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May 20, 2008 02:50 PM

How to get the "good" server?

There is a lovely Italian place in a nearby city that we go to once every 2-3 months. It's not real high-end, but it's certainly not a pizza joint, either. The food is always very good, and the service is excellent---usually. There are 2 servers there who are VERY professional---and one who is, well,...not. This past weekend we went for an early dinner there---and got the "not" server. Normally we're all about the food, but this is one place where the service is usually so good that you leave feeling like you've been pampered. Not so this last time. The server just didn't seem to give a damn. My husband asked for a wine recommendation and got little more than a shrug of the shoulders (the other 2 servers have given excellent recommendations in the past). We had to ASK for bread---while watching the other servers greet their guests promply with a basket. Our "standard" order is a bit unusual---we order an appetizer of eggplant rollatine to split, then I order an appetizer order of eggplant rollatine and a side of linguini as my entree (DH's entree choice varies). Normally, this is met with, "Very well." THIS server's reply? "You want TWO orders of eggplant?" *sigh*
And it went downhill from there. DH was NOT offered freshly ground pepper on his salad (he LOVES this), we had to flag her down to keep our water glasses filled (we were her only table), she attempted to take away dishes---before we were finished eating from them. All the while, we watched longingly as the two other servers treated their diners to flawless service.
So, here's my question: once we realized that this server was not up to the restaurant's normal standards, could we have asked for another server? And on future visits, how can we be sure to get one of the "good" servers from the very beginning? We're not really "regulars", and don't know any of the servers names. We rarely make reservations---we're early eaters so we tend to "walk in" without a problem. We left a lousy tip ( we NEVER do this!), but would have preferred the excellent service to saving a few bucks.
So, what should we have done? What should we do in the future? Thanks!

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  1. Maybe there was a reason you were the only people in her section?

    TT would have just asked to be seated in the "good" server's section. TT has done this a few times. If TT didn't "gel" with the server or if things looked as though they would get bad, TT would ask to be re-st. Of course, in places TT frequents regularly, TT asks for servers by name and that works out quite well.


    1. I'd call the restaurant, find out the names of the two servers that you like and, in the future, when you make a reservation, ask for one of their tables. You could say something along the lines of "We really enjoy your restaurant, but have had some problems with one of the servers, so would really appreciate reserving a table for us in a different section."

      9 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        i would agree with that except approach from the other side

        i would not slag off the poor server to his boss, i would just say that i liked the service i've gotten from server x and server y and request to be in their section and not mention the problem w/ the other

        1. re: thew

          Why on earth not? If one server is providing poor service and the other two provide good service, I would certainly tell management. how else are they to know?

          1. re: Catskillgirl

            I think it depends on your perpsective. To me, the server, while not in the running for waiter of the year, didn't provide poor service. It just wasn't great and polished compared to the other waiters.

            People have different thresholds for what they'll complain about. For me, it takes a lot more than what happened where I'd be complaining to management. But if somebody crosses that line, boy the manager/owner will hear about it.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              I just reread the OP and I think the service was terrible. You're definitely more tolerant than I am!

              1. re: Catskillgirl

                But if one really crosses me (thank goodness it hasn't happened too often), it's "letter time!" I do have to say that it has to really be unbearable (ie. somebody telling me "to go back to my own country" kind of thing -- and, yes, it has happened) for me to take out my pen and paper and compose a formal letter, though.

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Good heavens.

                  telling you to"to go back to your own country".....

                  I'm aghast at the nerve of anyone who would speak to you like that. And someone in the service industry????

                  Wow. I'm sorry. I hope your letter helped you express your anger over such dreadful treatment!

                  1. re: Catskillgirl

                    Thanks, catskillgirl. It did, and I hope the owner set his/her worker straight. It is indeed sad that there are people like this today.

                    Actually, thinking more about the issue of what consitutues good service -- I think the price of an establishment plays a factor. If I'm spending less than $5 on a meal in Chinatown (where servers are generally known to be quite surly), I don't make a big deal out of it as I know it's cultural and not personal, and I'm paying $5 for a meal. But if I'm at a higher-end resturant and spending over $100 per person for a meal, I do expect more in terms of service.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      That's interesting. I was thinking recently about the Carnegie Deli and I think the Stage Deli also. The waiters are definitely known for their surliness. the price point is a bit higher, but it's part of the "schtick". Maybe these people are really warm and fuzzy and just hide it as part of their role in the restaurant?

                      Nope. Some people are just miserable human beings!

                      If I'm paying $100 a plate then I definitely don't want that type of service!

                      1. re: Catskillgirl

                        I don't want it at $50. a plate either. Unfortunately, dinners don't go for less than that around here anymore. So I certainly won't take surliness with my bill.

                        Schtick is obvious, as is rudeness and imperiousness. I'll accept schtick.

      2. If I were in your shoes, I probably wouldn't do anything at that moment. Just not worth it to me to switch mid-meal with bad feelings around (unless the server was a MAJOR a**hole, which sounds like she wasn't). But I would have asked the manager what the names of the servers that you liked were so I would know for the future. It's perfectly OK to ask to be seated at a certain server's section.

        1. Call, ask for the name of the servers via a description that you give, and ask for those servers next time you go to the restaurant.

          Your money, your right to good service.

          1. a friend and I go to a local Applebees fairly regularly (only because it's the only thing open late round here). Anyway after having sampled all the servers we found out the names of the two we like and we only ask for them. We tip well and so we have found they will serve us even if we are not put in their section. There is just no point going if we get any of the others.

            2 Replies
            1. re: smartie

              Goes back to learning the name of the server, doesn't it? I write down the names of those I appreciate so I won't forget them.

              Now if the servers had only said 'hi, I'm X' to Anne.