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Service - who cares?

I recently posted a thread about reverse recommendations and loved the responses. So now I'm following it up with another "complaint" about friend's recommendations. Oddly, same friends are the basis for this thread.

I know a couple of people who when I ask them about their meal, the first thing they tell me about is the service. Frankly, if the food is good, I could care less about service. Sure, it's nice when dining out to feel special, but for me it's all about the food. If I were a restaurant critic my ratings would be like this 95% - food, 4% - service, 1% - decor. I just don't understand people who hold service and quality of food equally.

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  1. Okay, I'll jump in first. Service is important to me because good service allows me to relax and enjoy my food. I can't do that if I don't have a clean fork, or if my mouth is dry because I didn't get the drink I requested, or if my food was prepared incorrectly, or if the waitstaff is hovering, etc. etc. I would not consider food and service to be of equal importance, but service is definitely worth more than 4% in my equation.

    4 Replies
    1. re: lisavf

      I'm with you, Lisa.

      First, there are service issues that directly impact the enjoyment of the food: dishes left sitting under heat lamps for way too long; dishes served cold (or warm, as the case may be); and so on.

      In addition, if I'm made to feel unwelcome, it definitely detracts from the enjoyment of the meal.

      The better the food, the more slack I'll give on the service side, but there are certain kinds of treatment I won't put up with, no matter how good the food.

      If that means "No soup for me!"; I'll survive....

      1. re: lisavf

        Ditto that, lisa. If service leaves me waiting for a glass of wine to enjoy with my dinner, or I don't have the utensils to even eat my food, that becomes a bigger problem - as I can't even try the food! As for hovering waitstaff - that's just plain annoying. If I feel unwelcome when I walk in the door from a snooty (or snotty, as the case may be!) hostess or maitré 'd, that's going to start the evening off on the wrong foot. That's PART of service, IMO.

        And as for decor - that includes noise level to me. If it's deafening in there, or overlit, that's going to detract from my enjoyment of the meal and my dining companions if I can't hear them or it's too garishly bright in the room.

        Food is probably 65-70%, service is 20-25%, decor is 10%.

        1. re: LindaWhit

          I'd really rather have overlit than underlit. I've been in places where I find myself wishing for a flashlight for reading the menu.

          1. re: Terrieltr

            I think it completely depends on the group. Is it a romantic outing, social event, business?

      2. I'll bite. There's a well-known restaurant/bar in the city where I live that we have been going to at least once a week for the past 8 or so years. We usually sit at the bar for an hour or so while my daughter finishes a lesson across the street. We eat there frequently but not every week. We almost always have the same bartender. He's a great guy and we've become good friends over the years. If his wife is there, she'll come over and talk to us. The problem is the rest of the staff. Other than the hostess, they do not acknowledge us unless our friend isn't working and one of them is serving us. Nothing, no eye contact, no hello, nothing.

        I decided a few months back that we would only go in for a beer when he was there but otherwise, not interested in their rude/non-existent service. People rave about their food, but for me, I'll spend my $ elsewhere. So yes, service does matter in some instances.

        1. If I'm telling you about my dinner at home, you will only hear about the food. You don't want to know about how we decided what to have, where we bought it, how we cooked it or how long it took to do the washing up. And I couldnt be arsed to tell you.

          On the other hand, if I'm telling you about a restaurant meal, then the occasion was more than just food. It was also about the location, the ambiance, the service, the price, the food. The whole thing.

          One of my local professional review sites marks restaurants out of 20 - 10 for food, 5 each for service and ambiance. Sounds spot on as far as I'm concerned.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            I agree completely with Harters. We get out to eat so rarely these days. When we do, of course I care about the food, but it's also a special occasion. I would hate for our rare nights out to be marred by feeling unwelcome or worse. Also, since I see eating out partly as supporting local businesses, even if I'm just grabbing a slice of pizza, I prefer to do it somewhere where the people are friendly and helpful.

            1. re: Pia

              "Friendly" is probaby a regional issue. Personally I don't want to make friends with the server. If I have to interact too much then s/he's doing it wrong. I figure the server's a professional, there to do a job, and I'm the consumer, there to pay the server. [I'm in DC and have lived mostly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.] But I know people who want to feel welcomed as friends when eating out.

              1. re: csdiego

                I live in Boston. My standard for "friendly" is probably what a Southerner would consider barely polite: says hello, makes eye contact, possibly smiles, doesn't snarl if we ask a question or give us an attitude if we bring our kid.

                1. re: Pia

                  LOL. Having spent lots of time in both places I know exactly what you mean. That eye contact, in Boston, is really pushing the bounds of familiarity. Friendly in Boston = shockingly, born-in-a-barn rude in the South.

                  1. re: csdiego

                    Yes, friendly in New England often means respecting boundaries and making sure one is welcome to cross them before doing so; good fences make good neighbors and all that.

                    As to the OP's question, I would say I would rank food 60%, service 30% and ambience 10%.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      Respecting boundaries is how I view politeness as well. I haven't found New Englanders to be any less polite than people in other parts of the world most of the time. Being polite here isn't the same as being friendly.

                  2. re: Pia

                    LOL! I'm in Boston as well, and while I don't have children, I do agree with you on the other points, Pia - says hello, eye contact and a smile or two, leaves us alone if we're still chatting and say we need some time, anddon't give me a big :::::SIGH!:::: if we haven't yet made our dinner decision.

            2. I disagree with your premise that good service is about "feeling special". To me it is about the meal going smoothly so that I can enjoy the food and company without being distracted by service "glitches".

              1. The most important thing in a restaurant experience for me is the food, most definitely. Otherwise I would not return to many a hole in the wall place where 'service' is only rudimentary, and sometimes even bordering on surly (tho that tends to change once you become a regular).

                That said -- if the service is beyond fantastic, it can really add to the experience. It will, however, make up for bad food.

                2 Replies
                1. re: linguafood

                  Assuming you mean "That said -- if the service is beyond fantastic, it can really add to the experience. It will, however,[....NOT......] make up for bad food"???.

                  For me neutral to great service allows me to enjoy the experience even more than the food alone. Whether or not "bad" service will take away from great food depends on the nature of the "bad". Invasive "badness" will certainly be annoying if not materially effect the meal. Small "badness" can be annoying but won't necessarily spoil a great meal. That said, the price of the meal, for me anyway, has a lot to do with my expectation as to service. If I'm paying big bucks and get lousy service, the quality of the food had better be REALLY high for the service level to not impact it materially.

                2. I'm inclined to agree with you. Often people who complain about poor service come across as narcissistic monsters. They expect the server to anticipate every need and take responsibility for every discrepancy between the diner's wildest fantasies and the reality of what is, after all, just a meal.

                  But then, there are two kinds of service: efficient, near-invisible technical proficiency and let-me-sit-on-your-lap-and-how-about-a-massage sucking up. The latter is just foul and intrusive. The former, I can appreciate, although it's a minor consideration that will never trump the food. If I'm all uptight, ready to flare up at minor slights and flaws in the service, I'm not going to enjoy my meal. I've eaten with people like that, and no level of service can make up for the tension. Much better to relax and roll with the punches, as long as nothing really egregious happens (mistimed drinks or a delay in the kitchen are not egregious errors).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: csdiego

                    I'm not picky about service. I'd like someone to take my order, get it right, fix it if they didn't, see if I need more drinks or dessert, and bring my check. But very, very often this does not happen in my small college town. I've had my order forgotten completely, my empty water glass neglected (in a mostly empty restaurant) for half an hour or more, the wrong dish put in front of me followed by the immediate disappearance of the server. Restaurants have lost my money for drinks or food because the server was rushing me out (I am NOT a slow eater or drinker). I have had servers get my order very wrong, and blame me (no, it was not my fault). I have had a server bring me something very different from what I ordered because "this was on special."

                    I don't think any of these fit into your two categories of service.

                    To be clear, I am not a service snob. I don't look down on servers at all. I've worked in a restaurant, and I know that serving is one of the hardest jobs out there. I have become friends with servers after being a customer. I'm a very generous tipper, and I always thank my server and smile.

                    Perhaps you are lucky enough to never have experienced terrible service. Bully for you. But that doesn't mean the rest of us are being uptight.

                    1. re: guilty

                      The restaurant is a business. If they won't give you the dish you're trying to pay for, or they're too foolish to let you stick around and order more food/drink, they're shooting themselves in the foot. And yes, part of what you are buying is a certain atmosphere. What I'm saying is that, aside from the logistical basics, what I care about is food, not pampering or sucking up which is what some service-philes seem to demand.

                  2. I think what we are looking for is professionalism when it comes to service. Being greeted and seated, given a menu, clean tables and silverware, drinks order taken, the right food ordered and delivered by the server in a reasonable time frame, check in from time to time, refills of coffee, soda or water, getting the check when requested. Level of friendliness should be just 'right'. All these things depend of the type of restaurant, for example - diner-speed delivery is not expected at a fancy place and vice versa.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: smartie

                      Although I think there are differences about what folk view as "professional" service. Perhaps not so much about the various details (everyone wants clean tables) but about the style of service. What suits one person doesnt necessarily suit another (personally, I prefer the near-invisible style - fortunately that's the style at most places I eat at)

                    2. We don't eat bad food unless on the road and know no other options. BUT we will eat food that is good but not great if we love the service. We have many friends in the restaurant business and will happily give them our money at times even though there might be better dining options for the money. The social aspect of seeing our friends, greeting other regulars, and the overall camaraderie can outweigh everything else if the food is good. If the food is truly bad we just won't eat there.

                      1. Without service, you don't get food to eat or beverages to drink. With bad service, your order is wrong. And with mediocre service, food gets cold on the pass-through and your glass is empty.

                        It doesn't matter how good the food or drink started out. Without decent service you'll never be able to fully enjoy it.

                        1. Service can set the mood for the entire experience. If the service is terrible before the food arrives- it's harder to enjoy when you are battling the service issues.

                          I don't think it's about "feeling special", it's about being noticed. If I'm waiting to order a bloody drink for 15 minutes after seating, that's tainting my whole dining experience. If the bottle of wine I ordered before ordering food arrives long after that food is served, I'm pretty peeved, and my food is cold (I'm waiting for the wine), and that's not good. If my salad is half- eaten when my main course arrives 5 minutes later- what?

                          Minor glitches don't bother me, but a waiter that has no idea how to pace a meal ruins it. Great food can overcome that hurdle, merely good food cannot.

                          1. to me good service doesnt really make up for bad food, on the other hand good food can absolutely make up for bad service. 75% food, 20% service, 5% dining comfort

                            Honestly I think its "unhoundish" to feel otherwise! Are you going for the food or for the company? Dont misconstrue my message here, service is important. I absolutely have had bad service ruin a great meal, but there isnt a bartender or server I have ever met that can coax me to eat bad food.

                            1. I have crazy anxiety issues, and one of the things that activates my "fight or flight" response is rudeness. So if I see (or personally experience) someone being rude, my heartbeat speeds up, I have to regulate my breathing, my muscles get tense... or I just get totally defeated and want to get away from the situation. Sorry, but that happening in a restaurant ruins the experience for me. If it's a rude customer it's fine because I know I'm not likely to run into them again (I'm not really a regular at any restaurants), but a rude employee is likely to be there upon my return and I'd rather just not go down that path. And the memory of the rudeness will stick in my mind, on replay, for years.

                              In hindsight, I'm making it sound like I'm on the autism spectrum. I don't think I'm quite at that point...

                              1. I don't care about service. I have no compunction about getting up to get something if I need it. Which rarely happens. This may be largely due to my habit of dining in the company of a book so that I don't actually notice the service, by and large.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ZenSojourner

                                  I am very very often the person who is getting up to go ask the bartender for more water, or to get a fork when one is missing, or to find a condiment that is on other tables but not ours and last night, to retrieve the food when it came up in the window and I saw the server step outside to smoke (though it was more of a bar than a restaurant to put it in perspective).
                                  As long as I don't have to wash the dishes and no one calls me a name, I'm usually pretty happy.

                                2. Bad service can ruin a meal.

                                  It can ruin the food itself - think of orders that are wrong, or where one person's food shows up half an hour after everyone else has finished eating, or when their definition of "vegetarian" is picking most of the chunks of meat out of the sauce. Or when the server gives you the wrong information, or the kitchen substitutes the listed item for something of inferior quality.

                                  It can ruin the experience of dining - having to fight to get your order taken, or a server who is surly and insulting, or having your plate whisked out and the bill plonked down before you've finished eating. Or dirty cutlery and a table that wasn't wiped off properly.

                                  Personally, what I mainly want in service is competence. I don't need a bouncy cheerful server who introduces themselves by name and wants to be best buddies. Quite frankly, I'd rather they didn't. But I do want someone who gets the orders right, doesn't disappear for 45 minutes, and doesn't make me feel like scum for making them work.

                                  If a place has fantastic food but indifferent service I may well put up with the service for the food. But I've also stopped going to places I liked because of consistently bad service.

                                  I also have different standards for different price range. If I'm going to a chain restaurant staffed by high school students I have very different expectations than a high end fine dining place.

                                  1. For me, I guess it depends on the price point of the places I'm dining at, plus maybe the genre of cuisine.

                                    If it's fancypants-3-servers-for-each-table-and-white-tablecloths, then of course I would expect fabulous service.

                                    If it's a hole-in-the-wall joint with comfort food that costs less than $10/person and the server just throws the plate down on the table, I'm not going to get upset about it unless the server started basing his/her treatment on a personal reason (i.e. they REALLY offend me in some way).

                                    Obviously, there are various levels between the two!

                                    1. While I love reading the responses, almost half the people read into something that wasn't there. I said nothing about bad service, rude wait staff or wrong orders. I'm saying that if the service is what you mention first, you're probably not the person I want a food review from. I was saying that I now people who feel service is as important as the food.

                                      A perfect example is dining at Peter Luger. The place has a reputation for surly waiters who are rude. This couldn't be further from the truth. I have been there a number of times and as long as you don't act like a tourist expecting the rude behavior, you're not going to see it.

                                      My point is if service is a 8/10 or a 5/10 it's not going to change my feeling about a place. Sure if it's a 10 or a 1, I'll be affected, but I'm saying in general.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: jhopp217

                                        Hmm...I guess what you could take away from a lot of the replies is that if customers are going to be paying good money at the better establishments, than service is definitely worth a good chunk of the entire dining experience no matter how good/bad the food is?

                                        For example, re: my response above...I definitely meant to imply that the more expensive/fancy/whatever the restaurant I'm eating in, the higher the percentage the service plays into the total food experience. If I get horrible service while paying $50/person, it doesn't matter if the food was great because I know the prices on the menu are supposed to reflect better service and not just the food. Gosh, I hope that wasn't too vague or confusing...

                                        If I'm going into a not-fancy place and paying for a cheap meal (no matter how good), I'm not going to take service into consideration unless they are REALLY offensive in some way (which I have experienced many times in my life for racial reasons).

                                        I guess I should've just made a shorter post and said: there are times when service matters and times when service doesn't, and it's pretty much a personal preference and tolerance. But I doubt you'd find anyone who would say that fantastic/extraordinary service at any price point or level wouldn't influence their "rating" of a dining experience positively.

                                        1. re: jhopp217

                                          I get your point. I (and I assume several other posters) was taking my cue from the 4% weight you attached to service, implying that it really didn't matter at all. Since certain types of bad service can be a deal-breaker for me, I was moved to reply.

                                          That said, I agree with the idea that service isn't the most important thing at a restaurant. I've been burned more than once by recommendations of "wonderful" places that turn out to serve mediocre food at sky-high prices, but have obsequious waitstaff.

                                          I also agree with your Luger's example. The waiters and bartenders there are anything but rude, at least in my experience. Now, Durgin Park, on the other hand....

                                          1. re: brandywiner

                                            Are DG's waitstaff still rude? I was under the impression that the rudeness, which had long become a shtick, had since faded noticeably during the 1990s.

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              Maybe I misspoke. I haven't been there since the early 90s or so. I guess I just figured the rudeness was such a part of their reputation that it was indelible.

                                              If what you say is true, it provides another example of jhopp's point re: Luger's. (And maybe it's time I braved Quincy Market and found out for myself!)

                                              1. re: brandywiner

                                                Service???? dining Experience??? By far the best and most memorable food and "experience" I have ever had, was in San Antonio los Banos, Cuba, sitting on an upside down 5 gallon plastic bucket on the beach, being yelled at to keep the fire well stoked with firewood; as local kids ripped lobster tails from their shells with their hands, and the older guys cooked dolphin steaks(not flipper the Mahi Mahi Fish) and pulled them off the fire with beer cans fashioned into crude tongs.
                                                That night it was all about the food, and Rum. and the ambiance was beyond perfect stars, bay breezes no stress, the freshest seafood.; and no " Iam entitled" attitude among us nortenos. Don't ask how I ended up in the forbidden land to the South....lol.....

                                                1. re: ospreycove

                                                  Ok.. I SOOOO want to go to that place on my next vacation. Seriously. Or someplace exactly like it. That sounds like a perfect dinner.

                                                  1. re: iluvcookies

                                                    iluv, well here is a tip, go on a private boat(sail) registered in /Canada with the owner onboard. There is a growing biz in coastal Cuba of refurbishing boats, they have excellent artisans that renew all the Teak, Brightwork, etc. and the people have not been "exposed" to hoardes of tourists and are very engaging and curious. The food is basic but exceptional!!!

                                                2. re: brandywiner

                                                  Order the Yankee-cut prime rib (bring an prehistoric appetite, but it's still by all accounts done well and represents phenomenal value) and Indian pudding.

                                          2. "Frankly, if the food is good, I could care less about service."

                                            Then you have never had truely bad service, or you simply don't know the difference.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: CharlieKilo

                                              I think you just proved the OP's point. You care about gradations of service to the point where you think others might not "know the difference". You are perhaps a conneisseur of good service, in the same way most
                                              of us here feel ourselves to be conneisseurs of good food.

                                              1. re: CharlieKilo

                                                I could do without the "Pomp and Ceremony and all the other purchased ambiance; if I get a carefully prepared honest dish that represents the region through the skill and caring of the cook for his/her craft. That ,in my opinon is truly GREAT FOOD!!!

                                                1. re: CharlieKilo

                                                  No, actually my point was the opposite. I went to Smith & Wollensky's and had quite possibly the best service I've ever had in any restaurant. The glasses were always filled, nothing was ever needed because it was there before you thought to ask. The waiters were overly pleasant without being overbearing. There was one problem. The dinner cost me about $225 and the food (aside from the seafood tower) was awful. One of the worst steaks I've had in a steeakhouse. Not only that, but the sides were bland. I actually traded steaks at one point and my fellow diners was equally as bad. That wondeful service couldn't make up for a bad meal.

                                                  As fr terrible service. I went to a place on City Island on night and had wonderful seafood. Only problem was we ordered around 7:00 and didn't get our food until about 8:30. Our waiter only came by once or twice during that time to ask us if we needed anything. Food was great, but the service was awful. I went home just as happy as if the service was excellent. The food is what matters.

                                                  1. re: jhopp217

                                                    You're easier to please than I, then. I would be pretty ticked off if I had to wait 1.5 hours for my food, regardless of whose fault that was. Even if the food had been excellent, waiting for it that long would've left a bad taste in my mouth.

                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                      I would have left before the 90 minute mark. I don't care how delicious it would have been. Not when I am paying.

                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                        Well, yes. Generally, 45-60 minutes is my cut-off for any food to arrive.

                                                      2. re: linguafood

                                                        When I go to a restaurant I have a 7pm reservation for, I usually like to get there 45 minutes to an hour before anyway. Sit at the bar and have a cocktail or two and then get seated, have another and then order. I like to take my time when going out. Granted it was a long wait and had the food been terrible, I'd have been angry, but as a whole it didn't bother me.

                                                        Honestly, I get more upset when I'm invited to people's houses and they tell me to get there are 6:00 and either dinner is at 6:15 or 9:00. That is a bigger pet peeve to me than bad service I pay for.

                                                      3. re: jhopp217

                                                        I remember when S&W was a stand alone restaurant, before franchising/ corporate expansion.It was big with the Wall St. and Apparel 7th ave. crowd; Our company spent so much $$$ there, I felt like a "Sultan" every time we had a dinner there. most us had our names on brass plaques, at the booths in the bar. Hmmmmm how times have changed!!!!!

                                                    2. I can cook very good quality food at home. When I eat out, a large part of the experience (and the price) is being treated well - otherwise I might as well just eat at home. I'm not expecting to be waited on hand and foot. I just want:

                                                      a) to have a reservation respected within a reasonable (say half-hour) amount of time, or to be offered some kind of compensation like a free round of drinks or an appetizer if it can't be.

                                                      b) when seated, to at least be given my menu and glass of water reasonably quickly. If I'm not asked for a drink order within 10 minutes or still don't have at least a menu, or feel like I've been completely ignored, I'm really cranky and ready to leave.

                                                      c) to get my order correct, when placed. And if incorrect, have it either fixed as promptly as possible or offered a reasonable discount or free extra on the meal. If you get my order wrong on a SECOND request, then you're really on my s**t list as by that point likely my dining companions have finished eating entirely.

                                                      d) to not feel like I'm being rushed out the door or not offered all choices as other diners are. As in, I'm seated and not told the specials, not offered dessert or coffee because a server is in a rush to turn a table, had plates cleared before I was done.

                                                      e) to have waitstaff take proactive response to bad atmosphere around diners. Recently I dined at the bar at a local restaurant where the person next to me was clearly, heavily over-intoxicated, was being rude to other patrons including myself and my SO, and generally making the experience for everyone seated at the bar miserable. Yet the staff did nothing for at least a half-hour until the one bartender got off duty to escort this person out. It should have been corrected much faster for the comfort of all other patrons.

                                                      I go out to eat for the experience, as much as for the food. A poor experience will sour me on a restaurant quite heavily.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: sockii

                                                        wow...... "I'm not expecting to be waited on hand and foot." But if you screw up at all I expect something for free. Servers across America will cringe after reading your post........

                                                        1. re: joe777cool

                                                          joe777cool..........a second on that "WOW"

                                                          1. re: ospreycove

                                                            I dunno - waiting half an hour or more after your reservation time IS an awful long time to wait to be seated. The markup on drinks is so very very high that they can make the waiting time less unpleasant merely by offering a glass of wine or a free appetizer at little cost to the restaurant.

                                                            If his order is wrong, he asked to have it fixed promptly first, and discounts or freebies second. If they fix it lickety split then he's happy. So just fix it. Screwing up a SECOND time is such a big no-no that frankly if that happens, they ought to just give it to him for free. C'mon, screwing up TWICE? I've never actually had that happen myself . It at least OUGHT to be a very very rare occurrence.

                                                            Those are the only circumstances under which he asked for a discount or freebie and it really sounds pretty reasonable to me.

                                                            That said, though I rarely notice service, one thing that does get my goat is having them come and grab my plate when I'm still eating. That really ticks me off and I've been known to grab the wrist of an importunate server out of sheer startlement on an occasion or two. I've screamed a time or two as well when they startle me that way. Book in one hand, going for something on the plate, and all of a sudden a hand appears right in front of my face - yup, that gets to me, LOL!

                                                            1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                              >Those are the only circumstances under which he asked for a discount or freebie and
                                                              >it really sounds pretty reasonable to me.

                                                              Thank you. Honestly, is asking for respect and reasonable service that much of an over-extended effort? I'm more than willing to be considerate under most circumstances. But being ignored unduly, not having a dish corrected properly when the errors were clearly pointed out, or having a reservation pushed off for long periods of time without any acknowlegdement beyond a reasonable amount of time, seems to deserve some kind of recompense. On the restaurant's behalf, not necessarily a particular server's responsibility. (Indeed, if I'm sitting at the bar because my 7pm reservation has been pushed back to 8pm without explanation except the restaurant overbooked, there's no "server" yet except the bartender who's going to be tipped or not tipped, is there?) In those circumstances it's always been a higher-up who either intervened and corrected the problem properly, or ignored it and ensured I never felt the need to visit an establishment again.

                                                      2. Barring extremes, service is a non-factor to me, too.

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                          This was precisely what I thought when I read this question and then read the answers. I would only ever notice and comment on service if it fell into one of the extremes. Other than that, they do their job, I give them 20%, no comment needed.

                                                          1. re: Cachetes

                                                            So a server who works his/her tail off to make sure you get good service gets the same tip as someone who couldn't care less and just does the bare minimum?

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              If someone worked so hard that I noticed their supreme effort, of if someone did the opposite (your bare minimum scenario), I would notice. Those are the extremes, like I mentioned. Most servers do neither of those things - they are middling, do a nice job, are not really remarkable, get 20%. The extremes would get adjusted up or down depending.

                                                              1. re: Cachetes

                                                                I was thinking "bare minimum" as in the food gets to you, in a reasonable amount of time period, but the other end is where the person is on top of the game and does more than just that. The extreme to me is someone who, say gets the food to you in too much time, doesn't respond repeatedly to requests, rolls eyes when asked questions, etc. which I think of as the extreme. Bare minimum, IMO, is not extreme but not deserving of the same tips as someone who puts in that extra effort.

                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  Oh, the eye roller would definitely not get 20%! (Like the time when the waitress actually yelled, loudly, at our table, b/c she was overwhelmed!)

                                                                  I get your point, and I don't disagree, but I think that most servers are typically pretty much in the middle. Just like most lawyers and teachers and car mechanics. Maybe I don't make enough of a distinction, so perhaps I am rewarding weak service with too much tip. And to clarify, I have left more than 20% for those great servers who I notice are really trying to make it a special meal.

                                                                  1. re: Cachetes

                                                                    Sorry if it came off that I was arguing the point but I was more thinking out loud, or typing my thoughts. I go back and forth on this because I do tip a lot, as long as the server tries. Mistakes happen, new servers get a lot of leeway, etc. But, it doesn't seem right to tip someone who's trying hard and not succeeding the same as someone who tries hard and does it extremely well. The bad servers don't get nearly the same as the ones who try.

                                                        2. Service is a huge factor in my dining experience. Having managed a restaurant and currently being employed as a server has a lot to do with it. I'm sure I notice far more than I used to.

                                                          My expectations aren't outrageously high, and I'm really forgiving if I can tell someone is new or is super busy. But if the service is poor, I feel disappointed, even if the food is excellent.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: wonderflosity

                                                            After reading these posts and "The Expectations", some have.......The upside down 5 gal bucket on the beach is more and more appealing to me.!!

                                                          2. I think it's a bit presumptuous when people complain about service at a self-service restaurant.

                                                            Seriously, I have read internet posts on this.

                                                            I'm with the OP.

                                                            I eat at a lot of places where people have come from far and wide to share their love of food: Yemeni, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Bolivian people who I want to get to know.

                                                            I don't want to treat restaurant employees like intelligent vaccuum cleaners.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Steve

                                                              "I think it's a bit presumptuous when people complain about service at a self-service restaurant."

                                                              you just made my day.

                                                              and for crying out loud, if its self-service its SELF CLEANUP TOO!!!

                                                              1. re: joe777cool

                                                                Maybe "taking it out"on servers satisfies some psychological need to balance one's unfulfilling, life, such as lack of social interaction, inadequate self image, self-actualization, profession, work, or lack thereof. One needs to achieve balance in one's life; and this might be a avenue that some choose.