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Sep 23, 2008 07:16 AM

Gratuity Included Rant Asheville

Last night (Monday)we took some people for dinner to Sugos in Asheville, business related. I knew ahead of time they charged a 20% gratuity for parties of six or more. No problem. Our reservations were early, and when I arrived a little later than the rest of the party wine had been ordered and the waiter was attentively filling glasses, talking about specials etc. Very nice. Service continued this way until other diners began arriving at the restaurant (we were the only table for the first half hour and he was the only waiter). After a 2nd bottle of wine and appetizers were served things fell apart. Had to ask for water, pour our own wine, waited to have dishes removed, waited 20 mins after everything was cleared to flag down our waiter and ask about dessert. Meanwhile the bartender and hostess were busy helping our waiter attend to the other 4 tables (all couples) in the restaurant. As I watched their fawning over these other tables it suddenly dawned on me that their tip was guaranteed with us no matter what else happened. We could be ignored but their other tips was still going to be predicated on the service of the other four tables. I won't go into a food review here because I've crossed them off my list as a restaurant I'll patronize.

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  1. We have been on a couple of nights when they seemed short staffed and have come to the conclusion that they understaff purposely. This never really bothers us as we are leisurely diners but it would be annoying for a group.

    1. I think a letter to the manager (as opposed to an e-mail, but that would be another option) would be most appropriate, addressing the nature of your complaint and suggesting that it was somewhat deliberate. Also let them know that you will not be patronizing their establishment any further because of it and that you will be posting a note to potential patrons regarding same.

      1. Unless the food is just horrible I wouldn't cross them off my list. It sounds like they were short staffed, where was the manager? Larger parties do require lots more attention and it sounds like your server had good intentions. And five tables is a lot for any server, unless it is turn n burn. If you notify the manager you would be doing them a favor. Who knows? Maybe they will invite you back with a gift certificate.

        4 Replies
        1. re: penny35

          Good point. I agree that it is seldom the servers fault. If the manager is good and really wants your future biznizz, he will try to make it right. That's where a letter often makes a difference--he knows your address (to mail something)and (maybe I'm from the old-fashioned school) often one letter will have a greater impact than many e-mails that are easier and quicker to crank out (often while someone is still steaming)

          1. re: KyMikey

            I do agree about the letter.

            Years ago, we experienced horrible service at one of New Orleans' highest-end restaurants. I fired off a letter, detailing all of the events on that ill-fated night. In a week, I got a return letter, with a meal for two comp'ed (about a US$400 offer even then). Nice gesture, but we never made good on it. Too many great restaurants in NOLA and we always had too little time. Two weeks ago, we were back and wife suggested we try them again. We did, but I was not about to bring along a comp from 8-10 years before. When we arrived, we noticed that the whole layout had changed. During a great meal with excellent service, our head server spent some time with us (even though they were full) and we spoke of the changes. He offered that the main layout change came after a letter outlining problems with some of the table locations many years before. He went on to say that the restaurant now has a service training class and then he went down the syllabus. It was an outline of my very letter! Now, I'm sure that the changes were a distillation of many such letters, and that mine just happened to cover much of the same ground. Still, they had changed things completely and for the better.

            Some restaurants do listen, if only we tell them.


          2. re: penny35

            I'm not sure what part of the OP's post makes you think the server had good intentions.

            That said, the one time I was there, my service was very good and my food was poorly executed w/ a very few bright spots. I would have been willing to trade for the other way around.

            1. re: danna

              B/c catsailor said "wine had been ordered and the waiter was attentively filling glasses, talking about specials etc. Very nice. Service continued this way until..."
              Most servers in fine dining care about the food, wine, and good service. And you, danna, just reinforced my point, people will come back if the food is good.

          3. Interesting observation. I doubt that I would come up with it. Let's hope that it was not the case, though who could rule it out. Sorta' paints a bad picture of service when there is an included gratuity.

            As I have not dined at this restaurant, I cannot comment directly. However, I have never observed what you did. We often host business dinners and many are off the menu and with gratuities included (nearly always printed). Most of our dining has included great service.

            Maybe folk, who know this establishment can comment on just how their policy translates to service.


            3 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Your letter will not likely make a difference as Sugo has recently closed its doors. It's unfortunate that you had that experience but even more unfortunate that we won't be able to have their food anymore. I think the reason for the short-staffing problem was a lack in business. I had been to Sugo on several occasions, sometimes with a group large enough to fall under the automatic gratuity rule and aside from some small excusable mishaps in the service, everything seemed to operate very well. Their food will be missed.

              1. re: sluggrock

                Agreed. We had excellent service and food there on many occasions. It was the top choice for our upcoming anniversary dinner. Too bad...

                1. re: miss piggy

                  try Cucina 24 - I think you will find it is much better.