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Poor Service - We Walked - What Would You Have Done?

My family and I had a 7:00 reservation for four at a very well known restaurant in Larkspur tonight. We were seated at about 7:05. Menus were brought by the hostess and we were left to peruse them. The waiter never came to ask us about drinks nor made any contact with us at all. The restaurant was busy, but, not jammed. We waited; as did two other tables with menus folded as no one approached the table.

At 7:23, we got up and left. While we were there, no one spoke with us or indicated that they were occupied and would be with us shortly. I mentioned to the manager as I was leaving that no one had approached our table. His comment - was nothing. No apology or excuse.

When I got home, there was an email from open table saying that the restaurant had cancelled my reservation at 7:24. So, they knew which table walked.

We dine out frequently and rarely have experienced this level of incompetence, particularly at what is supposed to be a fine dining experience.

How long would you have waited? What would you have done? Should we bother contacting the absentee chef-owner or his partner next week?

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  1. I'd have left after 10 min without contact but would've given them 10 min for sure....

    1. Same thing. Maybe I wouldn't have waited as long as you. I just feel resentment building and when I get to a certain point, nothing is going to make me feel better or compell me to stay. A line gets crossed; it isn't about money (for instance a free dinner will not make me happy), it is about my time and I can't go backwards.
      I mean it is one thing to see that a restaurant is busy, but another to be ignored. And the worst is when you left and no one said anything...
      I am a server and have forgotten about tables. It has happened, I have made that mistake and I have to live w/consequence. Sometimes I can win a table over and sometimes I can't.
      But I have been a diner far longer than a server and leaving is the best thing to do. Too many alternatives out there. As for spending effort w/owner. This will get back to them. Find someplace else to eat.

      1. Leaving was perfectly appropriate and I would tell the owner. Somebody, or several people but especially the manager, needs a dressing down. And I was a server for years.

        1 Reply
        1. Maybe it's the time of the year,to spread kindness, but I'm inclined to say I think after 15 min or so,I would have made one attempt to catch the attention of someone, a server, a busser, the Mgr, and made mention that no one was attending to the table. I know my fellow CH'ers will disagree and state that it's not the responsibility of the patron to attract the attention of the server, and they'd be absolutely correct,., but sometimes, miscommunications happen. It's possible that everyone thought someone else was taking care of the table. That's still no excuse. Someone should have noticed that no one was taking care of the table. The fact that 2 other tables were also not being taken care of makes me wonder if the server in that section became ill and left the dining room w/o notifying the Hostess or the Mgr.. Before I walked and further aggravated myself by having to locate another place to dine without reservations, I think I would have made that one reach out. The Mgr's lack of response to the OP is totally inexcusable. That having been said, I would definitely encourage the OP to contact the owners.They need to retrain/replace their Mgr. It would be interesting to see their reaction and whether or not they would do the right thing and offer a gift card , etc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tay

            "Before I walked and further aggravated myself by having to locate another place to dine without reservations, I think I would have made that one reach out."

            --- I agree. I think that after about 10 minutes, I would have tried to grab someone's attention and ask where my server is....I'd be assuming at this point someone didn't realise I was in their section (or something like that).

            "The Mgr's lack of response to the OP is totally inexcusable."

            ------ Yeah - I don't think I'd be inclined to go back again. And I probably wouldn't bother writing anyone. If the manager is that blase, it's their problem.... (just being honest)

          2. I would have excused myself from my guests, then talked to the manager. If his attitude was the same as when you spoke to him on your way out, as opposed to asking him to instruct someone to tend to your needs, then I would have been very tempted to announce the problem to the whole restaurant! But I probably wouldn't have gone that far. But I would have said to my guests, 'Sorry. Time to leave. This restaurant is too busy to take our orders." And hoped surrounding tables overheard.

            It seems vaguely possible that the manager's lack of response when you were leaving was because he was stunned speechless. Well, let's hope that's the case. By all means, let the absent chef-owner know. Absolutely!

            1. sounds like the hostess did not alert the server in that section, or no server thought that table was in their section, in my mind it is the fault of the hostess, they need to tell a server they have sat a table.
              I would have probably gone to the hostess and asked why we had not been waited on yet, or tried to flag down a server first. Then I would have walked.

              1. If jfood is seated at a table at at resto where he wants to dine and noone appears to take a drink order, there is probably an oversight that has a quick fix. Jfood excuses himself and approaches the host(ess) and mentions that noone has come to the table. 99% of the time, there was a communication error within the resto that is soooo easy to fix. Just getting up and leaving seems to be a mallet to kill a flea. Why not try to fix the issue versus kill the patient?

                The non-reaction by the manager on the way out could be interpreted as either "who cares" to "wow i did not know". Hard to tell from this vantage point.

                Jfood would have given the resto a chance to correct, just like he would give them a chance to correct a dish that arrived with the same lack of attention.

                This is not that same as doing the resto's job, it's communicating something that is desired, like a soda. So once again communication is the key. The OP had data that the MOD may not have known. Jfood can not place this in the Walk Out Bucket. Sorry.

                1. I would have either left or flagged down a server and asked for someone to wait on me, depending upon how much I wanted to eat at that restaurant. If I really wanted to eat there again, I might contact the owner, but more likely, I would have just left and not returned.

                  1. Thanks to all for their responses. The restaurant in question was a high-end restaurant which formerly had a national reputation, though it is a local choice for me.. In this situation, I expected high-quality service and didn't feel that I should have to ask for service. After all, I was their guest and I expected to send $250 or more for a quality experience. In this type of restaurant, service is part of the attraction. All four of us felt that the restaurant didn't "deserve" our business and all were comfortable with the decision to leave. Of anyone, the hostess seemed the most upset - certainly more than the manager.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bob Copeland

                      "After all, I was their guest and I expected to send $250 or more for a quality experience. In this type of restaurant, service is part of the attraction. All four of us felt that the restaurant didn't "deserve" our business and all were comfortable with the decision to leave."

                      Bingo. We had a similar experience at a highly touted sushi place in Vancouver. Shuffled off to a corridor and left to sit for 15 minutes with no drink order solicited. Despite our reservation for omakase at the sushi bar ($125 a head) it was obvious nobody was leaving the bar soon. We asked once when we might be seated and the guy disappeared, never to be heard from again. Another 10 minutes and we bailed. Headed down the street to a fine local chain and enjoyed genuine service and decent food for less than what one of us would've spent on bait. If I'm planning on dropping multiple hundreds on a meal, I expect the establishment to have their act together, plain and simple.

                    2. OK, the original poster was either ignored or overlooked for 18 minutes after receiving menus, undoubtedly growing more and more upset as time clicked by. Then his party left, and the manager compounded the problem by either not being aware of the problem or not caring. Thus comes this thread on Chowhound, where I'm the dozenth response.

                      So here's my question: Why not name the particular restaurant? It appears that maybe someone has figured it out, but shouldn't we all have the benefit of knowing? And if the restaurant's performance was so deficient, shouldn't it suffer the publicity?

                      3 Replies
                        1. re: Bob Copeland

                          Not that it means anythiing, or changes my previous posting, but I have never heard of this restaurant chain.
                          Funny,For some reason I was thinking something like Ruth's Chris or the Palm

                          1. re: Tay

                            Not a chain so much as a group of restaurants all overseen or partly owned by chef Bradley Ogden, mostly SF Bay Area.


                      1. Here is my answer.
                        I would of excused myself (or had my husband) and asked the hostess since she is the one that turned you over to the wait staff. I would rather they deal with their crossed wires in their communication system than involve myself.

                        How long would I of waited? 18 minutes eh? On a busy night, I have waited that long before. But if I didn't see my waiter anywhere, than I'd wonder if he was alright. He or she was probably in the kitchen with an order that was not prepared correctly and busy straightening it out with the kitchen.

                        Usually when I'm out with other people we are so engaged in our conversation, we are the problem with not all of us being ready to order. Honestly, my patience is very closely knit to my mood. If I really had a bad day, sometimes I just surrender, not wanting to make it worse. And usually when we are about to drop a load of money on a nice dining experience, I will do all I can to have it. Are you feeling snubbed bythat that email, like they didn't need your business and your reservation was canceled not given up? I have to speak honestly, that email might of hit me the wrong way.

                        But in the light of day, send a well written email back to the chef/owner. They need to know that this happened, and chances are they will try to win your business back with a very big apology. I have had a similar experience, I emailed the manager of the restaurant and the manager/owner was the chef. And surprisingly since I was quick to follow up, he remembered the night and the chaos that was going on. And he made an attempt to rectify it, I have chosen not to take him up on it. Sometimes like someone else mentioned money or a comped meal doesn't really take care of the problem. His apology and understanding was all I needed.

                        The manager's nonresponse leads me to think perhaps you were not the first table to check out and was better off to say nothing to four more exiting the restaurant. Which make me wonder, if he let the manager/owner know that you left and why. Or did he simply try to make it look like you cancelled.......write the email.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          18 minutes can seem like a really long time when you are hungry, but is it really that bad? I can easily picture a waiter getting caught up in some kind of situation that might take that long to resolve. I think that you should have said something to the hostess or a busboy or anyone else who worked there- bet it was something that could have ended much better for everyone!

                          1. re: Clarkafella

                            I'm sorry... I don't care how busy they are - fifteen minutes without even a drink in my hand is far too long to wait. If we haven't at least got our drinks after ten minutes, we'll have no compunctions about walking out!

                            1. re: Clarkafella

                              If there was something going on that legitimately prevented the waiter from taking at the very least your drink order, how hard would it have been for someone...anyone...to appear and apologize? Failing even that, I'd have left too. That's just uncalled-for.

                          2. I would not have waited that long. If someone hasn't come and it's been anything close to 10 minutes, I go back and tell the hostess. It is the hostess' job to alert the server that they've been sat, particularly if it's in an otherwise closed table/somewhere where someone has to "pick up" because the person in that section was closed and left. You never know what might have happened to the server who was supposed to wait on you or WTF was the matter with the other people who didn't see you.

                            1. When you are ignored like that it is very easy to get upset enough to leave. But my thought is that if you believe the restaurant to be one of some quality you would likely conclude that you are not experiencing their normal service. Wires do get crossed sometimes, even in the best of places. You shouldn't HAVE to ask for service, but one request of the host(ess) would seem appropriate after 10 minutes or so.

                              You decision to leave is up to you, and certainly one of several appropriate ones. I just feel that, while it's not your responsibility, speaking out might have helped not only your party but the restaurant as well. Seems like you assumed they were beyond help. They may well have been, but you wound up being inconvenienced when the situation might have been corrected if you'd brought it to their attention.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Midlife

                                But isn't the fact that the manager didn't try to get them to stay or comp them for something or apologize profusely an indication that the restaurant wasn't worth their while anyway?

                                1. re: dolores

                                  Agreed. But, before that reaction from the manager, I think the restaurant was still entitled to some reasonable doubt as to whether the lack of attention was a terminal condition or just a momentary glitch. Life's too short to keep cutting slack (and I probably would cross them off my own list), but even the wait and the manager's behavior don't automatically mean the place is incapable of good service at any time. At least not based on a one time experience.

                              2. I would probably have gotten up and asked the hostess if there is a server for that table....

                                1. I would have said something before walking; as I agree with others that it is usually a quick fix.

                                  Four of us recently had brunch at a local spot,(the Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen) and after being seated at a table right in the middle of the small room (the restaurant only has about ten or fifteen tables total), we were ignored for about fifteen minutes, even though other tables were being waited on. The place wasn't full. Moreover, it is located in a very small town where two of the party (my father and stepmother) live, and since they eat there regularly they are known by sight to all the servers. For those who don't know the area: this is not a small town in the middle of nowhere: it is a small town in the middle of wine country, with a lot of tourist traffic, and the Fig Cafe, while casual, is somewhat upscale.

                                  Anyway, at first we were talking and catching up, and didn't notice, but it soon dawned on us that we should have at least been offered coffee and water by that point. At just the point where one of us was going to flag someone, our server came over, apologizing profusely, and explained that it ordinarily wasn't her table: she thought the other server was waiting on us and vice-versa. In other words, it was a communication gap, which happens. For me, it doesn't rise to the level of serious incompetence, since it could be and was rapidly fixed once the servers realized there was a problem.

                                  From that point on the service was excellent, (indeed, we got a little extra attention), and since the food was also very good, I am glad we didn't walk.

                                  Now, had we not gotten the apology, or if the situation hadn't been immediately rectified, I might have felt differently, but under the circumstances, it was an easy error to forgive.

                                  I am much less forgiving of the situation where I have a reservation and am not seated promptly. If I don't get a prompt explanation and apology and a clear understanding as to when we WILL be seated, I will give the place about ten minutes, no more than fifteen if they are obviously slammed, and then will ask the host/hostess if we will be seated promptly since it is ten or whatever number of minutes past our reservation time. If we still can't be seated promptly, and profuse apologies and probably free drinks aren't immediately forthcoming, I have been known to leave: unlike the lack of service once seated the failure to seat me on time with a confirmed reservation is more than a communication issue that can be readily fixed; it is a poor service management issue, imo.

                                  1. How engaged was your conversation with the manager? Did he identify himself as the MOD? Did you actually stop and attempt to engage him or was it more of a comment in passing? It's hard to believe that a manager would just stand there and say NOTHING.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: steeltowngrl

                                      honestly - he said nothing. I wrote the LCI a nice letter asking what happened and did not even receive a reply.

                                    2. obviously this sort of thing happens all too frequently even at high-end restaurants - when it happened to a small group i was in, one of my companions decided to use their cell phone and dial the restaurant - you can imagine our total amusement as we watched the host at the front answer the phone and be told that we were in the restaurant and still waiting to be served - but the kicker...we still didn't get served and ultimately walked out but at least i still have that story to tell and it makes me smile to this day

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: paulfromla

                                        Having such a fun story is well worth skipping out on that meal.

                                        I have an opposite experience, from almost two decades ago at Chinois on Main, the Wolfgang Puck asian fusion flagship in Santa Monica: The best reservation I could get on a Saturday night was just before 10 p.m. My date lived near the Venice boardwalk, so we walked over a little early. Place was packed at 9:30, no spots at the bar. I led her to a spot on the wall, further back than the bar but with a view looking into the open kitchen that more than entertained me while we waited, as servers passed by us. At about 10, a couple of seats opened up at the bar, and we sat down and ordered inexpensive drinks, maybe a white wine and an ice water. At 10:10 a waiter approached us with a small plate, said "Wolfgang would want you to have this for waiting," and presented us with a couple of spareribs and a split wonton or eggroll or two. Now, we had been in the restaurant for almost 45 minutes, but it was only about ten minutes past the time for our reservation. Very nice, much appreciated, just made me feel noticed and taken care of. After that they could've charged me just about anything....

                                      2. I would most certainly contact their corporate office.

                                        At least give them the chance to make it up to you and they also need to know about bad management.

                                        It is one thing to be accidently overlooked but to bring it to management's attention and them shrug it off is appalling.

                                        This manager needs to be replaced.

                                        1. Maybe I'm just getting cranky in my old age, but at this point there are too many good restaurants with good service to waste my time on one that doesn't seem to want the business.

                                          If they can't be bothered to wait on you, then walk. If enough people do it, then management will get the hint and do something about the service or they won't and no one will go there and the restaurant will close !

                                          I've had it w. dealing w. insincere managers after the fact !

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: Trufflebaby

                                            Good for you, Trufflebaby. I don't deal with managers at all anymore, I simply patronize the wonderful restaurants and never ever give a bad restaurant a second chance.

                                            There are too many good places out there whose personnel REALLY want my business to be bothered with the places I've been to that don't give a tinker's blank.

                                            1. re: dolores

                                              If I may, my husband is in the restaurant business and has been for about 35 years.

                                              There are several reasons why you should give the corporate office a chance to make this up to you.

                                              The owners may have no idea that there is a problem in this restaurant. They may be good honest people who genuinely want your business and want to make you happy.

                                              1. re: BlueHerons

                                                If the owners are good honest people who wanted my business then IMO they (or someone they could trust) would be there to demonstrate that to their customers.

                                                1. re: Trufflebaby

                                                  See, that is my point. Maybe the owners don't know they have a crappy manager.

                                                  I've worked with F&B managers that ran perfect numbers but had zero people skills. It can't be that way. You have to have excellent people skills and run fantastic numbers.

                                                2. re: BlueHerons

                                                  I wrote the LCI headquarters a nice letter asking what happened and did not even receive a reply (not even the "we're sorry" - what I was hoping for was that the manager was spoken to by the higher-ups....doesn't make us wnat to go back,......

                                            2. Here we go again with the "you should have been comped", aka " You made a mistake that inconvenienced me so how about you pay my mortgage this month?" I know people who would expect nearly that, althought they would never pay that much money to go to a restaurant. I hate the whole thing. Mr. Copeland never alluded to that, by the way, and was quick to note that the restaurant called and covered the asses of the offending staff by leaving a VM that their reservations had been cancelled. That would make it look as if the party never showed.and is deliberately sneaky, I have no doubt.

                                              If you're going to a known good restaurant, you can assume that something somewhere has gone wrong if you end up in the void. A quiet inquiry would be expected, although if nobody appears to give a rat's ass that you're not being taken care of, then sure, go ahead and leave. I would say give them a chance to correct their mistake, because sure, we're all more or less human and we all have good and bad days. If no correction is forthcoming, then you really should cntact the manager or owner, bcause they would likely have no other way of knowing the hijinks the staff is up to. Just PLEASE don't demand a comp, and if one is offered, be sure to thank them for the offer, whether or not you accept it.

                                              One last thing- I probably wouldn't have watched the clock quite so closely unless I was in a ferocious hurry. I probably would have waited a little longer before walking out, too, but that's an individual thing.

                                              It sounds like Mr Copeland was the victim of a bad staff- the management should be told.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: EWSflash

                                                I wrote the LCI headquarters a nice letter asking what happened....didn't even recieve a reply. We werent looking for a comp - I did hope that the disengaged manager would be spoken to by the higher-ups. Doesn't make us want to go back.......

                                              2. There was something in the Scoop column of the SF Chronicle (hometown newspaper, for those of you not in the Bay Area) recently about Bradley Ogden having less to do with most of the restaurants he's partnered in. Seems he lives in Las Vegas, having moved there to oversee his namesake restaurant there. I don't recall the particulars but the gist of it is, he's just not that involved in most of the Lark Creek restaurant group anymore, and hasn't been for some time.