restaurant in San Mateo in the San Francisco Bay area last night. This was our third time for dinner and I really, really wanted to like this place. The food was pretty good but not so amazing that we can overlook the fact that each of the times we went, we didn't feel like the staff cared about our dining experience. It wasn't like one server was rude or anything. I feel that this is a poorly managed place. This is an upscale Chinese restaurant and there were plenty of guys in black suits standing around waiting for something to happen and yet we had to work very hard to even get their attention. We did not feel welcomed and this is dropping over $500 for a dinner for 10 (No expensive items like shark fin soup). I didn't expect 5 Star service and actually didn't want that but we didn't feel like anyone there felt responsible for our dining pleasure. The final blow was when they casually served a dessert completely different than what was ordered and didn't tell us. When we asked, they said the cook didn't like the result of what we ordered and decided to just give us something else. The something else was what they served for free to everyone. No apology and no adjustment to the check. We will not be going back to that restaurant no matter how famous that chef is. To bring this back to the OP's question, I would put up with bad service if the food is really good and the staff is doing the best they can (eg, understaffed, not well trained) but I would not return to a place that makes me feel like they're doing me a favor by letting me eat there.


      1. re: margret

        I am curious what the restaurant was. I had a somewhat similar experience at a restaurant in San Mateo that has been getting raves. Once was enought for me so I wont go back. Curious if it is the same restaurant.

        1. re: tomritza

          Chef Wai on 4th Ave in San Mateo?

    2. i started a similar thread not long ago:


      i'll reiterate that if a place has lousy service, but good food, i'll give them a second chance. but if they fail again, i'll never go back. i don't care how good the food is. one of the reasons i eat out is to relax. if my server is surly, or m.i.a., or a mess, it's not worth the trouble for me. plenty of other places that get the formula, so i'm not throwing good money after bad.

      2 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Sorry about duplicating the thread - this search engine situation is driving me batty!

        1. re: ElsieDee

          oh ! no worries, i had to search my own posts, it didn't show on the board search engine. grrrrrrrrrr....

      2. GREAT service cannot make up for bad food.

        However, there IS a time when GREAT service and okay food are just what the dr ordered. Certain client lunches, for example

        Crap service and GREAT food -- yep, I'll take it

        1 Reply
        1. When Lolo at Manor and Mt. Pleasant, was Scoozi- there was this hilarious waiter there. Hilarious in that he appeared to be hanging on by a thread or have just been beaten up, this on a consistent basis. The food was fine, not special. Whenever we went, we'd have a litttle chat, he'd pour out some wine (at the end of the meal) and we'd spend a few minutes. He always seemed genuinely pleased to see us. For some reason, we found ourselves going on a Tuesday night, or when we'd just flown in from horrible eating-with-our-families weekends- even though the food was not special. It was close to our place, consistent, and enjoyable, though not technically excellent or even really great!

          1. A few months ago Mike and I found ourselves in West Des Moines over lunch and went into an Italian place that came very highly recommended. We came into town from a rural area, and since it was our day off, we were both wearing blue jeans.

            The food was wonderful. But we got attitude from the hostess and the waitress from the moment we walked in. She acted as though we were corn-fed rubes who probably should have been stopped at the city limits, and certainly should never have presumed to enter the courts of such a high-class establishment. (It wasn't that high-class, just in a suburb that thinks an awful lot of itself.)

            As I said, the food was very good, but I will NEVER DARKEN THE DOOR of that place ever again! Life's too short to put up with that kind of nonsense. I'd rather have a cheeseburger at the local greasy spoon than the best possible Italian dinner from that establishment.

            1. This is the opposite of what you asked: the chef/owner who thinks that beause the food is good the service is a secondary concern. Definitely a turnoff!
              A couple of GF's and myself ate at Trevor a few weeks ago, I won't go into the details (we posted our review), but suffice it to say, that when I spoke to the owner about the service issues that we had, his answer to me was "But the food was good-right?" Like that made it all OK????
              And, for the record, it did not make it ok!

              1. I have no desire to return to a resto with mediocre foods and great service. I am going out for a meal, not to meet nice people who are servers.

                I will always return to a resto with great food and mediocre service. I will then request a section in which the previous server was not handling. If the service is bad the second time i would have a chat with the manager. If the service issue can not be worked out I would not return after several tries and would add it to the Take-Out list.

                1. For it depends on the situation. Typically on Friday nights we meet friends and there will be anywhere from 6-10 of us total and of course everyone wants a table at 8:00 or so. There are 2 restaurants in Richmond where we always can get a table and get significant preferencial treatment. Both places have very good food but service is the reason why on Friday nights we'll go there instead of another place where no one knows our name.

                  But if it's Tuesday night and just the two of us and it's about the food and not being out with friends, food will trump service.

                  1. There's a local Mexican restaurant where I don't necessarily care for the food, it's just not my thing, but my husband loves it, and I will eat there with him anytime because I adore the owner (and the atmosphere). She makes everyone feel at home and remembers every detail about you, and I've watched her do this with numerous customers so I know it's not just us. She makes me feel as if I've walked into a Mexican home cook's kitchen and been welcomed with open arms.

                    1. i am a server at a very straightforward, honest restaurant. meaning that the food is by no means 4 star but it is all produced consistently, and with honesty, care and no pretensions. we have tons of regular customers. these people have money, too, keep in mind. they come back yes for the quality food, but they really come for the OVERALL DINING EXPERIENCE. meaning the pleasing culmination of friendly faces, good timing, good flavors, good satiety, good cocktails, etc. thats what youre paying for, the entire process. otherwise, get take out.

                      1. The only place I go over and over to with food that is just ok is my favorite local "tappy". I will always go back to a place with great food but slow or forgetful service. I will generally not go back to a place with great food and rude or overly haughty service. I will never go to a place over and over with mediocre food just for the service.

                        1. We've done that and been badly burned.
                          A friend from Denver visited us in New Orleans. The friend had been to my mind an overtipper, if her iced tea was refilled once 20%, twice or more 25%.
                          We liked a particular restaurant for their pricey food, but also for their exceptional service.
                          You guessed it, that night it wasn't. We had reservations and were kept waiting 45 minutes for a table. Then a ten minute wait for a menu. Well, it could have been more than 10 minutes, we left. Never to return.
                          Later we learned that the restaurant had been turned over to the owner's sons and it closed in about six months.