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Can we complain?

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As parents of a 20 month old, we rarely go out to eat anymore. After much research, screening and work, I found 2 babysitters for us. One younger, who is so far 99% unavailable when we need a sitter (ok, she's younger, she has a life, I get it). One a young Grandma type. Mr. RNR had reservations about regularly booking someone older since the things we usually want to go out to now are later night, such as seeing friends' bands, but she has been the one more available so we've gone with her a couple of times so far. In an attempt to give her a chance to get to know little RNR, we booked a super early dinner tonight. Note that our kid is one who is very schedule-dependent Or Else, so time was important. Booked her to arrive at 3:30, we had reservations at 4 at a restaurant about 25 mins away. 3:30 came and went and nothing. Finally at 3:40, I called her. "Oh," she said, "what time is it?" I told her. She said she had gotten wrapped up with something and would leave right away, it would take her 15-20 to get to our place. She arrived at 4. Meanwhile, when I got off the phone with her at 3:43 or so, I called the restaurant to ask if we could change to 4:30. They said, "Well, can't you get here any sooner? We have some other reservations at 4:30." I explained what happened with the sitter so they'd know we weren't just lollygagging for no reason, and said if you can't take care of us, I understand, just say so and we will try to come another time. They said no, I'm sure we can accommodate, sorry about the sitter and c'mon over. This is a mid-sized Midwestern town. Even places that are booked are not often so booked that they don't take walk-ins. Plus hello, 4:30. Sitter arrived, we gave brief instructions for din, headed out. Got to restaurant at 4:26. Guy remembered talking to me on the phone, said don't worry about the sitter, relax and enjoy your meal and we were sat.

I will note here that the orig reservations were made by me through Open Table and I mentioned that this was our joint B-day celebration, which it was (we were born 8 days apart so we celebrate them together, aw).

We were sat and ordered champagne and mr. RNR gave me a card. Server disappeared for awhile and was gone long enough and we were worried enough about the new sitter, that when he finally came back and asked if we were ready to order, I said yes and we ordered an app and 2 entrees, and I said if you could please, order everything together, fire entrees when app is placed, thinking the app (whole artichoke) would come out first and then little to no delay when entrees were ordered. When I ordered my entree, which was the listed special for a Saturday (beef bourg), the server looked at his WATCH. I was like oh, is it too early to order that dish? and he was like no, it should be fine. Mr ordered the duck legs confit. Waited and waited and finally, app and entrees arrived together. Very little room on our tiny, 2-top table for all the plates (the choke came with an extra plate for the hard stuff) but we made do. My beef bourg had hard potatoes and carrots. I didn't mention it as I am extra-non-foodie about things being cooked all the way through (no crunchy broccoli for me, thanks) but when we switched entrees halfway through (standard for us), Mr. also noted the carrots and potatoes seemed underdone. I'm thinking, if the dish wasn't done, why are they serving it when they're open for dinner and this is the advertised dinner special for the night? But whatever.

Meanwhile, our server avoided our table like the plague, and the girl in the adjacent station kind of took over waiting our table. We heard her reciting specials to arriving guests and realized nobody told us of any specials (yes, there were 2 opportunities and yes, I would have ordered 1 of them, especially after the watch-check, I would have changed my order). This new server guided us on some dessert choice and dessert wines and I also ordered a coffee at that time, and asked for the check. When she finally brought the check, it was after our dessert and dessert wines were gone and I never got the coffee. Not only was the coffee on the check, but also a hot chocolate, which we didn't order. I brought her back over to the table and said yeah, this coffee and hot choc should come off, these are not ours and she said oh, my mistake, and left.

Mr had a $50 Visa gift card and presented that with credit card for the check to yet a 3rd server. Told this girl there was $50 on the card and put the remainder on the credit card. The original server finally reappeared with the charge slip, and said I don't know how much the gift card was for, but we put $25 on it, and here are the 2 charge slips, one for the gift card and one for the remainder. I was livid and explained about the $50 and how that had been explained to whomever took the check. He said that she said (he said that she said? Really?) she tried to run it for $50 and it was declined so they just DECIDED to run it for $25. I'm sorry, but if you present a card and it's not approved for, say, $100, do you just decide to run it for $90 instead and bring it back? They should have asked. I would have known there must be a $4.95 fee with the card (many have this now) and would have said oh, can you please try running it for $45 instead of 50, it will probably go through, and problem solved. Yes, our fault for not reading the fine print on the card but I just didn't think of it. Honestly, with the gift card, we ordered a lot more than we would have without it, like the whole dessert course, and it was a frustrating end.

They were very busy and we had to get back to the sitter, so I did not want to bother the MOD at that time and decided to write separately. But then I thought, maybe we don't have any right to complain about anything, because we changed the reservation. But if they couldn't provide good service with the time change, I think they should have said so. And the server switch mid-meal, the lack of telling us about specials and zero acknowledgment of an obvious special occasion, plus the credit card thing at the end have left a bad taste, no pun intended. I know my CHers will have some input. What is it? Is it ok to complain?

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  1. I don't think you're required to lower your expectations of service or to sit in steerage due to the change. If they couldn't serve you properly, or with properly cooked food, they shouldn't have told you to come in. I'm not sure I'd complain, but I think I'd share your account of the experience with all the detail and thoughts you've included here. You don't sound like a high maintenance PITA to me. Sorry you didn't have a better time, but happy birthdays!

    1. If this was an Dear Abby column I would have wondered if this was a Harvard Frat joke letter.
      Personally, maybe a "don't sweat the small stuff..." might be a choice you might look into.
      I do think there was alot you could have done to prevent some of the aggravation you felt.
      Known the sitter better. If it was me and I interviewed folks and my sitter was 5 minutes late on a time dependent schedule, I would have called. Also know you had to move back a 4PM reservation (that's early!) might be hard, but the restaurant accepted. After that they have NO, as in NO! reason to treat you differently. But again, I do think you could have mitigated it a good bit. Remember no one can insult you without your permission. You arrive apologizing and took some of what you felt was bad behavior. You gave some rope and well you got a bit hung.
      Gift cards are always a problem unless you know the place well and used them there before. So could you have called to ask about this ahead see if there were service charges etc. Yes. you can complaint, one can always complain, we see that here enough. But did you do it at the right time right place? Is here the right place? And complaining is allowed, but just because you are allowed does not mean you are right.

      In short, you have some culpability here, you assumed and allowed things and so you have to know you have some blame. But Live and learn! Bet this will be the last time you have an experience like this!

      1. You have all the rights to complain. It's terrible service, regardless of whether you changed the reservation or not. (But you could sum up your entire first paragraph in one sentence. It took some effort for me to read through to the important part.)

        2 Replies
        1. re: PeterL

          I know. I'm a writer and have a tendency to blather on. I didn't realize how lengthy it was til after i posted! Thx for the response.

          1. re: rockandroller1

            Writers self edit and read before submitting. Wrote this just after ya got home, right?

            I am sorry that your Joint Birthday, Date night was messed up...and you know there is a but...you helped.

            I think a large portion of your aggravation came from leaving your mini rocker with a sitter. You know doing that is a big step, not only for you but for mini. You need to do it. If who you searched before did not make the cut, seek more resources. Heck you are a writer, you know research.
            Check Vo-Tech schools in your area. Call daycare places, call churches.
            I honestly think that the mind set you had about leaving your child (1st time?) was so huge that when problems that you would have normally breezed though, became overwhelming.

            As I tell some friends at some times, Breathe. Just breathe.

        2. I guess I got stopped out when I read that you were late to your reservation and the BB vegetables were undercooked ................... how would they have been if you'd been "on time"?

          Having young children changes your life in so many ways; try to focus on the good stuff. We all have babysitter horror stories. It's not the ideal way to celebrate a joint Bday, but no one was injured or died. Press on and keep smiling. I'm still focused on the vegetables, which had an additional 30 minutes cooking time .........................................

          1. Sorry your birthday was ruined! I agree with Quine: I think your stress level was through the roof before you even arrived, what with the late sitter and leaving the babe for the first time. A few thoughts on what may have been going on at the restaurant, though: (I have NOTHING to do with this restaurant, and know nothing beyond what RNR has said about them)

            Why would you receive push back for moving your reservation a half hour later? They said they had other 4:30 reservations (wow, you all eat early over there!), which means they were spreading out the ressies so orders hitting the kitchen would be staggered and not all at the same time. It's also likely they had other reservations later that were working with yours and other early ones, and you running a half hour late may have disrupted a later seating plan. Not your problem, but then again it's not their problem that your sitter flaked. That's where a little understanding on both sides comes into play.

            Your server looked at his watch when you ordered the special. He likely knew it technically wasn't available yet, but looked at his watch and figured it was close enough. But it wasn't, was it? Your veggies were undercooked. It never should have been offered if it wasn't ready. Likewise, I'm willing to bet the other specials you overheard later weren't ready until, say, after 5pm (it must have been around that time, right?) and that's why no one told you.

            Your apps and entrees came at the same time. Well... you told the server to order everything together, didn't you? That's exactly what they did. If you tell them to order everything together, it will come out together. Otherwise, they're not doing what you asked. What you might say in this situation is "we're in a hurry, so please order everything at the same time, but you may bring the artichoke as soon as it's ready, it doesn't need to wait for the entrees". Just to be clear.

            They made a mistake on the bill. It happens. I always check my bill, because we're all just people, after all. I think you know this, you didn't indicate that you though she was scamming you or anything, she probably just rang it on the wrong check.

            The visa gift card thing is a total PITA, to be perfectly honest. Please, don't try to use them in restaurants, or hotels, or anywhere it's assumed your final charge will be different from the authorized amount. Here's what happens when a restaurant swipes your card for $50 (any card) - it gets authorized for a higher amount, percentage unknown. NOT by the restaurant, but by visa. Why? Because in a restaurant it's assumed that you will tip and the final amount will be higher. Or, if you're in a hotel visa assumes you will have a room service charge, or make a phone call, or order a movie. Whatever. It's authorized for more. Go online immediately after you charge a meal and look at your credit account. The pending amount is likely not what you spent. It will settle later to the true amount, but was authorized higher. Visa has to make sure you have the money, which, if it's a $50 gift card, you don't. So it's denied. $45 would be denied, and probably even $30. God knows the system they use, but I've tried this a million times, in increments of $5 and it ends up silly, plus you end up with a gift card with some random amount left on it. Why bother if you're going to end up putting the rest on a card anyway? Save the gift cards for finite purchases, like that lovely sweater you've been eying, or the grocery store, if you're the practical type.

            Please don't take this as me beating you up, I'm merely trying to talk you down. In your heightened state of stress, everything was amplified in a way that it probably shouldn't have been and wouldn't have been otherwise. That said, the restaurant is definitely not entirely off the hook. They didn't acknowledge an important occasion, that's really, really poor communication and it sucks. Worth complaining about? Maybe, maybe not. Personally I would feel kind of funny complaining that they failed to acknowledge my birthday, but that's just me. They seemingly served food that wasn't ready. The server should have checked with the kitchen first. Sounds like your original server didn't care too much. Perhaps worth complaining about, if you're really feeling it. Forgotten coffee? Lame, but probably not worth complaining about after the fact. Messed up check? I think at this point you see it was an accident. If you feel otherwise, you should definitely complain. I guess what I'm saying is, the restaurant most definitely could have, and should have, done a lot more to make your evening enjoyable, but it seems like the real issue is that you were just an extremely stressed out Mom. Try again, someplace else. Who says you can only celebrate your birthday once? Oh, and hire a different sitter this time.

            Just my 2 cents. Oh, and Happy Birthday!

            1. I would have canned the whole deal and rescheduled with a new sitter when the babysitter forgot she was watching my child. I had that happen once, and my appointment was a job interview. Babysitter "forgot" even after being called two days prior. Then, she dropped by to sell me fruit the next week. I did not tell her what to do with the fruit, but I certainly did not buy any.

              I'm beyond the days of needing a babysitter, but I can sure relate. It is very hard to find someone who is reliable so that you can go out to eat and other places. Keep looking though. There are some gems out there.

              Perhaps a do over is in order. Forget the mess of a night you had. Hard to do. Check around on some more on babysitters. Have your special meal over at another spot. Yes. It will be late. But, you can make a new memory - and hopefully much better than this one.

              Hang in there. Kids grow up really fast (as noted by a Mom who will have an empty nest next year). But, do maintain a social life. Find a good babysitter you can trust. That does take some work for sure, but it's worth it.

              1. all - this was not, by far, the first time we have left little RNR. We have gone out many times and left him with our mother, have left him with this particular sitter once before (little RNR was already asleep) and with another sitter a couple of times. Just wanted to update that aspect.

                1. Thanks everyone for their responses so far. I think we probably should have just cancelled the evening when we called the sitter and she wasn't coming, but I had no idea the restaurant would have such trouble accommodating a 4:30 reservation, and as you other parents know, going out is a rare occasion, and to bag our only date we could take this whole month just because the sitter was a half hour late seems wrong. I guess what we should have done was cancel with the original restaurant and go somewhere local and closer where we'd have lowered expectations (like a casual bar instead of a 30 minute away French place) and could have returned sooner.

                  That being said, I was not worried about the sitter once we left. While we did hurry to the restaurant to make the reservation, we both relaxed and planned to enjoy our evening the minute we walked in the door. There was no "anxiety" about it or whatever.

                  I do think there were missteps by the restaurant. This is one of the nicest places in town and while we are culpable for being late, they shouldn't have done some things that they did.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    1. I don't think you should have canceled. Birthdays deserve to be celebrated at the right time, and I assume you picked the best possible date. Nothing is more depressing than an April birthday celebrated in May, or a February birthday in March. (I have a friend who is always mixing up dates that way--drives me crazy.)

                    2. This restaurant doesn't sound like a lot of fun at all. A service charge to use a gift card? I wouldn't go back. Period.

                    3. Undercooked veg? I know it was a little early, but you were slotted even earlier.

                    4. Being ignored by two waiters? If anyone has room to complain, it is the two of you.

                    5. The hardest thing to do in writing (you said you're a writer) is going back and getting rid of every unnecessary word. The most necessary thing to do in writing is to go back and get rid of every unnecessary word.

                    1. re: Jay F

                      In the cases of Visa giftcards, it's not usually the restaurant/business that has a service charge, but rather Visa or the CC processing company. There are actually a lot of restrictions on their use and can kind of be a pain to use. A friend of mine had a similar problem where it was declined at a restaurant because they authorize it for a certain amount over the actual charge. Someone else in this thread explains it all very nicely.

                      1. re: Jay F

                        agreed re: writing. If I could edit the OP, I would.

                    2. Well, of course, if you feel disatisfied, then it's OK to complain. Please let us know how the restaurant responds.

                      Personally, I wouldnt have been upset about a server change - but then where I am in the world, we're used to serving being more team operation. I doubt I would have really noticed. I don't think I've ever mentioned to a restaurant that we were dining for a special occasion - presumably folk do with the intent to hopefully get some additional special treatment from them (perhaps a comp'd drink or similar?)

                      The thing they did with the credit cards was just weird.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Harters

                        If it had been a smooth server change, I wouldn't have cared. But we were ignored for a long time and then finally this other woman started taking care of us. Nobody else appeared to have more than one server wait on their table so I'm thinking the guy just got weeded, but it was just another lack of service on his part, with the looking at the watch and going ahead and serving the special anyway, and the lack of explanation of specials. To another poster's point above, people were getting the specials who were seated very shortly after we had ordered, I don't think it was the time we arrived that made the difference and even so, they should have the specials available to everyone for dinner. If dinner service starts at 4, they should be ready.

                      2. Let's separate the food and the babsitter issues since this is a food board:

                        1 - all dishes at the same time. If you told them to fire when the apps arrived, bad server. Yes complain. But it is a bit confusing on the "put them all in at the same time" comment. this may have confused the server (who does not sound like a good one from your other commments)
                        2 - server disappear - another covered, no biggie
                        3 - not telling specials - bad server. mention when you call
                        4 - crunchy vegs in the BB. Since this is a long braise dish, crunchy is totally unacceptable. Yes to complain; this should have been sent back at the time though so you have less leverage at this point. be prepared for the "why did you not mention at the time since you ate the whole dish." and when you mention you were strapped for time, that is not restaurant's fault, it is still cutomer responsibility
                        5 - not serving coffee - dual fault. customer needs to speak up.
                        6 - mistake on the bill. it happens all the time. you mentioned and addressed
                        7 - visa card - you still have the remainder; no biggie; sounds like this was your fault for not telling them about the fee at the beginning. But yes the server should have told you it was declined and asked what to do, minor faux pas. but what are the damages you are suffering? from what you wrote it appears you will have to pay another $4.95 service fee. That would have been an immediate ding to the tip. And BTW I would have not left a tip at all and spoken to the MOD as leaving. Too bad he is busy...that is his job and his staff caused major issues in your mind on your special day.

                        I do not think the time change had anything to do with the lapses you described on the restaurant's side. The server probably had no idea that your OT reservation was 4. Not an A+ experience.

                        BTW - Happy Birthday

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: jfood

                          thx jfood. I agree on pretty much all your points. I am one of those who generally would never call the MOD over in the middle of service unless things were really, really bad. I know that means less leverage later on, but I'm not trying to "get" anything from them, I just want them to know what was wrong so they can address/fix going forward, and it's uncomfortable for me to complain about things at the meal, especially on a special occasion meal, it kind of spoils it for us both.

                          As we were leaving, the maitre'd asked how everything was and I said the food was very good, emphasis on food. He was like oh, was the service not up to par and I said no. He wanted to address then and said the MOD could come over in a couple of minutes, but our server was walking by right then and I wanted to get home to the sitter, plus I didn't feel comfortable to start going into it at the front while new diners were coming in. I said if it's ok, I will follow up with a note via email and he said that would be great, they just want to know what went wrong so they can fix it.

                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            Thanks for following up. In light of your last paragraph, I would definitely send them an email outlining your issues. It sounds like the management cares, and I'm sure they'd appreciate a chance to make it right. Plus, I think it might make you feel better.

                            1. re: rockandroller1

                              you don't want anything for it?
                              You are being a mensch. Tell them that up front -- that you're doing this because you like 'em, and you want to help -- and that you truly don't want nothing.

                              Also, do this Hillel's way. As anonymously as possible (comment card preferred).

                              And take the tack that "we all had a bad night together"... not "it was your damn fault!!!"

                              Also, if they have to give you something... take a soup special -- it's least likely to impact the bottom line.

                              1. re: Chowrin

                                Thanks. I truly don't want anything from them, and will let them know that.

                            2. re: jfood

                              The problem with those gift cards is not a service charge (at least to my knowledge) but the fact you have to charge a small enough amount so that a tip can be added. I have this problem all the time with people using gift cards (Visa or whatever credit card co.). I try to back down the amount, to where the charge will be accepted but that does take time (you have to keep running it through the machine to find out what it will accept). So, I don't agree that this is something the server should be dinged on. Although it sounds like there were other things that were lacking in the service dept.

                              Also, if you ask the server to put your whole order in you can't fault them for bringing everything out at once. Perhaps you could have asked them to overlap it, not send it in at the same time.

                              Still it sucks that your birthdays weren't what you were hoping for.

                              1. re: Missmoo

                                I know the cards are problematic, and to be clear, the card was only to be for about 1/3 of our total bill, the rest we were paying for on our bank card. I just think if any card is rejected, it should be brought back and asked of the guest what they would like you to do - try it again for a lesser amount, and what amount would that be, and then if that doesn't work, put the whole thing on the other card, or what? I just think it's awfully presumptuous to just "decide" some amount to put on the gift card. Had they brought it back rejected, I would have realized about the $4.95 fee and asked them to run it for $40 instead of $50. But not $25.

                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                  The cc companies recommend you authorize the cards for half the amount. Usually that works, but no higher amount will. Those cards are a pain in the ass. They should never be used in restaurants.

                            3. The long rant lost me half way through the first paragraph. How about you paraphrase what you said so more people will read it and respond?

                              1. I'm still thrown off with the 4:00 PM reservation (or even 4:30). First, someone named "rock and roller" having to eat dinner at 4:00 PM - that kid must have really changed your life. 2nd: I can't ever imagine NEEDING a reservation... anywhere... at 4 or 4:30 PM - if they were even open for dinner at that time. 3rd: the food/service issue - that gets interesting. Combined with the time, there is the possibility where the servers didn't even know what the specials might be that early. Some kitchens might not be briefing the FOH until about that time so there might be a legit (maybe) reason you didn't get to hear the specials. The "change" of servers might reflect this as well as I would think the "dinner" crew might be getting the "specials" briefing then getting on the floor. They might use a sharing system of serving as well - who knows. The most legit complaint is the undercooked food. That's just bad food. They should have mentioned that the beef bourg would not be ready for another half hour. The kitchen should not have let it go out. The app and entrees coming out together? Well, you kind of asked for it. Although MOST kitchens follow a very similar system of order and firing, not all are the same. If you want them together, you need to say so. If you want them rapid fire one after another, then you have to say that as well. The coffee issue is a service issue. The gift card piece is, well, as I was reading the post, I had a good idea where that was heading.
                                I think you were just stressing way too much with the whole baby thing.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: bobbert

                                  What can I tell you. This is one of the most popular restaurants in town, they were FULL when we arrived, almost every table was seated. Our original server was in the same room the whole time, he did not leave, was still there when we left, waiting on tables in our same section (and giving them the specials). I don't know if you have any kids, but when you're trying out a sitter on a 20 month old baby, it's not fair to the sitter or the child to have them a) feed the child dinner b) clean up after dinner c) get the child changed into nighttime diaper and PJs d) dose with Motrin for teething pain e) brush teeth f) read books g) let him watch the Thomas video of his choice h) open his iTunes playlist and rock him to 2 songs and then put him to bed. So we had to be back by his bedtime. Whether it seems lame to you or not is irrelevant, with some children, keeping to their schedule is essential, and we eat dinner at 5 most nights and are up at 5am the next day. The days of me singing with Big Brother and the Holding Company and being out til 4am on a work night are long, long gone.

                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                    I don't think you have to justify anything. Sitter problems or not. You are the paying customer. If they couldn't be flexible in your reservation time, it is their responsibility to tell you that. The restaurant screwed up. If they would have said " hey, if you are late, we are going to give you crap service"..then at least you would have had the choice to go somewhere else. If they are open for dinner at 4:30 they should be ready. Same server, thoroughly cooked food, ability to serve apps and entree's professionally (not dump them all on the table)...they should remember coffee. C'mon. The gift card thing is a pain in the ass, but they didn't seem to care much to accommodate you.

                                    I would choose somewhere else to spend my money at in the future.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      "so, we had to be back by bedtime"..

                                      well, back in the day when I had kids that age, I didn't see anything wrong with having the sitter put them to bed (and there were two of them, fourteen months apart), though I will admit that I didn't worry if they missed having their teeth brushed now and then, and of course ITUNES didn't exist,,,,,but given all of that it sounds to me like you were (as your original post implied but you later said wasn't the case) a bit stressed about having to be back by a certain time because of the nighttime routine.

                                      If the restaurant is so popular that it is full at 4, it might mean planning fairly far ahead, but next time I'd consider going out after the routine is over and the child is asleep. Might be more relaxing (although a tip from one who has been there: even if a child insists on a certain bedtime routine from his or her parents, that doesn't necessarily mean that they will insist on complying with it exactly when parents aren't around...)

                                      It could be that the server was indeed avoiding you, perhaps because he knew he'd screwed up on saying the beef should be fine (personally, I'd have changed my order as soon as I heard the word, 'should'. Or at least asked him pointedly if he was *sure* it *would* be ready.), or possibly because there was some sort of switch in service when more folks started coming in?). However, I am not sure that switching servers is grounds for complaint, unless it had an affect on the quality of service, which isn't totally clear.

                                      I DO think that running your card for a different amount than you requested is very poor service that is worth following up about.(and may have resulted from poor communication between the servers, in which case switching servers was a problem). Ditto not telling you the specials, a peeve of mine, though it is possible as others have noted that the server wasn't informed of specials till after you sat down.

                                      I am curious as to why you told them on the way out that the food was very good? Undercooked vegetables isn't 'very good' in my book, but if you do follow up, given that conversation and the fact that you said nothing to the contrary at the time, I'd probably limit my concerns to the service, not the food.

                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                        Thanks for your response. This sitter has been to our place twice already after the baby was asleep. One of the reasons we hired her is so we could (also) go do things earlier, not just late after the baby is asleep, such as go out for matinees (saving money obviously a priority after a kid, plus with the cost of a sitter) or go to the gym sometimes instead of always a late night thing. She and I talked in the interview about a series of daytime or earlier gigs where she could get a chance to actually get to know the child. We are not just looking for a warm body to sit and watch TV and eat our snacks while we are out late at night.

                                        As to why I said the food was very good, we an app, 2 entrees which we split, and a dessert. One entree had the problem of undercooked veg, everything else was perfect. To me, that's "very good." I didn't say "perfect" or "impeccable." And yes, I do plan to limit my comments to the service, not the food.

                                      2. re: rockandroller1

                                        Well, I guess if they were full at 4:30, then my possible theory of the specials/servers goes out the window. If they're that busy at that time, then the food, servers, specials, etc. should all be ready to rock and roll (pun intended) as well. Actually (at any time), if they seat you with/without reservations(doesn't matter) then they should be prepared to serve you as well. I was just guessing, from my experience, what might have happened with some of the service issues. The food problems you had are legit issues regardless of any other issue - poorly/under/overcooked food is just not good. As others have stated, the whole kid part of the story really doesn't matter to the restaurant experience. If the experience was not good, it was not good, although from your post, I can't help but feel you were stressing from the outset and it may have factored in to your overall experience. As someone who raised 5 (count em', 5) kids seven years apart, I believe the problem might be in your choice of music. Janis is just too high octane now that you're a mom. You need to chill with a little Pink Floyd or Mozart or some Miles Davis. In only 17 years, the baby will be off to college and you'll miss these days terribly :) BTW, happy birthday!

                                        1. re: bobbert

                                          :) Thanks. I promise, Janis is not in the baby's iTunes play list. It's all Dan Fogelberg et al. I'm getting older now, and Gordon Lightfoot and Christopher Cross just have more appeal. I do have Chuck Mangione and David Sanborn in the playlist too. I have chilled, for sure.

                                          I miss each day once it's passed. This time is definitely flying by.

                                        2. re: rockandroller1

                                          I don't get this. Either you the place accommodates walk-ins all the time, so it wasn't any big deal that you were a half an hour late for your reservation as you stated in your OP OR they are one of the most popular restaurants in town and were FULL when you arrived.

                                          Not really understanding the baby-sitter stuff either, but, hey, I don't have kids and - thankfully - this is not a child-rearing board.

                                          1. re: Raids

                                            I only know of maybe 1 restaurant in town that will turn away walk-ins, we are not a reservations-heavy type of city. I'm not an expert, and maybe they do turn them away depending on the time and bookings, but I did hear people coming in who did not have a reservation and they were being accommodated.

                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                              Okay, you live a magical restaurant fairy-land where a restaurant can be booked full but tables for walk-ins materialize at need. ;-)

                                              Don't worry about it, it's just inherently contradictory to me. I think you meant that they were busy but *not* "FULL." Either way, I think the restaurant should be sympathetic to your particular situation with the baby-sitter if they can be.

                                              1. re: Raids

                                                Yes, that's true. they weren't 100% full, they were busy and filling quickly.

                                                I don't expect them to be sympathetic - if they can't accommodate the change, then they can't, but just say so, ya know?

                                          2. re: rockandroller1

                                            Husband and I always eat out on weekends, and nearly always between 2 and 5. Eating at 'normal times' during the week is only because of our jobs, honestly. I don't think that's weird at all.

                                        3. Yeah, I'd go ahead and write a letter if you want, but I'm pretty sure that many restaurants never, ever read these. Although I guess I'd have to ask why you want to bother.

                                          I actually had some really appalling service last night as well. My table wasn't ready when I showed up, but the hostess actually asked me to *not* wait at the bar because they were just about to be able to pull our waiter off his private party for long enough to take our drink orders! Ha! There's no way I'm going to bother complaining it to the restaurant, as I just intend to never go back there. Once my husband sent a dish back to have it done over without a horseradish sauce that wasn't listed on the menu (and admittedly that's on the line *but*...) they agreed, messed it up again, and the manager dealt with it by bringing it out shoving it in my husband's face and asking him what was wrong with it. No joke. Won't be going back there either.

                                          But, I can understand saying something sometimes. I am really picky about tables. Sometimes I get some attitude or some uncooperative behavior about that. Sometimes I will address that when the place is somewhere I otherwise really like, because sometimes there is just a one best way to go about whatever it is, and you're causing problems by not doing that way. That's really the only time I ever bother to address anything after the fact.

                                          Here, the problem is probably that you went out at 4:30pm before the restaurant was really *ready* for dinner service. I agree with others here that they probably weren't serving the dinner specials yet because it wasn't really quite time for dinner. Granted, I suppose that's their problem, but maybe they don't want to be the kind of place that closes down the floor for two hours or serves the lunch menu right up until 5pm. I think you would have had the same experience if you had showed up at your reservation time at 4pm.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Raids

                                            Raids, please tell me that when you say the server 'shoved the dish in my husband's face', you didn't mean literally...... :-)

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              Ha ha. No, not as in he planted his face in the food, but he thrust it out right under his chin tableside, yes. Like, you know, he actually had to move his chair back to be able to see anything else. A side note: that particular restaurant has completely changed over staff since then - both kitchen and front of the house, so I guess they realized that they had a problem....

                                          2. 4.30 is a bit early to expect the 'dinner special' to be ready to serve if it's something slow-cooked... but they should have just told you that flat out and let you order something else instead. It sounds like you were treated pretty shabbily all round, and I'd complain my tail off if it was me!

                                            1. I don't have a lot of insight, but argh, sorry. Hate when a lot of little things add up to not a great time.

                                              I can't TELL you how many times we hear a server telling someone else what the specials are, and my husband and I look at each other and one of us says, "huh, they didn't tell US the specials, did they?" Often it's another server and I just think, well, we happened to get the one who doesn't tell you the specials. But this seriously happens to us ALL THE TIME. Maybe not every time we go out to eat, but close!

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: occula

                                                We also always got the "never mentions the specials" server in every restaurant so that I now make a point of asking right away, are there any specials, any soups?

                                                1. re: occula

                                                  Yeah, that "mute on the specials" server works at some of the restaurants we frequent. Occasionally, we even get his evil twin, the "no bread for you" server.

                                                  1. re: Isolda

                                                    lol! He also has a cousin at our local bar and grill where they give you popcorn instead of bread - theoretically! "Why does everyone else have popcorn? SADFACE."

                                                2. You have every right to complain about bad food and bad service.
                                                  But something tells me you probably would have just enjoyed a couple of hours alone, even with mediocre food and service, if you did not have the stress leading up to it.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: AdamD

                                                    Maybe so. Maybe also because it was a special occasion dinner, though. I sort of want those to be nicer and not have things go wrong, including before with a sitter, and during with a server. We thought about just bagging and going to a bar as I mentioned, but it just didn't seem worth paying for a server for us to go the local dive for an hour or two, and we've been trying to get back to this place for 1.5 years.

                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                      I hear you. As a parent, Ive learned to just be happy spending time together without the kids. Even with a sitter, it is very difficult for us to get away for anything more than a simple meal. Ive also found that stressing over arrangements for any occasion can very quickly turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I think it would totally be worth paying a sitter to have some time alone, no matter what the surroundings.

                                                      Unfortunately, to satisfy our desires for really great restaurant food, we do it separately, giving each other a night out with the girls or guys every couple of weeks while the other takes care of the kids. C'est la vie.

                                                  2. There's so much extraneous info in this post I honestly had a hard time figuring out what your point was, besides a general rant/b*tch session. Which is fine if that's what it is.

                                                    A bad baby sitter who doesn't show up on time has nothing to do with the restaurant experience, though it probably left you in a bad mood to start.

                                                    A restaurant that seemed hesitant to accommodate a seating time change - well if it's a hot spot that was full/nearly full even at 4-4:30, they have a right to hmm and haw over rebooking your res for later. Your babysitter issues are not their problem.

                                                    It sounds like there was confusion over your "order everything together", "fire entrees when app is placed". At most restaurants you order everything together (except dessert). It seems the server thought you meant to serve everything together - miscommunication, yes, but the best solution is just to say at the beginning you are under time limitations and, if possible, want your courses to be delivered quickly and smoothly.

                                                    And whenever I have a gift card or certificate, I always present it to the server at the beginning of the meal. That way if there are any issues about its use, surcharges or restrictions, I know upfront before ordering.

                                                    And if I got my dessert and no requested coffee, I sure as heck would mention it as a reminder! Especially as a lot of time I really want my coffee most of all and only pick at my SO's dessert.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: sockii

                                                      There was no opportunity to remind anyone, as nobody came back to see how dessert was. We requested the check when dessert was served, and that was the next visit. By then, dessert and dessert wines were gone.

                                                      1. re: sockii

                                                        I have a question - doesn't "fire entrees when apps are served" mean please expedite our entrees for service as soon as you put our apps on the table? I mean, if you order a stew, it's not like they're throwing your steak on the grill right then, right?

                                                      2. UPDATE:

                                                        I spoke to the GM yesterday, we had a very nice conversation. I stated up front that I am a fan of (OWNER'S) restaurants (he has 3 in town) and that I do not want anything, that's not why I contacted him, but there were some missteps, each one relatively minor but which added up over the course of the meal and I thought he'd want to know. He wanted me to take him through each course and mention anything that was wrong, so I did end up mentioning all of the details from my original post. I assured him that largely, our food was really great and the service was "bumpy" but I thought he'd want to know of the missteps. He said we absolutely should have received a recitation of the specials, every table does very shortly after being seated, that the special should have been done, and if it wasn't, the server should have steered me to another entree esp since I was open to doing that, agreed that if the server got weeded and had to have someone take over that the new server should have at least introduced herself and explained she was taking over so it was clear, and basically confirmed that all the missteps were missteps. He said it sounded like the app and entree were all ordered at the same time but the app was held until the food was ready (which I agree with, given the condition of the app) which was not what I intended by asking the server to place the order for all items at the same time so there's not a delay between courses. I know I said something about hoping to speed up any delay between courses so it must have just been misinterpreted. As to the credit card thing, he agreed that it should go like any other card - if rejected, bring back to guest and ask what they'd like to do next - try again for a lesser amount and if so, what amount, forget about it and say put the whole thing on the other card, pay part in cash, whatever.

                                                        He apologized for the missteps and once again asked for us to return so he could take care of dinner for us and I said that was not my intent but I appreciated his offer, and he said whenever you return, even if it's not for awhile, just let me know before you come so I can come by and say hello and I said I would.

                                                        I'm glad I had the opportunity to speak with him and appreciate those of you who weighed in on the thread with your opinions, as opposed to those who just wanted to bash me for posting "too long" of a post.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                                          I think you've handled the situation really well, both here and with the GM. Glad you got an appropriate expression of concern from him and hope you have better meals out on future Baby Escapes because parents of little ones rilly, RILLY need those time outs!

                                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                                            Sounds like it went well. I hope that you got his name and if this was a verbal conversation, follow up with a quick handwritten TY for your time note. And, the most important part, in a few months time, make another reservation, call this new contact of yours let them know you are coming and go off and enjoy. The GM will be very proud to show you how WELL the service can run, you will get some of that birthday specialness, you missed and the GM will know that you are a return customer.