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Oct 4, 2011 09:26 AM

Special Occasion Dining - what are your expectations?

My husband and I recently celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. We decided to go to brunch at the hotel we spent our wedding night. The location has a lot of sentimental value - we also went there the morning after we got engaged, and (sadly) was the spot we went to after his father passed away.

When making the reservation, we requested a two-top by the window, and also noted it was our anniversary.

When it came time to seat us, the window seats were occupied. Because of the breakfast hour, the 6 tables by the window seemed to turn over quickly (at least they did while we were there). I don't know if this is true, but it appeared as if they didn't make any attempt to reserve the requested table. I realize that all table requests cannot be accommodated, but it would have been nice if they tried.

Aside from that, the thing that rubbed me the wrong way was no mention of the special occasion. I didn't desire anything to be comped, but a simple "Happy Anniversary" from the hostess or waitstaff would have been sufficient. It obviously didn't ruin our experience, but I found myself surprised they didn't mention it.

So - it got me thinking about what the general consensus was for special occasion dining and made me wonder if they dropped the ball a bit. I realize I'm there to DINE and it is not their responsibility to congratulate me on whatever event is occurring in my life - but, I definitely think a simple 'Happy Birthday" or "Congratulations" in such events, goes a long way.

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  1. I recently celebrated a round b-day at Tinto's in Philly. While the food was nice, it ended up being a lot more money than I would've wanted to spend on 'nice' food, as opposed to *outstanding* food. I guess that was to be expected, given that it's not a fine dining establishment.

    I had mentioned, however, on my opentable rez that this was a birthday celebration, and the dessert (a slice of chocolate mousse cake) came with a little candle. Nice touch.

    I think if they hadn't acknowledged the occasion, I might have been a bit peeved... because if I didn't give a shit, why would I have mentioned it in the first place? So I get your disappointment.

    1. Whenever I have mentioned in a reservation request that I am celebrating something, most finer restaurants have acknowledged this in a discreet but warm manner. I've had any one of these happen: a comped dessert; a comped drink; "Happy _____" written in chocolate on the plate rim of a dessert; and warm wishes from the waiter. I think it is part of the service of a finer restaurant to acknowledge this if you mention it at the time of reservation. Many restaurants want to know about special occasions beforehand and have plans in place to acknowledge and help celebrate the fact.

      1. My expectations for a special occasion meal are pretty much my expectations for every restaurant meal. - good food and service. I don't always have my expecations met for every meal but try to ensure they are for speciall occasions by ensuring the reservation is at a place where good food and service is pretty much guaranteed.

        I have never mentioned to a restaurant that it was a special occasion and never would. Of course, that means we miss out on the freebie that seems to be the reason why folk would mention it. I am more than happy to miss out on it.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Harters

          It's pretty clear that the original poster had no such intention: " I didn't desire anything to be comped, but a simple "Happy Anniversary" from the hostess or waitstaff would have been sufficient." There is absolutely nothing wrong with requesting a table when reserving and nothing wrong with mentioning a special occassion.

          1. re: lifeasbinge

            Entirely agree that the OP appears not to have an intent of seeking a freebie - although the first two respondents clearly did - but presumably had some intent, otherwise she wouild not have mentioned at the time of making the booking.

            1. re: Harters

              "Entirely agree that the OP appears not to have an intent of seeking a freebie - although the first two respondents clearly did..."

              I guess that means me. Let me clarify a bit: I have worked in the service industry and I know for a fact that many finer restaurants have policies in place for guests that are celebrating a special occasion. They WANT to to know this so they can be accommodating. Remember: very good to stellar service means a slightly larger tip for the wait staff and helps to ensure that the guest will be a repeat customer. It's all part of the business called running a restaurant.

              1. re: Harters

                I don't remember mentioning any "freebies", or expectation thereof.

                1. re: Harters

                  My intent in mentioning it was to increase the odds of getting a 2-top by the window (where we spent the other mentioned memorable occasions)....

                  It's also been my experience that people seem to be more congenial when it's a special occasion - but, perhaps that's only because there's something to discuss that the patron is excited about.

            2. Your post just made me think of when Mr. Huntress and I celebrated our first anniversary last year. We went for degustation at his favourite and restaurant and one that I had desperately wanted to try for quite some time (having been a single mum and a student previously the pleasure was well out of my reach). As we were seated we were asked if we were celebrating anything in particular and we mentioned it was our first anniversary. The waiter congratulated us and the evening went on with dish after delicious dish being presented. I completely forgot that we'd mentioned it was our anniversary so when the second dessert course arrived with 'Happy Anniversary' in chocolate over our plates I was very surprised and felt, well, kind of warm and fuzzy about it. I never expected such a thing, but it was a nice touch. I suppose it is nice to have such occasions acknowledged with a congratulations (or whatever is appropriate for the occasion), but as long as the food and service is good that's good enough for me.

              6 Replies
              1. re: TheHuntress

                Why mention the anniversary in the first place? What were you hoping to achieve by this? You said you didn't expect anything so what was the point in telling them, did you really want some random person to wish you a happy anniversary whilst you were having brunch?

                1. re: davidne1

                  I'm sorry, but are you replying to my post, or the OP? Because in mine I do specifically mentioned that we were asked by the waiter if we were celebrating a particular occasion.

                    1. re: davidne1

                      I assumed the OP told them it was an anniversary in the hopes that it would mean the table request would be filled.

                  1. re: davidne1

                    I always let a restaurant know when we're celebrating so they don't anticipate an hour long table turn. When we celebrate, it's often a 3+ hour occasion (especially since having a baby- the nights out are so much rarer that we maximize). I don't want a freebie of any sort.

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      "I always let a restaurant know when we're celebrating so they don't anticipate an hour long table turn."

                      That is an excellent reason. I'm glad you mentioned it.

                2. It is a nice touch, but definitely not required or even expected depending on the place and the occasion.

                  I also think that you going there for brunch makes for less of an expectation of acknowledgement than dinner would (I'm sure others will disagree with me <g>). How nice is the hotel? What price point is the brunch/dinner/overall menu?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                    It's the nicest hotel in the area - 5-star, long history of service, etc. They used to do a brunch that was $75/pp, but they scaled it down to exclude what you'd normally find in high-end hotels, and it's $30/pp.

                    1. re: The Oracle

                      Sounds like it's a former 5 star hotel and they are scaling back on some "high end" perks one would usually find.