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frustrating service experience

We were shocked to have a very frustrating experience at a local restaurant last night. We went there regularly when they first opened and have been back less so recently because of time constraints but still considered it a favorite. We went with a friend last night for his 40th birthday. The food, at least, was quite good. We had two duck specials and a rack of lamb dish, plus two warm mushroom salads and two orders of blue corn encrusted oysters with barbecue sauce. (Actually, the oysters were disappointing, overwhelmed by the sauce, but otherwise the food was tasty.) Our issues were with the service/policies.

From least to most frustrating.....

1) They offer a tapas menu in the lounge which we were lauding to our friend. I completely understand that they don't offer it in the dining room because they don't want people taking up those tables and ordering a light bit of food, but we have always been able to add some of our favorites to a complete meal. We often order several cheeses to make up a cheese plate after dinner, and my husband is a particular fan of an egg w/ asparagus and truffle oil. When we mentioned to the waitress last night that we'd like to order these, she said it was impossible. I explained that this had never been an issue before and would she check, based on the fact that we were already getting entrees, salads and apps, and two bottles of wine? She came back and said no tapas are allowed in the dining room under any circumstances. Fine - we reduced our order accordingly, thus costing them $14 in additional sales and some good will. It's not as if these dishes are offered at a higher price in the dining room - we were just unable to buy them at all. OK - not a big deal on its own.

2) We started with a bottle of sparkling wine. I was surprised to get a mouthful of grit in my glass of sparkling wine. Looking down, we saw a good amount of powder (the consistency and color of salt, but flavorless) in the bottom of the glass. We mentioned this to the waitress and she took my glass away, then brought it back saying "We think it's just sediment from the wine. But we're giving you half-off your wine." Then she walked away. We weren't expecting a discount (I would have been fine with just getting a new glass, honestly, which she did not provide.) But I found her response odd - how could it possibly have been sediment? I have never heard of such a thing w/ sparkling wine and have had perhaps a thousand bottles over the years. I assumed the riddling and disgorgement would take care of that. Her tone was not very pleasant, taking away what otherwise might have been a positive experience with the discounted wine. And why on earth would she not replace my glass? There wasn't much left, so I just wound up sharing with my husband.

3) Two of us wanted a duck special, more expensive than the usual duck dish. This came with mashed potatoes and vegetables and the normal dish comes with goat cheese mashed potatoes and veg. They asked if it would be possible to get the goat cheese mashed instead of the regular, but said, "if not, we'll just take the regular." The waitress said it would surely be no problem subbing one mashed potato dish for another but said she would let us know if there was any issue. The dishes came out with goat cheese mashed potatoes and they were happy. Until we got the bill where there was an $8 charge for the mashed potatoes! I asked the waitress and she said that we had to buy the goat cheese mashed potatoes as an additional side. I asked her why she had never mentioned this to us - they would have been very unlikely to get the substitution if they'd had any idea it would cost $8 - and her response was, "I thought it would be free. But it's not." I asked again how they could charge us then and she said, "Because you have to buy it as an extra side." I was tired of going around with her, especially in front of our friend, whom we were treating. So I just shut up and paid. But that still seems inappropriate. Had they told us there would be an additional charge in advance, that would have made sense (though I still think $8 is a bit much.)

I think our frustration was exacerbated by our server's general behavior. She spilled a full glass of ice water on my husband, left our friend without a fork, and was slow all night. She seemed sweet but clueless - definitely not someone ready to work a Saturday dinner shift at a nice restaurant. Usually we are the type to let things slide and carry on, but for some reason this dinner is still annoying us. What do you guys think - reasonably frustrating or are we overreacting?

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  1. I agree that your server was pretty terrible but I should clear up one small point.

    The sediment in your wine may have been tartatic acid granules, a by-product of the aging process is some wines. She should have replaced the glass immediately. Also, I have to assume that the bottle had been slightly aggitated for the granules to have been poured out with the first glass.

    1. Yes, tartrates are the answer, I have found them in bottles of my own white wine. That no one at the restaurant knew suggests inexperience or ignorance, which was further demonstrated by your clueless waitress.

      A restaurant that is proud of its food would sell you the tapas even if you were sitting in the parking lot, and the waitress should have gotten the goat cheese mashed comped even if it SHOULD have been charged, as it was her error that you were either charged or not informed of the charge. Spilling on the guest rates both an appology and a comp somewhere and a visit by the manager, or no tip.

      You had a cluelse newbie as a server. Too late to complain to the place now, but a polite aside to the manager at the time would have gotten her tuned up or replaced.

      1 Reply
      1. re: therealdoctorlew

        Thank you Dr. L. As a career-long restaurant manager a significant frustration has been how seldom guests try to resolve their dissatisfaction with a manager. We can't fix the things we don't know about. That's why I like to seek feedback from my customers at every table during their meal.
        Meg, a comment to a manager should have prompted retraining or career planning with the server and provided you with a proper apology and correct meal charges. Don't let a server punish you for attempting to have a great meal. Even now, please call the manager or owner and share your experience so they can make things better. Their reaction will let you know whether you ever want to return there.

      2. Since thisa only just happened, I think it'snot at all too late to discuss with the manager or owner. In fact, you've described it so well I would cut and paste your post into an email and send it in. They need to do some serious attitudinal training with this server. And it will give them a chanceto make amends to you.

        1 Reply
        1. re: SeaSide Tomato

          Agree with Seaside Tomato. You've been a regular at this restaurant in the past; unless they've completely changed ownership, they should remember you. Perhaps their service has changed a bit in that you can no longer get tapas in the main dining room even if you're a regular; fair enough. However, that does not make up for the poor service from this waitress and the additional charge for the change in mashed potatoes. She definitely should have let you know of the additional charge prior to your ordering it. Your post was very well worded, and copying/pasting it into a Email to the manager/owner would at least let him/her know of your disappointment in what has been, in the past, a favorite place to dine.

        2. Meg,

          Probably everyone on these boards have experienced the server you unfortunately experienced. And there are many reasons for the events, some within and some not within her control. This one sounds like a very inexperienced, newbie, who does not want to be there at all. But that is not the customer's risk.

          There are also times when you do not wish to ruin the evening at the table. And jfood has done the following a couple of times. Excuse yourself from the table using the old restroom excuse. And then seek out the manager for a quiet conversation, they will more than likely try to handle on the fly from anything to comping, to changing the server.

          If you are dissatisfied with the server's performance, and in this case lots of evidence, you can reflect it in the tip you leave her. If it is 10% or less, it is usually a good idea to mention something to the MOD on the way out so he understands when the waitress complains about the lousy tip on Table 23.

          And if that is not possible, please contact the restaurant the next day. Only once has an MOD been totally unsympathetic about the feedback. They want happy and more important returning customers. They may offer a bottle of wine, or a dessert or an entree or a gift certificate for a return engagement. Ifthey do not then you know they are probably not interested in customer service and that is a good data point.

          But do not let one lousy server place a restaurant on the DNR list. Who knows, her boyfriend may have broken up with her, her son is ill, or any number of reasons.

          Gain data and then decide next steps.Give someone like the manager or owner a chance to work a solution versus the server's actions dictating a bad outcome.


          1. On the whole, I try VERY hard to be a bit empathetic to a bad server, and think, like jfood has said "maybe they just broke up with a SO or something"...but it's hard sometimes!!!

            Sounds very frustrating indeed. And I know that I myself would probably (justified or not) have a little higher expectations for a lovelier evening on a special occasion such as this, which tends to add more to the frustrations.

            I agree with therealdoctor in that the restaurant should serve you the tapas no matter where you happen to be seated, particularly as you were also ordering full meals. Weird policy IMO. What if a table is ordering the equivalent $$ of the dinner you described above? Also stingy if you happen to be a light eater, or if perhaps there are no non-meat entrees, or just happen to love a meal of several app's. Policies are policies though....I guess.

            Yes, she should have brought you a clean glass, and someone should have been knowledgable about the wines there to not have this happen. Who poured?

            As for the potatoes.... I may have been tempted to pipe up and advise the server that as my potatoes were an "extra side", i'll please take my original potatoes to go :)

            Not too late to talk to the manager !

            16 Replies
            1. re: im_nomad

              > "and [I] think, like jfood has said 'maybe they just broke up with
              > a SO or something'..."


              If someone shows up for work, especially when dealing with John Q Public, they are to leave that hat at the door before punching in. No one (fellow employees, manager, or owner) cares as long as they pull their shift in a professional manner with a smile. To do any less costs the restaurant sales (present and future), the server that tip, and any goodwill the restaurant might have worked up with any customers that are seated at that server's tables.

              1. re: The Ranger

                I'm not saying it doesn't annoy me....and I do think that people should check their stuff at the door when they go to work, and not have to have their co-workers picking up their slack as a result, many jobs such as surgeons and pilots etc etc, don't have the luxury of showing up at work and doing a bad job because they're "having a bad day"...so I try to adopt this approach myself.

                But sometimes, sh*t happens, I can't say i've never shed a tear in a washroom stall because I'd gotten bad news, or because the boss just tore me a new one....so I attempt to try to be a bit compassionate, particularly if the server is apologetic about their mess ups (this one wasn't however-and that makes a HUGE difference).

                I have the luxury of taking a day off with pay with my job if i'm sick, or having problems at home, or a family emergency.....many people do not have that luxury, and I know, because i've worked jobs such as this, and went to work sick, upset etc, because otherwise, I did not get paid. I would imagine many servers would be in this situation.

                1. re: The Ranger

                  Yes that is quite the obvious.

                  In a perfect world with no emotion, no feelings, robotic employee acting above their feelings that would be the case. But gotta take the theoretical into reality. Not everyone can check everything at the front door.

                  1. re: jfood

                    The professional checks everything at the front door. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses are allowing themselves to be run into the ground by amateurs with that pervasive don't-give-a-darn angst.

                    Why, as a paying customer (or manager) should I worry about taking "the theoretical" (whatever that means) into account? The server is being paid to perform a specific set of tasks. If s/he does that, there is an additional reward given at the end of the meal. It's a very simple trick requiring no angst.

                    1. re: The Ranger

                      Jfood agrees with your don;t give a damn comment, and if that were the case, and he was not there, then the tippo would approach zippo and a nice chat with the MOD on the way out. But who the heck knows what was going on since neither you nor jfood were there.

                      On para 2:

                      "Why, as a paying customer (or manager) should I worry about taking "the theoretical" (whatever that means) into account?"

                      Hmmmm, let jfood think real hard about this one. Let's see, jfood now scratching his head, walking around the room staring at the ceiling, now looking out the window, now taking a big sip of water..Oh the confusion. OK, now he got it.

                      How about...because he's a caring human being?

                      BTW -

                      1. re: jfood

                        It's even simpler than that: You're the paying human being. Since you feel strongly about "caring" needing to be added to the tab, consider it part of his/her tip.

                        1. re: The Ranger

                          Jfood and you will just have to disagree on this one. He does believe that the role of a server is a servant. Yes he does not expect the service described above when paying good money at a restaurant but he also likes to cut someone a break if there might be a problem that person was not robotic enoughto check at the door.

                          C'est la vie

                          1. re: jfood


                            Should read "He does NOT believe that the role of a server is a servant" - wrote pre-coffee

                            1. re: jfood

                              Thanks Jfood! As a server myself I found it extremely helpful that people did not have Rangers attitude the day my mom died. But then Ranger might appreciate that I also left to be by her side.

                              1. re: Missmoo

                                >[..] I also left to be by her side.

                                I do appreciate those times in Real Life® where nothing but curves are thrown and someone still manages to smack the ball right back at the pitcher. /bows to Missmoo

                                1. re: The Ranger

                                  see you do have a heart. jfood knew it was there. :-))

                        2. re: jfood

                          I should add that we didn’t find the waitress surly – she just seemed young and overwhelmed. I actually felt somewhat bad for her – we kept saying that she never should have been allowed to work a Saturday night.

                    2. re: The Ranger

                      And later we can live in the real world populated by people. It's entirely reasonable to be irked by less than stellar service and also understand what may have caused it and be empathetic about it. Recognizing that the person doing the serving is still a person dealing with life doesn't need to mean one excuses anything and everything but it can help in recognizing what sounds like an off night for what it is and moving on.

                      1. re: ccbweb

                        Apoligist dining isn't something I accept... A professional server (there are many that qualify as such) doesn't bring their emotional baggage to the front of the house because they know it will bring down their nightly haul.

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          Exactly. And I agree with the OP that this server gave bad service. In fact I would have definitely talked to the manager about it.

                        2. re: The Ranger

                          I have never worked in the restaurant industry, but in 1994 I was a mortgage loan processor. I was new at the company (3 months) and my Mom was dying of cancer. I was 29 years old and losing my last parent. On Thursday May 19, hospice called me at work and said my Mom would not last another day as her lungs were filling with fluid. None of my coworkers were aware of the situations, nor were our customers (my boss knew). After the call, I went to the ladies room to collect myself and in the meantime one of the loan officers transfered a call to me in regard to a file. I spoke to the customer as best as I could and then transfered them back to the loan officer who came to me and said the customer said I seemed distracted. I told him I was, I had just been told my Mom had less than a day to live.

                          Policy was three days off for death in the immediate family. Mom died in the middle of the night on Friday, her funeral was on Tuesday and I had to be back at work on Wednesday. I did my best but was not on my A game.

                          So when I get someone in a service industry who seems "off" I remember that time in my life.....we truly don't know what they are going through and a little grace goes a long way.

                      2. We had a similar situation with the "side" a couple of years ago at a French restaurant in Aruba. DH had ordered a very expensive wine (just background to show we weren't nickle and diming them but it shouldn't have mattered anyway) and he then asked for a more expensive cut of meat but with the sauce from a less expensive cut of meat. You guessed it - they said it would be $10 more!!! DH asked why when it was made for a "less expensive" dish and they brought the manager out who was extremely haughty with us (attitude was we don't go to high end restaurants). DH informed him that we normally would have had a second bottle of wine, would never return to the restaurant and paid the bill. We have NEVER been back! Yes, we did tip the waiter well as it wasn't HIS fault.

                        1. Sorry for your less than enjoyable dinner out, Meg. Isn't it just Mr. Murphy and his law once again raising its ugly head that this would happen to you when you have taken your friend out to dinner and would be less likely to call the manager over and directly address some of the obvious short comings of your server.

                          I also get the feeling (not sure why exactly) that when your server went off to "inquire" about your desire to add some of the tapas items to your dinner that she simply forgot to ask anyone in charge, and then simply told you "no" when she came back to the table. I think you should call and speak to the manager, even at this point, to let them know what happened.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Servorg

                            Where does that feeling come from? That the server forgot and didn't ask anyone? I see you wrote parenthetically that you're not sure why; but, there's no conceivable way to draw that from what the OP wrote. There's nothing whatsoever to indicate that the server didn't ask someone.

                            In fact, with the wine, there's every indication the server did interact with someone else (a manager, or sommelier or someone similar it would seem) about at least one issue, so why a feeling she lied about the first one the OP listed?

                            I'm baffled.

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              I agree with servorg but even more harshly. She didn't ask anyone. I have worked for a lot of unreasonable managers with ridiculous rules but have never been anywhere where a manager would flat out refuse to sell someone additional food if they wanted to pay for it. It sounds like she just didn't want to bother with it and decided on her own to tell them no, particularly since they have done this before.

                              She's either clueless, rude, lazy or new and you should definitely write a letter to the manager.

                              1. re: ccbweb

                                Mostly because, these days, I figure any restaurant manager with two brain cells to rub together would be looking for absolutely ANY way to increase their restaurants bottom line.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Not to mention that they would've likely given a reason as to why they couldn't accomodate the request instead of just simply saying, "no tapas allowed...".

                            2. Since you had been able to do it before, the point at which you should have engaged management was when the waitress refused to add the tapas to your order. If it's a restaurant to which you plan to return, I would call on the next day they are open, preferably not during the height of dinner, but sometime in the late afternoon, to register your complaint.

                              1. As you have found out, the crystals in your sparkling wine glass are tartrates. These usually form after a wine (most often white), has been exposed to very cold temps - they precipitate out of solution. They are harmless, odorless and tasteless, but they can be “gritty,” as heck. They can also form if the wine is cold fermented (not usually done), or cold stabilized, but are then often removed in one of the filtering processes. With your sparkler, I’d guess that it had been stored too cool. Also, the natural (or injected) effervescence probably stirred them up. Regardless, clean glasses all around should have been the least, that was offered.

                                Now, to your tapas. I cannot fathom why some restaurants are so very anal about what will be served where. It is not like adhering to their liquor license with regards to beers, wines and spirits. If it appears on a menu, it should be available, when requested. You fulfilled any obligation by ordering food from the dining room menu.

                                I do not understand the proclivity of so many servers (and restaurants alike) to wish to enforce rules meant for certain situations on diners. It could be a power thing, or a lack of “empowernent” thing. Dined at a new “hot” restaurant with friends recently, and my wife saw a particular dish on the “chef’s tasting menu.” Unfortunately, most of the items on that menu either did not interest her, or were bi-valves (scallops, etc.), which she cannot eat. Now, we were on our second bottle of wine, the table had ordered appetizers and either soups, or salads all around. My wife asked for this one entrée dish. “No way. You have to order the full tasting menu,” was the reply. I pulled our server aside and whispered that my wife really wanted that dish, and that I would be glad to pay for the tasting menu, in addition to her 1st & 2nd course. “Sorry, I can’t do that.” I looked around and the restaurant was only half-full. I asked, “how many of these people had ordered the chef’s tasting menu?” “None, so far, was the reply.” “OK, the chef has done the work on this dish, and nobody has ordered it. I’m willing to pay $55.00 extra for this one dish, which has already been prep’ed, and you will not sell it to us? Please talk to the GM, or the chef. My wife wants this as her entrée.” She left, and quickly returned, “the chef will not break up his tasting menu, regardless. Some diners might want it later.” OK, it was already 9:30PM and the kitchen closed at 10:30PM. We ordered other and nothing was particularly good. We also did not order the third bottle of wine, that we had planned on. We left just after 10:00PM and were the last diners to leave. The room was empty. The chef’s tasting menu prep had been for naught. We vowed to never return, and did not. The restaurant, in spite of all sorts of “buzz” press, was closed within three months. I wonder why.

                                The opportunity to promote really good will does not happen often enough. When a restaurant turns its back on such opportunities, they usually suffer the consequences. As if previous times were not hard enough for the restaurant industry, ‘09 will likely sort out many, that do not work to offer their patrons a worthwhile experience.

                                Were I in your situation, I’d never darken their doors again, just as all of us did with out situation.

                                Too bad that this happens, and is allowed to happen. Some folk just do not get it.


                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Not to make light of this at all, I wonder what happened to having fun in the back of the house, the kitchen! Why be a chef, cook if you don't see the random joy of preparing great food and serving the customers!

                                  1. re: OCEllen

                                    A valid point. Some places, it exists. Others? It does not seem so.


                                  2. re: Bill Hunt


                                    Can you do a Jack Nicholson impression?

                                    "You've got tasting menu, right? So bring my wife the tasting menu, but hold the amuse, the appetizer, the fish course, and the dessert."


                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      Actually, I think that my wife does that better than I could. Now, I would "sound" more like Jack Nicholson, but she has the nuances down pat. She has also had more practice, unfortunately.

                                      Yes, probably should have pulled that one out! Made me chuckle - thanks!


                                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Wow - your story about the tasting menu beats mine by a mile! a customer willing to pay the full tasting menu price just to get one dish and STILL they wouldn't budge?

                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        Lmao, had almost the same thing happen! this restaurant wasnt in Portland, Or was it?

                                      2. Thanks, all. We tend to be pretty easy going, and inclined to let things slide, especially when we are focused on having a good time out with friends. Honestly, the spilled ice water, for instance, would not have warranted more than an apology in our minds. Everyone can make a mistake. It was just the sheer number of mishaps that finally drove us around the bend. Though our friend did make us laugh by commenting afterward on the entertainment of the “floor show” – and yes, my husband said he considered insisting that they give us their regular mashed potatoes to go! :)

                                        The web site doesn’t have any email contact information and I feel strange about calling after the fact. (I would normally have addressed it at the time, but didn’t want to ruin our friend’s BD – thanks for the tip for the future, jfood!) I am considering either printing this out or typing up a letter w/ the same info and mailing it. I don’t care about getting anything comped, but you make a good point that if the server is undertrained and overwhelmed it would be better if they knew that.

                                        Oh, and I just asked Jack and he said he tipped exactly 15% pre-tax – a pretty measly tip by our standards.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: meg944


                                          I would strongly suggest that you write a letter. Lay out the details only. It is now after the fact, so emotions should be easily displaced. If nothing else comes of this, the management will be given the opportunity to rethink some things.

                                          Did the same after one horrible experience at a newer, but very highly vaunted fine-dining restaurant. I received apologies and a comp for 2 meals, including wines (no limits noted). We never did use those. They were not the purpose of my letter. Many things changed and after 10 years ±, we returned, and all was totally different, including the placement of tables that I cited in the letter. Did I have a hand in these changes? I'll never know, but everything was as it should have been, and as was outlined in that letter.

                                          Got some poor stemware at a restaurant. Filled in the reply card with details. Next visit, expecting the old stemware, I was surprised that all had been replaced. Made a side comment, and the sommelier replied, "the owner read one of the reply cards and immediately replaced all stemware the next day... "

                                          Sometimes, it does help and can make a potentially good place much better. Worth a few minutes with WordPerfect™ and a first class stamp. Do it. You will possibly be helping other "hounds" down the line.


                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              That's very good to know that those comment cards *are* read!

                                              But I had to say "OY!" on the "few minutes with WordPerfect" - is that software program still around? LOL

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                The comment cards are there for a reason. This is often the only way managers and owners (or their corporate equivalent) can know how the customers feel about their dining experience. I've been a regular diner in places where the comment cards show up each and every time with the bill, and the servers were encouraged to solicit the feedback. In other places, I've filled out comment cards and heard nothing back either way. At a Kent Rathburn restaurant here in TX I filled out a card with very specific comments and questions, a full name and address, and answered their questions about birthday and anniversary dates with that info too. Never heard back from them regarding my questions, or my significant dates. Oh well!

                                                If I were a restaurant manager or owner, I would definitely want to know how my guests felt about their food and their service, both good, and, especially, bad. You can't correct a problem you don't know about. I know a server can have a bad day (we all do) and everyone has to be the newbie once in a while. But if you're going to work in a high-end restaurant and expect the gratuities such a place might provide you, you'd damn well better know the specials, and get over whatever angst you're feeling towards your boyfriend before coming to MY table and offering your service. Also, servers, share with your boss whatever you've got going in your life (sick parent/child, personal crisis) before going out on the floor to include us unsuspecting patrons. A true professional DOES leave that at the door.

                                          1. Meg,

                                            Side-note: thanks for posting to the Wine board. While I had encountered your "crystals," and knew what they were, I had NOT encountered them in sparklers and Champagne. Bubbles4Me gave me useful info on that.



                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              I’m always glad when my ignorance can serve others. :)

                                              By the way, Jack and I typed up a polite letter and mailed it on Tuesday.

                                              1. re: meg944

                                                Do let us know if you get a response from the restaurant?

                                                1. re: meg944

                                                  I can always learn something new, and attempt to do so every day. You helped me out, that is all. Thanks for that.

                                                  To mirror your responses below, please update, should you hear back from the restaurant.


                                              2. Well, the restaurant should have received our letter two weeks ago and it’s hard to imagine that they need more than that amount of time to investigate and respond, so I have to assume they are choosing to ignore it. I am quite surprised - our letter was detailed and polite – we didn’t threaten to boycott them forever or anything like that. Though, interestingly enough, being ignored in this way makes me feel much less inclined to return. I mean, I actually typed up a letter and put it in the mail with a stamp. How hard would it have been to call us or send a note saying that they were sorry about our experience and perhaps offering some sort of explanation?

                                                In fact, I think I will go ahead and “out” them now. I didn’t want to cause them trouble on Chowhound because of one bad, probably unusual, experience, but as they are leaving me with the impression that they don’t care about our opinion, I have to assume it won’t matter to them.

                                                Cella Bistro, Niskayuna, NY

                                                14 Replies
                                                1. re: meg944

                                                  Too bad to hear they never responded. Perhaps a post on the appropriate board (Tristate Region?) about them with a pointer to this thread to let others know of the service disappointment.

                                                  1. re: meg944

                                                    It doesn't surprise me that they didn't acknowledge the issue in a return letter. I talked to an owner of a local restaurant, one of our more-regular haunts, about when/if he receives A Letter. He said he sends a note letting them know he received their letter and is sure to thank them but nothing beyond that. He laughed when he said, "Stupid owners, and especially managers, help me so I encourage them for others."

                                                    1. re: The Ranger

                                                      My point was that they didn't acknowledge my letter in any way - no call, no letter, anything. Admittedly this is perhaps my first letter of complaint, but I would have thought it would be typical to respond in some fashion.

                                                      1. re: meg944

                                                        The only letters I ever get a response to are ones I write to chains. I'm serious. I've had some bad experiences at a number of independent restaurants and have often followed up with a letter and only one has ever acknowledged it and responded, out of the probably dozen or so letters I've written over the years.

                                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                                          That makes me feel strangely better! :)

                                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                                            Why wouldn't a single-owner restaurant, who cannot rely on the myriad other restaurants they might have, want to learn where they might have gone wrong, and figure out how to fix it? Completely baffles me.

                                                            When one person can write about a poor experience in any restaurant within an hour of dining there and post it up on the Internet for all to see, you'd think they'd want to keep business. The alternative is now having some potential customers read this thread after a Google search and realize "You know what? Service is important to me, and if this restaurant doesn't care enough to address the concerns of a regular, how are they going to treat me? Let's go somewhere else."

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              They don't even need to be strangers on the Internet - I actually just got an email from a friend who will be entertaining business associates in our town, so she asked me what I would recommend.

                                                              I replied, "We quite like the Stockade Inn and Aperitivo, and go there quite often. We have previously had good experiences at Cella Bistro, but recently had a dinner so bad I actually wrote my first ever complaint letter, which they completely ignored. So while I wouldn’t tell you not to go there, I also can’t really recommend it any more." In the past, Cella would likely have been my first recommendation, so right there they just probably lost a few hundred dollars worth of business.

                                                              I agree that it seems a bit silly. I could understand ignoring a rude customer (who you might be well rid of) but we were careful to be moderate in our tone. I just meant that I felt better knowing my situation was not uncommon. Misery loves company, I suppose. :)

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                Though I was just thinking that perhaps it's just that single owners are so overworked? Maybe they mean to get to it and simply never find a moment, with all of the other, louder, claims on their time?

                                                                Just a thought.....

                                                                1. re: meg944

                                                                  I understand what you're saying, meg, but I also look at it that if they ignore the potential service issues that are sent via EMail/letter from customers, they soon won't *have* those customers....either from those customers telling others not to bother going there, OR from continuing bad service from their waitstaff turning off other patrons.

                                                            2. re: meg944

                                                              Oh, this has happened to me as well. And I phrased the letter very constructively. So I emailed them a second letter, and the owner replied back and said that she Emailed me her response, which was total bull-crap as she agreed to forward me her first response when I asked. I've never heard from her again, and I posted my negative experience on this board in addition to never going there again.

                                                              1. re: meg944

                                                                I understood your frustration from the lack of response. The gentleman I mentioned above attempts to retain contact with all his customers, hence my return visits. Even the most simple gestures are foreign to some people, regardless whether s/he is comfortable crafting a response. The gentleman above knows his English isn't perfect and his spelling must rely upon The Software Giant (of Redmond)'s spell-checker but he knows firsthand who pays his bills and how to keep everyone happy. Ignoring them isn't the way to staying open. Sounds like your place won't realize that epiphany until the last customer stops coming through their doors.

                                                            3. re: meg944

                                                              I've read down the new replies to the thread, and have to add that I just got a personal note from a favorite brunch location, when we are in New Orleans. I'd filled in a reply card, urging them to put a few white Burgs back on their wine list.

                                                              Some restaurants do read their mail, though not all.

                                                              Quick aside: went to a local fav. in PHX, and they only had 3 good red wine glasses. Got those for wife and friends. Filled in the reply card. Back in about 4 weeks, and commented that we'd take the 3 good ones, and I'd have the "regular" one. The server noted that they had just put in great stemware, after the owner read a reply card on same. They now had some top-notch red glasses for higher-end wines. Again, some DO read their mail.

                                                              Sorry that your restaurant is not one of those.


                                                              1. re: meg944

                                                                It might depend on how the letter was addressed. Unless it has the owner's name on it, he/she may never see it. I worked in independent restaurants for years and the owners didn't open the mail unless it was specifically for them.

                                                              2. Some things are showing up in this thread.

                                                                Some people write/call about their complaints and would be totally satisfied with a “little back rub” by the management.

                                                                Some people hope the restaurant makes the attempt to fix the problem.

                                                                Best is when both are done.

                                                                Some managers are just not able to write a few lines to an unhappy customer. Writing well is not everyone’s cup of tea. All the people who said “I have to learn all this technical stuff. I don’t need English class. I’m not going to be a writer.” fall into this ravine.

                                                                Take the case of Hunt’s wine glasses. He filled out a card, so maybe there was no information for the restaurant to contact him. But if Hunt was a less easygoing guy, he might have crossed this place off his list, and they actually fixed the problem, but didn’t let him know.

                                                                In the case of the OP, they need to retrain or replace the offending server. Maybe they don’t know how to train or don’t care or can’t easily find replacements and are just happy to have someone on the floor. But a note was clearly necessary whether they do anything about the problem or not. Of course, having a manager just walk up to the table might have solved the whole problem.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                                  Writing letters is an an art that even people who are good at writing other types of things aren't necessarily skilled at or enjoy. I know people who will write a complex 10-page document faster than they'll write a 1-page letter because they agonize over saying the right thing in the letter. Then there are others who don't have great typing skills and can't handwrite letters because they need the spellcheck feature.

                                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                                    They (we) shouldn't let the perfect become the enemy of the good. (Voltaire)

                                                                2. >>""The waitress said it would surely be no problem subbing one mashed potato dish for another but said she would let us know if there was any issue. The dishes came out with goat cheese mashed potatoes and they were happy. Until we got the bill where there was an $8 charge for the mashed potatoes!""

                                                                  In my neck of the woods, that is flatly the wrong thing (fraudulent) to do on the servers end. Proper lingo was used in expecting a substitution- not a side order up-charge.

                                                                  1. I am a part owner, silent partner in a restaurant. The owner has a meeting daily to go over specials, charges, policies, etc. To make sure they understand each special and what is in it. Also I was there when many of the servers were hired. They had training by me. I worked tables for many years. We role played once a week for training ... it was fun, entertaining. Served every one dinner but still had training and we role played to have lousy customers, difficult customers, nice ones, lousy servers, etc. It was fun. A working, eating and training session. They did it once a week or every 2 weeks. A great learning experience. Even a night just dedicated to wine or beers ... taxis for everyone :).

                                                                    No, I think you just had a bad waitresss/waiter experience. It happens when restaurants don't take the time to properly train or teach.

                                                                    1. After all this time, a reply! I was pleasantly shocked to get a letter from the restaurant today. It was clearly a personal letter; although they didn't get into much detail they did say that our server was extremely inexperienced and felt bad about our visit; and that they had shared our thoughts with staff. They said that they hoped we would never have a problem again but told us to ask for the owners personally if we did, as one of them is always on the premises somewhere. They also gave us a $50 gift certificate. I almost hesitate to mention that because I hate the way people seem to expect something for free, and indeed, we would have been pleased just to get a response. But it was quite a generous gesture. Now I feel rather bad for doubting the management, though in my defense, it was a long delay.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: meg944

                                                                        You never asked for some type of compensation, meg, so you shouldn't apologize or fear mentioning it.

                                                                        I'm very glad to hear that the restaurant's management did, ultimately, respond to your letter. Sounds like it's been addressed with the staff and, as it was once a place you went regularly, hopefully you'll be able to get back there and enjoy it the way you used to!

                                                                        1. re: meg944

                                                                          What was the name of that restaurant again so that readers are aware that they took positive action to remedy the problem? A restaurant that admits a mistake & tries to correct should be given a second chance : )

                                                                          1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                            The restaurant was Cella Bistro, in Niskayuna, NY. I actually didn't give out their name initially, but, as you say, they did behave honorably in the end.

                                                                          2. re: meg944

                                                                            As Linda points out, you didn't ask for compensation just a response. The fact that they _really_ want you back _and_ took the time to talk to the staff about it shows that they are serious about improving the front of house experience.

                                                                            Good going!

                                                                            1. re: meg944


                                                                              Thank you for bringing this to a close. I'm with you. When I send a letter, or e-mail, it is about telling the restaurant what I expect, and what was not delivered. I do not expect anything, except a "thank you for sharing with us."

                                                                              I still have a comp'ed dinner for two, WITH wines, at a highly rated New Orleans restaurant, from 12 years ago. We finally went back, and it was wonderful. Much of what I had talked about had been addressed and changed, though I do not think that my letter had that much to do with these - still, they redesigned the entire space (post-Katrina), as I suggested. We did not use the comp'ed meal, as that was not what I wished, and the years had certainly gone by.

                                                                              Again, thanks for giving us all closure,