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Mar 15, 2007 06:51 AM

Does the customer call the shots? You decide

Anyone read this interesting article concerning service in Toronto restaurants yesterday? What are fellow hounds thoughts on the subject?

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  1. As a diner, I completely agree with the sentiment that service makes or breaks my decision about returning to a restaurant. Yes, of course the food matters as well, but it is hard to enjoy the food when the service isn't up to par.

    Example - there is a japanese restaurant here in Dallas that shall remain nameless in this forum. I will most likely never return there, not because the food was bad. In fact, the food was incredibly delicious. No the reason I will not return is of the bad service from the waitstaff (drink orders not brought to the table until after the appetizer arrived, main course arriving at the table mere minutes after the delivery of the appetizers, overcooked steak, no follow up after main course was delivered, etc.) and bad attitude from the waiter when he was asked questions about menu items when it was obvious that he felt he had better things to do than answer our stupid, American inquiries. To top it all off, when we were leaving, we discreetly searched out the owner of the restaurant, who was all smiles until we voiced our concerns. We voiced them not so that we could get a free meal, but so that the owner would know that there was a problem in his restaurant and that maybe, when we returned, the situation would have resolved itself. Instead of listening to our concerns, the owner was exceedingly defensive, argumentative, making excuses such as "this is a Japanese restaurant, dinner is not served the same way in Japan as in America". Besides the point of fact that I have visited many Japanese restaurants worldwide and have never been treated with anything but respect and warm reception, I was quite taken aback. Finally, this gentleman resorted to pretending that he could not understand what we were saying in English, even though his English was near perfect only moments before.

    It's sad. I miss their fabulous teriyaki and unsurpassed spider rolls, but chances are, I most likely will not return. In this situation, it probably matters little to the owner of this restaurant that I will not be returning. I don't go out of my way to bad-mouth his establishment, so I am not lobbying a citywide boycott. But I have to assume I am not the only one who has run into this problem. I make this assumption based on the fact that every time I pass by, the parking lot is more and more empty on a Friday and Saturday night.

    Service is just as important as the food that is served in my humble opinion.

    1. What irks me the most is restaurant owners with the attitude noted in this paragraph:

      "Yannick, however, said there is a benefit in some people not returning: it frees up tables for diners who understand the 'vision' of the restaurant. For example, people still come to Splendido for a green salad and steak. 'You're not in the right place,' he said."

      There are certainly any number of practical reasons why restaurants cannot always accommodate special requests, but when a request for a substitution or special preparation is declined, it should be phrased in terms of the constraints of the kitchen and not in terms of someone's "vision" of the restaurant and the type of customer who can appreciate it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: silverbear

        I kind of expected to see you comment here after your opinions on Pizzeria Bianco. I think a restaurant owner has the freeom to make whatever rules they want, but it should be communicated as their preference, not arrogantly as a "vision." Besides, I believe anyone who really has a vision would find a way to share that with as many people as possible, rather than hording it for those "in the know."


        1. re: amkirkland

          Yes, I think that famous line from Seinfeld does sum up my feelings about PB. Also, I agree with your comments about vision. My comment about Yannick is not so much about the practices at his restaurant, which I have no knowledge of, but instead about word choice that I find somewhat arrogant.

      2. I think you are missing the point. A guest in a place like Splendido will still get a green salad and a steak, but why would you go there for those items?

        I think Yannick IS talking about guest satisfaction.

        I wouldn't go to Susur and ask for a steak
        I wouldn't go to Barbarians and ask for asian fusion.

        Because I would be in the wrong restaurant.

        The sad thing is diners who order like that leave very good restaurants and say it was mediocre at best...and then post on chowhound!

        2 Replies
        1. re: industry worker

          I's great that diners who order like that post on chowhound. Given that on boards like this, folks calibrate their taste to other posters, their posts would discourage diners like themselves from going to those places. It would be a win-win situation for both the customer and the chef.

          1. re: limster

            I don't usually order "like that," but occasionally I dine with others who do, and I hope that such guests would be treated with the same respect as those who understand the restaurant's "vision." In any case, I think you make an excellent point about posting. As far as I'm concerned, people of all tastes and dining styles should post abundantly. I'm confident that readers of these threads have the critical thinking skills necessary to make appropriate judgments on the credibility of posts based on their perceptions of their affinity with other chowhounds.

        2. Well put. I would like to add that I would much rather experience the "vision" of the restaurant than to feel that the kitchen was ill equipped to accomodate or care about a special request (outside of illnesses or allergies which are abused). I believe "vision" is what drives entrepreneurs to take the risks to open unique businesses and gives us the oportunity to experience variety and something called CHOICES. If you want to feel unique and special and complain about how mistreated you are find communism and subject yourself. If you want an experience, get out of your own world and try a taste of someone elses.

          1. If I'm paying a lot of money for a meal, I expect to be getting what the chef is best at and whatever ingredients are best that day and I expect the waitstaff or the kitchen to convey that information to me, since I'm paying for their knowledge and expertise.