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"We're not ready for our entrees yet..."

Is it okay to say that? We were at a casual place, service a little frenzied. Our appetizers and salads were served before the drinks. As we started, our entrees were served and the person (not the server) put the plates down, which was awkward w/ limited space on the table (lots of moving plates/appetizers/condiments around. She asked, "Oh, you just got started on your salads?" so she did notice. Our dinners sat, getting cold, while we finished our appetizers and salads (no drinks yet). It was so unexpected that I didn't say anything, but in hindsight, is it better to let it go, or ask that they take it back until we're ready. What's a better option: asking them to bring the food back later with it under a hot lamp (especially pork chops) or keeping the food to get cold/warm on the table w/ limited room? FWIW, we finally received our drinks midway through dinner and had to chase down the server to pay because we never saw him again. I'm also wondering if we had sent back the meals, how long it would have taken to get them back. This isn't a tipping question, or a treatment question--just what is a better option for an optimal meal given the situation?

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  1. JMO but I have worked in restaurants where things like this happened more often than I would have liked, meaning middle of the road chain type restaurants. The best choice is to leave the food on your table and eat it whenever you get to it. Taking it back will make it tougher as it will sit under the heat lamps for sure. If they brought it out after heat lamps and then everything was overdone and you complained and needed a re-fire, you'd be sitting there waiting while they hurried up and recooked your stuff so that would be even more frustrating.

    When things like this happen, I re-examine what I'm eating to determine how many calories I really need at that meal. Sometimes I might just stop eating the app/salad right then and ask for what's left of both to be boxed or thrown out so I could eat my entree while it's hot. Or I might have the entree boxed and continue to enjoy my apps/salads at a leisurely pace.

    7 Replies
    1. re: rockandroller1

      That's a good idea--I don't know why I was fixated on finishing my iceburg lettuce anyway. That can sit and be eaten after the main course. This is a small family run place and I really wanted to live it so I was kind of bummed. The food wasn't good enough to put up w/ the waits. I think a couple of the dinners would have suffered under the heat lamps but it's not like we could ask for two to be put under. Or, maybe we could have.

      1. re: chowser

        In Italy, it is customary to eat the salad at the end of the meal, so you would have been fine I think in leaving your salad until the end. The issue is the weirdly fast service -- appies/salads before drinks, fast entrees...I wonder what the rush was. I suspect it would have gone under the heat lamps had you asked to hold it back so in this case, it kind of comes down to a value judgement about how good the food would be with 10 minutes under the heat lamps.

        1. re: freia

          ...and in English (or at least "Colonial British" ) manner the salad often accompanies the mains - or at least I grew up eating Western meals in that fashion - even though I wrote in an earlier post here that I was annoyed when my main dish was brought out while I was still eating my salad. However, that was in the context of a hamburger in a USAmerican eatery and I fully expected and wanted to have my salad first.

          In fact, at times when I have been in the mood for eating salad with my mains ("English style" - see above) I have had difficulty sometimes in getting some places to bring out my entree (more of a USAmerican term, isn't it? :-) ) with my salad; or sometimes have not been quick enough to stop the busboys from whipping away my partially eaten or untouched salad (at a moment of inattention) prior to my entree arriving. Heh. At other times I have cradled my salad right next to me, "guarding it", as it were, to stop them from grabbing it! :-)

          1. re: huiray

            STEP AWAY FROM MY SALAD....LOL the image is too funny! Interesting how cultural factors have a huge play in what we expect or do in dining situations. Heck, I've had trouble replacing a main with 2 appies, as in I can't eat an appetizer plus a main (I'd be, like 500 pounds if I did that regularly) so I've ordered 2 appetizers in place of a main to be served at the same time as the other mains. Usually I'll get the 2 appetizers first, whilst my group is foodless waiting for their mains. THEN it becomes a struggle to hang onto the appies til the mains are served (Ma'am, we have to CLEAR the table before we bring out the MAINS)...sigh...

            1. re: freia

              "THEN it becomes a struggle to hang onto the appies til the mains are served (Ma'am, we have to CLEAR the table before we bring out the MAINS)"
              -------
              LOL!!

            2. re: huiray

              Ha! One of my pet dining peeves is when the waitstaff reaches for my plate without asking me for permission to take it first. If I get cranky in my old age, they could well pull back bloody stumps when attempting it!

            3. re: freia

              If I were in Italy, I wouldn't complain about anything!:-) I don't think they were rushing us, as much as it was ill timed. If they were rushing us, we wouldn't have sat there for close to 30 mins after and then have to chase down our server. I'm sure it would have gone back under the heat lamps. This was a very casual family run Greek place. If I have that experience again, I'll just eat the salad last, which now seems almost "duh" obvious.

        2. So there were appetizers AND salads but no drinks and they brought the main. I think I would have said no and faced the consequences later. I find this to be an ongoing problem at lots of restaurants where people seem to want fast, fast service. If I don't want that, I make a point of telling the server that we are in no hurry and want the meal at a leisurely pace. If that doesn't work, but I like the restaurant otherwise, then we just order as we go so there's nothing to rush and get on the table since we haven't ordered it yet. Some places don't like that, but it certainly slows down the service and that works for us.

          5 Replies
          1. re: escondido123

            I operate similarly to escondido123. We go out to relax and chat with each other. Some of our regular places remember our style, some are so trained to rush, rush, rush that we order as we go so we can manage the flow of food. Interestingly, there are rush-rush places at the higher end of the restaurants in my area. I think it is because they are so popular, management tries to get as many turns as possible at the expense of the customer's pleasurable dining experience.

            1. re: cleobeach

              I'm actually okay w/ fast turn overs, or at least understanding about them, as long as they're accommodating if I don't want to be rushed out, as you said. That wasn't the case here and I wonder if it's the standard business practice there. If so, they need bigger tables because it was all very awkward, trying to find room for everything on the table. It was like real life Tetris.

            2. re: escondido123

              I've never experienced that before--at least, not with so little time. They weren't interested in getting us in and out quickly, or in our wanting to get us in and out quickly. I think it was just poorly executed. A good 45 minutes passed, after we received our food that we had to leave our table to chased down the waiter. We only saw him once when he brought drinks. Have you had ever problems asking them to hold the dinner (I felt bad for the runner because she brought out a lot of entrees and didn't want to ask her to take them back--it wasn't her fault)? I wonder about the quality of the meals. I realize they do sit under the heat lamp until all dishes are ready to go but I'm not sure how well food holds under them w/out drying out.

              1. re: escondido123

                I'm with you. I would not have ordered my food at all till my drinks came as I don't like being rushed like that.

                1. re: wincountrygirl

                  If my first experience with a restaurant is hurried service, but good food, we'll go to this method on our subsequent visits. For example, one time at a local place, we ordered a bottle of wine, our app and our main at the same time. App came our long before the wine showed up. So we order our drinks, wait for them, then order the rest of the meal at this place. Works fine.

              2. Forcing you to wolf down your apps/salads or let your mains get cold on the table is NOT good service in ANY restaurant. I would not leave the situation to the runner or even the server. I'd ask for a manager to come to the table and let them figure it out for you. At the VERY least, I'd mention it to someone in management on the way out. It's your money (for one thing) and, for another, they need the feedback.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Midlife

                  We have endured this problem of service a few times before we learned a couple valuable lessons. The first coming at a phenomenal Canadian restaurant; Sooke Harbor House just outside of Victoria where we took a break after appetizers for a private tour of their world class wine cellar. While we were away from the table the entrees arrived and apparently sat unattended until we returned. Our server apologized when he learned the sommelier had given us an unexpected tour. A minute later the chef came out and asked if we would mind waiting another 15 minutes while the kitchen prepared 2 new entrees. Now we apologized and said it wasn't necessary but the chef insisted stating his food was meant to be enjoyed at service temp and he simply took them away and disappeared. While we waited he sent out a plate of cold seafood that they used in a salad course which we enjoyed while waiting for the new entrees. There was never any doubt that he was cooking complete new meals and the results were phenomenal. A second lesson we learned was dining in NYC's theater district on the day of matinee performances. Our waiter assumed we had tickets for a show and needed to be expedited so food piled on food until the table groaned and we knew we were being rushed. When we stayed for coffee and dessert our waiter asked if we were going to risk being late.

                  Ever since then we have informed the maitre' d of any time constraints and repeated the same info to our waiter. On those occasions when dining with friends is expected to be leisurely and extended we tell that to the same people asking if that might prove a problem. Once seated we tell the waiter that we'd prefer to order our courses one by one to ensure they match our dining flow, pairing with wines, conversation etc. Only once have we been refused that request. But for the most part we control our destiny and our dinner timing. Even at the most humble trattorias and bistros food is meant to be enjoyed at serving temp; neither cold or dried out. It is your money and your right to demand satisfaction.

                2. I prefer this to the type of restaurant where the wait between apps/salad and the main course stretches on ad infinitum. There's a new Italian place in town where the food is quite good, but the chef is clearly overwhelmed. Entrees arrive haphazardly, with a 10 minute wait between invidual diners at the same table getting their main course. I think this is a worse offense.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: whs

                    A ten minute wait between individual entrees is ridiculous. I stopped eating at The Green Room in Carlisle PA because of this practice.

                  2. I've had this happen on enough occasions that I now change my ordering style.

                    If I want an app I may order it with the drink order. Most times I order it once the drinks arrive. They are better at getting out the drinks in a timely manner if the order hasn't yet been placed...If I'm ordering a salad I inquire about the timing. At some place where I know mains are served quickly I ask them to wait until the salad is served before they put in the rest of the order.

                    Doesn't always work, but 90% of the time it takes care of it. One particular chain can't manage it with salads - I have stopped ordering them at that place because of it.