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Humiliating experience at Dettera

I went out with three girlfriends to Ambler restaurant week last night. We had an absolutely amazing and fantastic dinner at Massa and were not yet ready to end our night so we walked over to Dettera for a few drinks. When we arrived, we sat at the bar and asked the hostess if we could sit and have our drinks at one of the open downstairs booths. She said that she could instead seat us at a table upstairs. I completely understand that some restaurants have a policy to only seat people ordering meals at a table, so we were very clear to the hostess that we were just getting drinks. When we were seated there were a number of open tables so we figured that is why it was no big deal . When the waiter arrived at our table, we made it clear again that we were just ordering drinks. He said it was no problem at all. We placed our drink order, and kept a menu at the table because we planned to order a few more drinks and perhaps an appettizer later. Honestly, the prices on the wine list and drink menu are really high so we could have easily wound up spending more than some people who order just food. Anyway, after a fairly long wait our drinks do not arrive but a gentleman in a suit came to our table, I am assuming he was the manager. He bent down and told me we needed to leave because only customers ordering food were allowed to sit at tables. I explained to him that we understood that policy, but communicated to his staff each step of the way that our intention was to order drinks, so did not understand why he was bringing this up now and in this matter. His response was that it was their policy and we needed to leave. Immeadiiately. No apology for the miscommunication andconfusion from the staff, no offer to move our drink order to the bar, just a demand to leave. He stood there and stared at our table as we put on our jackets, it felt as if we were being escorted out of the restaurant. Every single other customer in the restaurant was staring at us at this poit, whispering about what was going on. We are four middle aged professional women, and were all completely humiliated by this.

We go to Deterra often, and I have been a huge supporter of the restaurant on these boards. But as a paying customer, and somewhat regular customer, I have never been treated that way before. Again, I understand the policy of not letting people just ordering drinks sit at a table, but I question the judgement of a manager who would treat us that way. I do not plan to go back.

On a positive note, we left and went to Cafe Maida for fabulous cappuccino and nutella gelato and did not let this incident ruin our otherwise fantastic evening. Our dinner at Massa was so good. Their creme bulee was the best I ever had!

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  1. I'm sorry you had that experience, but it confirms my feeling that the management at Dettera is not particularly interested in making its customers feel welcome. Although it's a beautiful restaurant and the food is good most of the time, I've always felt less than valued there.

    1. Wow AG! That was totally uncalled for. I have never felt completely comfortable with the staff at Dettera. We have not been back for a very long time because of the way we have been treated. After all, it is just a restaurant in Ambler. If they don't want to treat the locals respectfully, who do they think will support their restaurant?

        1. re: Buckethead

          As do I.

          that is just inexcuseable! (shakes head in wonder)

          1. Wow. Just, Wow. I'm sorry, you are a restaurant in Ambler. You aren't the freakin' Ritz.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mofo43

              Agreed. The Ritz would have more class.

              1. re: mofo43

                the Ritz would never have treated customers like this.

              2. I knew there was a reason I didn't want to go there.....thanks AG!

                1. I'm going to avoid Dettera until you post back with a satisfactory response from them.

                  1. Just to add to my comment, I know a bartender who worked there and has since left. He was told not to be too friendly with the customers (i.e., talk to them about anything but drink choices).

                    1. Count me (and my friends and my family) in with those who will avoid the place. I refuse to reward sh*tty behavior with my business. Far too many other places who treat their customers with respect to waste time and money here.

                        1. re: Bigley9

                          We have been to Dettera a few times since opening and have always felt that something about management just doesn't value the customer's satisfaction. There is always something standoffish about the place and we have permanently crossed it off our list. We dine out at least 3 times a week and are local and would happily include it, were it not for the fact that there are a number of other places that are a better value and always make their customers feel welcome and appreciated. Clearly, the owners of Dettera just don't get it.

                        2. As noted on the Deterra website, the owner is a building contractor living out his dream of having an upscale wine bar/restaurant. While his talents may have translated into a formidable interior space, he obviously knows nothing of the hospitality industry or how to hire personnel. It sounds like the manager who gave you the heave-ho had "bouncer" on his resume and that was good enough. Thanks for the heads up. I'll make sure others know about this.

                          1. Thats terrible, why not just sit at the bar it's beautiful!

                            1. Geez...that's awful. I feel bad that you and your friends were treated so poorly--especially since you have been there often. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth about this restaurant. We're always on the look for restaurants in the Philly area--our two favorites are Spring Mill Cafe and Parc. One of the reasons I love SMC is that the staff is so cordial and we are always treated so warmly. That is really important. Don't think I would ever attempt to go to a place like Deterra. Nobody deserves poor treatment.

                              1. Dettera seems to be confusing arrogance and rudeness with upscale. I suggest they, whom ever that may be in their organization, visit some of the better CC establishments to evolve their understanding of upscale. Ok it has been redesigned nicely and they have somewhat improved
                                the food and prices: They could be giving away food and I could not be tempted to partake. Oh, the reason "for not just sitting at the bar" is that the customer, who was clear on their seating request and had it approved at two levels, did not want to sit at the bar. Dettera is the poster child for pseudo sophistication, give me a break.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Bacchus101

                                  It seems to me the customer was told that booths were for diners & then given 2 choices the bar or the upstairs lounge with the fireplace. I am not sure how they did get to be seated at a booth but i would think that they persisted until they got there way. It was Saurday night during restaurant week, those empty tables may have been help for reservations.
                                  I had dinner at Dettera last night and it excellent, the food is definetly as good as anywhere in Ambler or Philadelphia.

                                  1. re: Foodmavin

                                    FM, maybe I missed it, but point out where they were seated at a booth. As I read it, they asked for a booth but accepted the choice of the upstairs table. You may owe the OP an apology.

                                    The food isn't the issue here, it's how customers are treated.

                                    1. re: Foodmavin

                                      It doesn't seem to me that the issue here is food or atmosphere at this restaurant. What's at issue is the arrogant stance of management pertaining to these patrons. Clearly, most of the posters here agree.

                                      1. re: Foodmavin

                                        "It seems to me the customer was told that booths were for diners & then given 2 choices the bar or the upstairs lounge with the fireplace. I am not sure how they did get to be seated at a booth but i would think that they persisted until they got there way."

                                        Read the OP again. They sat at the bar themselves, asked to move to a table, were told by two different restaurant employees that it was no problem, then the manager showed up and asked them to leave.

                                        1. re: Foodmavin

                                          When we arrived, we sat at the bar. We noticed a number of open booths downstairs so my friend approached the hostess to see if we could sit at one of the booths. While the bar is lovely, we thought a booth would be more conducive to conversation. If she said no, we would have happily stayed at the bar. We were not persistent, we only approached her once. She said she would see what she could do and came back with an offer to seat us upstairs. I was a bit surprised but noticed a number of empty tables both upstairs and downstairs. Even though it was restaurant week, it was fairly late so most diners were finishing up. I do think the atmosphere and food are good, and have posted many positive reviews and recommendations on these boards. It pained me to be treated like that in a place that I frequent and have actively supported.

                                          1. re: AmblerGirl

                                            AG, you seem assuaged by your conversation with the owner. Yes? Will you be returning in the near future? I will stop by next week to see if I can notice any change in attitude. I , as you, hope this dustup has had some positive effects going foward

                                            1. re: Bacchus101

                                              Based on my discussion with the owner, he truly does seem to have positive intent. Hopefully that will translate onto his staff. This service issue seems to be a broad issue there (not just related to my experience) so I hope there is a positive change in general. They seem to have already lost a lot of customers due to their service issues. I hope the staff takes this seriously as a broad issue and not think this is about just one "complainer". It really boils down to the staff. The owner offered to treat me to dinner to make up for it and I will likely go back again as well. I do think they have a potential to be a truly great restaurant, their food and atmosphere is great. They just need to stop turning off people with service.

                                      2. Alright, the moderator pulled my last resonse so let me try again. First of all, that is the worst example of customer service I have heard of in a long time. Secondly, it might be worth you contacting the owner for satisfaction, rather than the manager.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: truffles2

                                          I did contact Dettera through their website and will let you know if I get a response. I am not sure who monitors the website communications but , truffles, to your point it may just be the managers. If the response is not satisfactory I may have to contact the owner

                                          1. re: AmblerGirl

                                            Yeesh, if that is how they treat customers I shudder to think how they treat their staff...

                                            1. re: AmblerGirl

                                              The owner is Frank Lutter, (which is on the website under history.)

                                              He is also a a contractor in Ambler, and you can find a phone number for him on the web (I will not post it here.). So you should be able to reach out to him directly. Good luck and keep us posted. I personally will stay at the Shanachie enjoying a beer rather than going down the street to Dettera.

                                              1. re: cwdonald

                                                Sorry to hear this. I had out-of-town guests over the holidays & finally made it to Deterra.
                                                I won't go again to Dettera, and we live 2 minutes away. Staff needs a training session on hospitality & a welcoming, homey attitude.

                                          2. Like truffles 2, the moderator pulled my response, I guess because it was deemed to be too immoderate. Obviously, the manager's behavior was well out of bounds, to put it mildly. I could say more, but it has already been said. I have been to Dettera and have found the bartenders and wait staff to be knowledgeable and accommodating, even if a bit stiff. I echo others' advice to contact the owner directly since he/they may be unaware. On a more positive note, AG, I am pleased that so many responded to your situation. I know that you are a frequent contributor and I intend to support others in avoiding Dettera until the situation is resolved. After all, this is what Chowhound is about-- the free exchange of opinions!

                                            1. Here is an update. I contacted Detterra through their website and within a few hours was contacted by the owner. We had a nice conversation, he was extremely professional and gracious and took a real interest in the issue. He said he was still looking into the service issues on his side but wanted to contact me immeadiately to let me know he was working on it. I was really impressed with the response.

                                              I am really glad that he responded the way he did. I have been going to Detterra frequently since they opened (I was even there for their soft opening). I know others have had issues with the service over the years but I had been really happy with the service, and often defended them on these boards. That is why the issue on Saturday night was especially disappointing to me. I am really hoping it was a glitch. Based on everyone's resopnses, it looks like they may have these service issues frequently. When people are treated in that manner, they often do not speak up or complain but instead simply choose not to return. I am a huge supporter of Ambler restaurants and I want them to succeed, I genuinely hope they get these issues fixed, before they turn off too many customers. The owner seemed sincere about it, hopefully that will translate onto his staff. It really is a gorgeous restaurant with great food.

                                              9 Replies
                                                1. re: AmblerGirl

                                                  so glad he responded! I hope he'll be able to work these issues out.

                                                  1. re: AmblerGirl

                                                    Good start let's see what happens from here.

                                                    1. re: Bacchus101

                                                      It already happend. Obviously this is blown way out of proportion.
                                                      AG spoke to the owner, I am sure each side gave a little and now it's over.
                                                      Dettera is a first class restaurant and a solid addition to the scene in Ambler.
                                                      It will continue, and we are happy to have it on Butler Pike!

                                                      1. re: Foodmavin

                                                        That doesn't seem obvious at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

                                                        1. re: Foodmavin

                                                          The transgressions of the management at Dettera would not be those of a "first class" restaurant. The only thing obvious is that through the actions reported here and frequently at other places : There is , at the very least , a need for an attitude adjustment toward people of good will entering expecting hospitality and respect along with their drink and food.

                                                      2. re: AmblerGirl

                                                        I e-mailed him this thread on Monday or Tuesday.

                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                          Has Dettera disabled their website?