Should I have told the waiter he left a dessert off the check?
Last night we went to a local place for dinner. It is one of the nicer and more expensive restaurants in our area but it seems to be struggling. We go there probably once every other month and it is never too crowded. We go there often enough that we are recognized by the owner when we come in.
The restaurant is running an early bird dinner special if you are seated by 6:30 which includes soup or salad, one of about a dozen listed entrees, coffee and dessert for $19.95. My wife and I ordered from the early bird but our adult daughter didn't.
When our salads came and she didn't get one, it became clear that she didn't realize that we had ordered full dinners while she had ordered an entree only. I told her that if she wanted dessert, she could still get a dessert. Which she did.
When the check came, I saw we were not charged for the dessert. It's clear to me that the waiter knew our daughter hadn't ordered the full dinner since he didn't bring her a salad at the beginning, her entree was not available on the early bird, and he charged the correct price for her entree.
My assumption was that either the waiter or the owner -- who came by our table a number of times to ask how things were -- had decided to comp our daughter's dessert, which I thought was a nice gesture. Normally if a waiter makes a mistake I do speak up, whether it is in the restaurant's favor or mine. I.e., if he had neglected to charge for our daughter's entree I certainly would have notified him. But in this case, I did not -- and I tipped based on what the check would have been including the extra dessert.
Would you have called the waiter over to tell him he had left the extra dessert off the check?
This happens to us occasionally, as I'm in the restaurant business. I speak up, and it's usually a comp. There was a time when it was an honest mistake and the server was grateful that we pointed it out -- he said that the owner would've made him pay for the dessert had the owner found out!
Given the circumstances you've described in your post, it seems to me that the dessert was a comp -- to make your daughter feel comfortable. I certainly don't think you ought to feel at all guilty about not calling over the waiter. Perhaps the waiter was at fault -- perhaps they forgot to let you know "the young lady's dessert is on the house."
You tipped on the correct amount. Forget about it, unless it happens again. Then tell 'em.
It would be a really bad idea to invite bad restaurant karma by NOT letting them know of the mistake. If it was intended to be comped, they would have the opportunity to say so. If not, you might have saved the server from having to make up the difference.
Almost the same thing happened to me last night: we were charged for a glass of wine rather than a bottle. We pointed out the error; both the server and the manager thanked us for our honesty. It was a fine meal, but I might not have digested it quite so well if we had let the error slide. And I might have had an accident driving home.
Bad restaurant karma can be a bitch.