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Managed Expectations--where do you fall?

I was at a dance convention that went well into the night at a hotel and we had two hours for dinner between performances. We decided the best bet was the hotel restaurant--a full fledged restaurant w/ attached bar. There might have been 7-8 tables of people so not busy. We sat for 20 minutes before we were given water and told the server would be right with us. In the meantime, we saw some friends who told us it took them 35 minutes between ordering and getting their food and they had to go to the bar to get their drinks. We decided to tough it out since it was late at night. Another 25 minutes goes by, we're not able to flag anyone so we leave.

I was talking to someone about it afterward who told me I had unrealistic expectations. She said if I were a more experienced business traveler I would know that a hotel restaurant (this was a Marriott, not a small cheap place) would be like that. Were we unrealistic? I wasn't expecting good food and expected to pay a lot. I wasn't expecting to serve myself at the bar and to wait that long but this person was almost rolling her eyes at my reaction. What do you expect in a higher end hotel restaurant?

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  1. I am a firm believer in Murphy's Law, so if I have a window of time that I must adhere to, I telegraph it (nicely) to everyone I encounter...the person who seats me, the person who brings me water, the person who hands me the menu (if that's a different person).

    That said, 45 minutes in a place without food? I'd be throwing salt shakers or setting my napkin on fire.

    1. I think your friend has it wrong. Hotel restaurants that are used to a lot of business travelers are usually very prompt and even brusque in their service. After all, most business travelers are not eating in the hotel restaurant because they are out for a fun evening. They are either tired and hungry, have an appointment to get to or have more work to do.

      Sounds like the restaurant was severely understaffed that night, maybe in the kitchen too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: pamf

        I know exactly the type of Marriott you're talking about. Clearly they were understaffed, something.....b/c most of those Marriott's have a least ONE person on duty (out front) at all times.

        Me? I would have gone in the back to find someone, lol!, or gone to the mgr at the front desk!

        1. re: pamf

          I was wondering about it being understaffed but we saw quite a few workers wandering here and there in the restaurant. They seemed to have mastered the art of looking at the floor and away from customers.

          1. re: chowser

            "They seemed to have mastered the art of looking at the floor and away from customers."

            Eye contact is what happens immediately preceding death.

        2. A Marriot is not a higher end hotel restaurant. I view them as solidly mid-range. That said, your experience was pretty shabby but I wouldn't say surprising. Hardly anyone eating there isn't staying there so they aren't trying to get the best service to attract customers. But if you told me that was the service you had at a 4 Seasons or Ritz, I would be surprised.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bkeats

            "Higher" not high end. Higher as in not Holiday Inn. If I were talking about the Ritz (which is a Marriott hotel), I would have said high. But, I would put some Marriotts at the range just below those. I wasn't looking for "best" service that you'd receive at the 4 Seasons, just some service.

          2. That is a ridiculous amount of time to wait in any restaurant before ordering. There is no excuse for that outside of a kitchen fire, a medical emergency, or some other catastrophic event. Further, a restaurant in a hotel should be familiar with how fully occupied the hotel is and should staff accordingly.

            1. She said if I were a more experienced business traveler I would know that a hotel restaurant (this was a Marriott, not a small cheap place) would be like that. Were we unrealistic?


              I travel alot, and while I try to avoid them, I've eaten at my fair share of hotel restaurants. Aside from *generally* having nondescript, gussied-up Denny's fare (with the exception of resort hotels and/or upscale boutique hotel restaurants), most business and/or mid-range hotel restaurants are just that -- restaurants. They're essentially a Denny's attached to a big, tall building with lots of rooms for rent at a daily (hopefully not hourly) rate.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                I would have been fine w/ Denny's type. This tried to be more upscale, like donkatsu style tomatoes three ways w/mozarella in balsamic. It was like it was trying too hard but we only wanted "dressed up" sandwiches, something we thought might be fast. I used to travel a lot for business and never experienced this at any level hotel but it's been a while. We do travel a lot for pleasure, though, and this is a first.

              2. Thanks for the responses. I was kind of bewildered that she thought it was my being that naive and not the restaurant and wondered if everyone else had those expectations.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chowser

                  No I think you are right - and this is one instance where I would take the time and complain to corporate.Big chain hotels do nothing but advertise service and charge you an arm and a leg for it so that it what customers should expect. When I get crappy service in a Marriott there's only one thing that makes me feel better - and that's 15,000 Marriott points. That's what a "more experienced traveler" does.

                2. The woman is full of it and talking out of her arse.

                  Your expectations were completely within reason. That restaurant has issues and I would nicely send a summation of the experience to management.

                  I never have high expectations in this situation. But this was just extremely poor service.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: meatn3

                    I agree. You were in there for one purpose: to eat. The servers are there to see to it that you do. I think your expectations were realistic, and I would have left too.

                  2. 45 minutes from the time you were seated, and all that's happened is you've gotten water?

                    No, that's just bad service, which is very different from a relaxed leisurely meal at a fine restaurant.

                    1. Tip of the day. When you go to any restaurant and 'get the vibe' that the service is not up to reasonable expectations do this: Call whoever seated you over. Very sweetly ask them what their name is if they don't have a name tag. If they do have a name tag look at the tag and say. "We have limited time tonight 'Sally' so we need to have the waiter take our orders". Watch her/his reaction carefully. If they 'come-alive' and respond positively you may be in luck. If not ask him/her to borrow their pen for a moment. When they hand you the pen write the name 'Sally' on something.
                      If this doesn't work walk over the bar and ask for the name of the chef/head of house/manager. Do this very sweetly of course. At some point someone somewhere is going to clue in that you are in fact very likely to be a customer they will regret ever ****** off. This approach has worked a few times for me. As if by magic it seems as if the whole restaurant staff wants to make sure your experience is a positive one.
                      Once we were given a little booklet of 'discount' coupons for some hotels/restaurants b/c the person who bought into the 'scam' IMO said they'd never use them. We were driving from Toronto to Victoria. We stop a 'chain' hotel in Winnipeg and I give the discount coupon to the woman behind the registration desk. She looked at it and acted like I had handed her a piece of dog poop. Anyway we were handed the room key. The room was filthy. The coffee table was broken. Half the lights didn't work etc. I had noticed on the back of the coupon in very small print that if the 'presenter' of the coupon wasn't completely satisfied with the accommodation the owner, a Mr. Furook or whoever it was should be contacted in person at the phone number given. I had written 'Mr. Furook's name and phone number down fortunately. I went down to the desk and told the woman I wished to use the phone. I said: "I know Mr. Furook well and I am very disappointed in the condition of our room and I am going to call him now and tell him so. What is your name please?" "There is no need to bother Mr. Furook please. I will personally see that you are moved to another more suitable room please". We were shown to what had to be the 'luxury suite' complete with hastily placed cut flowers in all the rooms. Room service was 'compted' and so was our dinner including drinks. When I went down to pay in the morning a new person was at the desk. "Mr. Furook has asked that you to be his guest so there is no charge. Please come back anytime".
                      My point is there is no reason any reasonable guest/customer ought to ever feel they have been 'screwed over' if they are willing to be 'pro-active' when required.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Puffin3

                        Excellent point. The OP did not have the wrong expectation. It was bad service. But it is not good to sit and wait for 45 minutes. Take actions!

                        1. re: Puffin3

                          That is a good tact. I have found that sometimes being nice but taking action elicits a good response. I have friends who tend to get angry and then take action and the results are less thank stellar. Also eating at the bar is my go to when I need to eat quickly, you tend to get faster service and it's always interesting at a hotel/

                        2. You were right to leave. You weren't being unrealistic...it was just plain old everyday bad service.

                          I've had it happen, did everything in my power to make it right, including empathizing with a manager who used the excuse 'they were poorly staffed, and still ended up getting lousy service.
                          There are just some restaurants, and employees, that don't care to go out of their way to give the service that's expected.
                          Chalk it up, check it off and never go back.

                          1. In a vaguely similar situation, I googled the phone number of the hotel and called, then asked for the number at the restaurant.
                            The person who answered was at the bar and was quite surprised when I asked if someone could deliver water to our table.
                            The quality of our service didn't really improve, but the speed did.

                            4 Replies
                              1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                Smart thinking. I'll have to keep that in mind. Although if I tried that, there would be no answer. After we were seated, the line to sit down grew (as I said, we were kind of a captive group) and they waited a good 10 minutes w/ no one to seat them until they just left.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  You could call the Hotel Front Desk again, then?

                                  "I tried the Restaurant but I didn't get an answer."
                                  --Some sort of conciliatory response from clerk.
                                  "Can I speak to someone in management?"
                                  --Some sort of conciliatory yet confused response from clerk.
                                  "Well, you see, I'm currently Sitting IN The Restaurant and I'm not being served."

                                  1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                    I have gone to the kitchen door on a few occasions, staying well out of the way, innocently saying "I was searching for my server - were they perhaps on break?"

                                    Always had someone at the table within minutes and service stayed at the ready after that.

                              2. It really, really varies depending on WHERE the hotel is. I live in a decent sized city and our Marriott restaurant is horribly, horribly slow ALL THE TIME. They are not understaffed. I work in an attached building so at times when I started here I would try to have lunch there and every time it was 2 hours for lunch for not even Denny's quality food.

                                In my travels, hotel restaurants in smaller cities are much the same.

                                In BIG cities, no way is it like that. They do cater to traveling business professionals (as opposed to leisure lodgers, which I think most suburban hotels focus on) and the pace is very different.

                                1. 45 minutes until an order is taken is not OK anywhere, even at the busiest place on a holiday. Your friend, if a server, is only trying to defend the worst of the breed.

                                  1. hotel restaurants are, for the most part, conveniences. money is made on rooms and banquets.

                                    that being said, your experience was unacceptable and why you sat so long without taking action is beyond me. no need to be aggressive or rude, but you're utterly within reason to get up and try to get help.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      We tried to flag people down as they went by us and were either ignored or told, "We'll be right with you." There was no one at the front desk, with a fast growing line. At some point, we just became incredulous at the service and were watching to see how everyone else was treated. We saw one table get up and move in hopes of getting better service, w/ utter fail. Our friends who were seated half an hour before us and bought their own drinks at the bar because they were told to, were eventually served so it gave me hope. Added to which, daughter in full stage make up didn't want to leave the hotel to get food but finally agreed. In hindsight, we'd handle it differently. If this is supposed to be par for the course, then we'll never eat in a business hotel restaurant but if it's unusual (as it seems from this thread), we probably will. Long day of dancing, teens in what looks like Jon Benet make up, unfamiliar in town where parking is difficult, in the dark it's sometimes the best option.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        i would have gone to the front desk if you were so captive and the restaurant was so disorganized. totally unacceptable. again, no need to be rude or aggressive, just keep climbing the chain of command.

                                        i have had varying degrees of satisfaction at marriotts. feh.

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          I'm frustrated w/ Marriotts right now and am ready to sign up w/ another company. I know I was too passive but it had been a long day/weekend (long story w/ the hotel rooms being out of power overnight) and I just wanted food. Other people just ended up ordering Dominos and were served in less than half an hour, ironically.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            i get the long-day/tired thing. sorry your night was a bummer.