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Is Lupa's Attitude Killing it?

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i've recommended Lupa dozens of times here...i love the brussels sprouts, the beets, the orcchiette w/ sausage, etc...and i'll stand by the food, both in term of quality and variety...

but the snotty attitude is getting to me...while there are some nice people working there, the average vibe of the staff has started bordering on offensive...a sort of forced-friendliness mixed w/ barely restrained hostility...

Example: i went there a few days ago w/ my gf and her parents...my gf and i got there very early w/o a reservation at around 4:45 on a weekday...the place was about 15% full, maximum...we explained to the hostess that my gf's parents were en route in a taxi and would be there momentarily...the hostess gave us a smug look and said that we could wait at the bar...we asked (very politely) if we might sit at a two-top that adjoined another two-top and begin drinking wine, ordering, etc...suddenly the vibe got nasty: she turned icy and told us to please wait at the bar and that she'd "keep us in mind" if a table came open (this with mostly empty tables in the front room, before 5pm)..."Keep us in mind?" -- gee, thanks for letting us dine here, maybe...i was pretty annoyed but we waited at the bar...then when my gf's parents arrived a few minutes later, she told us that only a share table was available...when i commented that much of the front of room was totally empty (i know the restaurant well and i i know that many of those tables are for walk-ins), i got more holier than though attitude and was told that if we didn't take the share table we'd be in a very long wait (despite the fact that no one else was waiting for a table)...

The whole "we won't seat incomplete parties" policy is annoying but occassionally forgiveable in a busy place during prime time -- but it's not acceptable when the place is mostly empty and when it's served up w/ arrogance...there is a definite feeling at Lupa now of: "We work in a popular place and we'll act haughty to justify our otherwise miserable lives"...if i hadn't a) been entertaining my gf's parents, and b) been a semi-regular at the place and love the food, i would have both walked out and written a complaint to the manager about the reception...

Similar experiences?

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  1. i've never had a problem at lupa but i had (almost) the exact same problem at otto on monday. we were a party of 10 and our reservation was at 4:15. we were the only ones there not eating at the bar. one of the people was en route in a car in traffic. with every open table available and 9 out of 10 people there, she gave us attitude about seating us, and only after telling her to sit us cause there was no one else there, she insisted that we had to order for our guest who wasnt there. not a problem since when we go to otto we usually just order a bunch of food, and then more food later if we still need, but the snottiness was unacceptable. like simon i can understand not seating if not everyone is there, but there is a line. at 4:15 on a monday when nobody else is eating, you can sit the party, especially if the majority of them are there.

    7 Replies
    1. re: jon

      in your case, you actually had a reservation (for 4:15!) so you have even more of a reason to be angry!...if i'd been in your shoes, i would have been furious...(do they really think the lateness of a 10th person is going to hold up the Lupa cash-flow/table-turning at 4:15??? -- no, they just seem to have hired/trained obnoxious hostesses)...

      if i were you, i've write a complaint letter...

      1. re: Simon

        Simon, I can understand not walking out because you were entertaining your g.f.'s parents. However, not writing a letter of complaint because you're "a semi-regular and love the food"? That's exactly the reason you should write the letter though I'd venture a guess you won't get a response.

        I think one of the reasons a lot of these places treat diners so shamefully is that they figure they can get away with hiring snotty hostesses and insisting that everyone in a group be present before being seated. Let's face it. It's the customers who pay the bills and keep the doors open, so there's no excuse for them not being treated with respect. If diners would refuse to put up with this kind of treatment and "vote" with their feet, thus causing patronage to take a steep dive, I'll bet the owners would heed the wake-up call and make some changes. There are scores of restaurants where the reception is warm, and you can be seated whether or not everyone in your party has arrived. Those are the places I dine at. The others, no matter how good the food might be, I have no use for.

        1. re: RGR

          That would make a good topic for the Not About Food board. You could title it "We're not seating you until the entire party arrives!"

          1. re: RGR

            yeah, you're right...however, it's harder to write a letter because the bad treatment from the hostess wasn't over-the-top vile: it was just passive-aggressive and annoying...not a huge deal, just a reminder of how we probably should, as you said, "vote w/ our feet" more often...

        2. re: jon

          I agree with Otto. A friend and mine wanted to dine at the bar and a group of 9 waited for their 10th friend to arrive. Otto refused to seat them until the 10th person arrived; in the interim the table reserved for them sat empty. I am talking a good half hour-45minutes.

          Who it really hurts is the bartenders who could have sat us; fed us; and turned the seats and made more money. It also hurts the waiter of the table

          1. re: ChrisZ

            I think it's the trend in attitude that is true and a problem. I encounter it at venues that don't have any reason at all to cop a snooty 'tude. I think Otto is a prime example. It's not as if it's Le Perigord, after all. That said, it seems some people are flakier than ever these days. A party may say the straggler is on the way, but sometimes they aren't "10 minutes away". I've stood behind groups where between the cell phone calls and at least half of them being late, it seems amazing they have enough sense to get dressed and get out to a restaurant in the first place.

            1. re: ChrisZ

              Yep. It seems that some people have never worked in the service industry and don't understand the reasoning behind why some rules are in place. Only that it inconveniences them without thinking that not following the policy inconveniences so many others.

          2. I haven't been to Lupa in many years but I used to go there quite frequently. Each time the service was irreprochable. I (and every other diner) was made to feel truly welcome. I used to order frugally and sometimes they'd give me a double huge plate of bread free. Please realize that although empty before 5, the place gets slammed after 5:30.

            1. I really don't see that they did anything wrong.

              You already stated that you didn't have reservations and they really have no obligation to you.

              Despite it being "15% full" by your estimation, you still don't know how booked they were and at what time they were expecting certain guests.

              Then when they did find a place to seat you, it seemed that you were a tad ungrateful.

              4 Replies
              1. re: jza1218

                haha...a restaurant should be grateful for customers, not the other way around...

                Lupa has space saved specifically for walk-ins...we walked in and there wasn't anyone waiting for tables...if two people show up and there are empty tables, and then endure a wait because of their policy on not seating incomplete parties, the very *least* they can do is be polite and welcoming about it...my problem is really more with the snotty attitude of the hostess than with the policy...there is never any excuse for a hostess not to be friendly, and especially on a mellow late afternoon when she is standing around literally doing nothing...

                1. re: Simon

                  Nobody's questioning that a restaurant should be grateful for customers (however, it should be the same vice versa) nor that people should be polite.

                  Just stating that they're not "obligated" to give you what you want and for all we know, they could simply be returning the favor in terms of attitude.

                  I know that the first impression I got when reading your post was that you were being quite smug yourself with a "know-it-all" demeanor.

                  1. re: jza1218

                    I did not get that impression of Simon from his post. But even if it were the case that he had an attitude problem when dealing with the hostess, I don't think that's any excuse for her "returning the favor." Even if a customer's conduct leaves something, or even a lot, to be desired, I think restaurant personal should always maintain a professional demeanor. In the business world, there is a very good reason for the motto, "The customer is always right...."

                    1. re: RGR

                      Completely agree with RGR. I think when you go to dine-in restaurants, service is part of the dining experience and should not be compromised just because the food is good. Or if Simon was at one of Danny Meyer's establishments, I think he will be treated very different, with respect and care, no matter how he came out at the begining. After all, I think not think that Simon did anything wrong at the first place.

                      And what's wrong with "know-it-all" (which I did not even think Simon intented to demonstrate) ? I am sure if Frank Bruni comes to the restaurant with the "know-it-all" attitude, they will happily sit him immediately with a complimentary glass of wine.

              2. No similar experience here as yours. We've dined there about 4 times over the last 5 months, each time without reservations on extremely busy weeken nights and we've always been gracefully asked by the hostess if we would like to wait at the bar, or return at a certain time, and, pehaps with just the stroke of luck, we always get seated within 15 minutes.

                Oh, and we were seated either at communal tables or one of our own. Never had any reason to complain and always very grateful about the available tables and much more so with the very good food.

                1. I've run into the "we won't seat incomplete parties" before, most notably at casa mono. made friends with the bartender and manager. wife showed up 10 minutes later. we had more drinks. I made a side-bet that my son would show up on time and he did! manager comped us with a round of drinks, walked us to a nice four-top on the south-east corner (no reservations) and demanded we have a good meal. we did.

                  never had the "we won't seat incomplete parties" issue at lupa. last time we were there (reservations), deb and i were seated in the back room. chris was late and we were getting worried. turns out he was waiting in the front room. he called on his cell, we explained we were fifty feet away and that maybe he should join us. he did. there was no attitude from staff.

                  we'll be back to lupa on sunday. i'm guessing it will be a good time.

                  i'm sorry you had a bad experience. i know it happens. still, i wouldn't write lupa off just yet.

                  1. I completely agree. There are two strands of service attitude in New York restaurants, and they divide neatly into two camps. One is exemplified by Danny Meyer and Keith McNally, who believe that, no matter how trendy or haute their restaurants, their staffs should never condescend, never cop attitude and never be other than utterly professional. The door at Balthazar around 8.00pm on a Saturday night is as nuts as they get. But you won't be turned away snootily, or with any edge. Same goes for, say, Union Sq Cafe on a Friday around 7.00pm.

                    The other strand is exemplified by Mario Batali. As much as I love Babbo, love Lupa, and abhor Otto, there is one common thread; an appalling attitude on the part of the staffs of all of these places. Which is a shame, given the wonderful individuals who work in all of these places. But the attitude comes from the top. And it shows.

                    It doesn't stop me from going to Babbo (when I can get a res!) or Lupa, which is my own favorite. But, in the end, something's gotta give, and I'd rather it not be me.

                    - Sean

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Sean Dell

                      Great observation by Sean. I get the feeling from reading Danny Meyer's book (and from his restaurants) that if you complained about there not being enough towels in the rest rooms, you'd get a personal letter, e-mail or phone call from him. From the above, and if you believe what Bill Buford writes, you might only get some courtesy and attention at one of Mario's places only if you're a record producer or the like. I remember the part where a single diner at the bar at Babbo was supposedly referred to as a "loser".

                      1. re: markabauman

                        This goes back to what I said several posts back. If people stopped bowing down at the altar of St. Mario, and instead of accepting contemptuous service ("Please, sir, I want so more...) refused to put up with it by "voting with their feet," perhaps there'd be an attitude adjustment. I fear, however, that too many are too hooked.... :-(

                        P.S. I've only been to two Batali restaurants. At Esca, the service was, at best, brusque, and at Casa Mono, the only problem I encountered was the hostess trying to seat us, a party of three, at a table that could barely accommodate two. I immediately told her that table was unacceptable. Although I could see she wasn't pleased by my forthright objection, she didn't give me any lip, and she had the staff put two tables for two together for us. Even with that, Casa Mono's seating is uncomfortably sardine-like as it is at Esca.

                        1. re: RGR

                          i got a chuckle about your talking about the hostess at casa mono. she had a bit of a rep.
                          last summer or so, when the folding walls were open to the streets, i shouted out to deb and chris after our meal, "i'll run out the front door, you guys book through the side." hostess laughed. so did locals.
                          it's all good.

                        2. re: markabauman

                          "loser" is trade talk for a single diner, not a batali pejorative.
                          i've eaten at lots of meyer places and batali places. i don't see a significant difference in service.
                          at the end of the day, it's all about food. avoid the rush hours (7-8:30) and chances are pretty good you'll have a decent dining experience regardless of where you go.

                        3. re: Sean Dell

                          It's strange for me to read these comments. I used to eat at Po once a week. This was just about the time Babbo opened, so Mr Batali wasnt there that often. But the staff was superb. They were one big happy family -- I believe they spent most of their leisure time together, going to bars and nightclubs on days off or after work -- and the vibe made it one happy place. You got to feel as if you were a part of the family.

                          1. re: Sean Dell

                            I’d hate to turn this into a Danny Meyer and Mario Batali comparison. But to state that Meyer is doing things right in the “never cop an attitude” department is an over generalization.

                            There are 2 recent separate experiences, with non-Chowhound posters and co-workers of mine, concerning what they term as condescending and snotty attitudes by the slick, black-suited hosts and hostesses at the Bar Room at the Modern. This may be isolated, but so far and as far as what I have read and heard, so is the OP’s experience at Lupa. BTW, I endorsed the restaurant, The Bar Room, to my co-workers because of my positive experiences with the restaurant.

                            1. re: Sean Dell

                              I had dinner at Otto on Wednesday with 5 friends and the service was outstanding -- no issues. One friend was a little late, and they wouldn't seat us until he arrived, but I don't have a problem with this since I get the reasoning behind it, and this policy is hardly unique to Batali restaurants.

                              Anyway, our waitress was pleasant and really knew her way around the menu and wine list. She even knew the backstories of some of the wine producers on a wine list that easily has over 100 bottles. This is in line with the kind of knowledge and service I've gotten at Meyer restaurants too.

                              The pizzas were not great, but the meat and cheese plates, the great wine list, and the amazing gelato made it totally worth it.

                              I haven't been to Lupa in a while, but I've never had anything but good service at both Batali and Meyer establishments.

                              Restaurants frequently get burned for seating incomplete parties -- obviously, this is not the OPs fault, but there's no way for the host to know that your fellow diners aren't going to show up 2 hours later. People lie ALL the time and say their friends "are just around the corner."

                              1. re: oolah

                                There was a long discussion on seating incomplete parties on "Not about food" last year -- the original poster had had trouble at Otto.

                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/318708