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What's up with DC service?

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Ok, I'm from Los Angeles so you can start ragging on that....

But, have been in DC since Saturday & almost all of our dinning experiences have been not very good. We had brunch at Masa 14, happy hour at District Chophouse, dinner at Oyamel & Graffiato. The food has been OK (Oyamel the best), but service was pretty bad.

In every instance our waiter/waitress hovered. At Masa she she came by every 3-5 minuets to ask if things were OK. I want the wait staff to not ignore me, but if I say things are OK once I don't need to be asked a half dozen times.

What was worse the bus staff kept filling our water after we took a sip or two. They would also come by & take our plates away without asking and a bite or two left (Masa). several times staff would place them selves between my wife & I as we were having a conversation.

Another issue was that they would not bring out my wife 's & my's food out at the same time. In every instance there was a 5-10 minute difference.

Is this the norm in DC?

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  1. I'm also from LA, and go to DC periodically (in fact, will be there in a few days), and have never experienced what you describe, at least not on a serial basis.

    Bad service exists in every city, and is certainly not isolated or unique to DC.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      but the service was bad. Yes I've had bad service in LA, but not on consecutive experiences.

    2. They're filling your water glasses regularly? Checking periodically to see if you need anything? Taking away dirty dishes? Yes, that's the norm.

      3 Replies
      1. re: flavrmeistr

        regularly?......when it becomes intrusive....when I still have food on the plate? Every 3-5 minutes is not periodically. Ask me before you take away my plate.

        1. re: tesh11

          "F**k off, I'm full."
          --Mr. Creosote, "The Meaning of Life"

          1. re: tesh11

            It depends on how you're pacing your meal. If you're going to be hovering over a plate of food for half an hour, being asked if everything's OK every 3 minutes could indeed feel like you're being rushed. I drink a lot of water and I really appreciate a server who keeps my glass full (but better is one who leaves a pitcher at my table).

            I don't eat in fancy enough places where they come around every few minutes so I've never experienced that. What bugs me is when I'm finished and I sit, and sit, and sit, and when my server or surrogate finally comes over and asks if I'm finished, and then I wait and wait for the check, and wait again for change, that's really annoying.

            I ate at a BBQ place in the LA area once where there was a little statue of a cow or a pig on each table, with a flagpole. If you wanted service, you raised the flag and someone would come over. If you didn't, you could probably sit there all day. I guess the modern day equivalent was to say to the server "Give me your phone number and I'll text you when I need something."

        2. Well, hovering, & continually filling your water glass doesn't sound like a problem to me, you could have a lot worse service, sorry it wasn't like LA...

          1. I've never experienced having the dishes served at different times.

            Never had anyone take my plate without asking.

            Maybe they were super-slammed that night and needed to turn tables? Maybe you were camping?

            I have experienced the hovering, though not often. And in many cities, not just DC.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Just Visiting

              According to studies about tipping, obsequiousness (including behaviors like hovering) are one of the few things that servers can actually do to increase tips.

              1. re: cresyd

                Interesting. Never knew that and I actually find it annoying, especially given that I never camp at a table unless we are clearly the last seating, and rarely then because staff want to clean up and go home.

                I've never been a server (thank goodness!) but I don't understand why people expect them to read the minds of total strangers to know which of them like speedy service, which leisurely, when to clear the plates (everyone done or don't leave my plate in front of me even if I'm the only one finished). The exact same service will please one person and annoy another. Even if a server asks "may I clear your plate" and I say yes, it may still annoy my companions who feel the question shouldn't even be asked while someone is still eating.

                Table waiting: can't make anyone happy any of the time?

                1. re: Just Visiting

                  Being the original poster:

                  1) we were not camping out.

                  2) I should have used the word intrusive. The wife & I were trying to have conversations when the wait staff would put themselves between us to fill the water or take the plates or the waitress would interrupt our conversation to ask if things were OK

                  3) At Graffiato the manager did notice that we were not happy & did comp a drink after we expressed our displeasure.

            2. Having eaten at all the restaurants you mentioned, I would say yes, that is the norm for those particular restaurants. 

              1. If you are talking all about Masa I think what you were dealing with is a small plates restaurant---so they are likely to deliver food and clear food in a fashion that isn't timed all at the same time. Also their brunch is crazy because you can order off of the entire menu with no limits so they probably think they are helping you.

                That said, if you didn't like something about the service you should have just spoken up and said you don't need your glass filled anymore, or that "everything is great. You don't need to check in as often."

                I hear complaints about service in DC sometimes but I don't think we are any worse than any other city. I've had amazing service here and not amazing service---same as all the other cities I travel to often (Boston, Detroit, NYC etc).

                Perhaps it also has to do with the style of restaurants you choose---mostly small plates. With that they are likely going to bring the dishes out as they are ready and check in far more often.

                1. I was fortunate to spend several days in Santiago, Chile. Generally, at the nicer sit-down joints, I thought the entire staff was operating at a snails pace. I grew up being told if I don't do my job right and move my ass, there is somebody right behind me that's going to do it (better). Maybe we're just a little frenetic here on the east coast....

                  1. There's a shortage of experienced servers in DC. That might have been your particular problem (you caught three rookies). It's hard to get the right balance between hovering and leaving someone alone, though. Some people have different preferences. I've never noticed this in DC, but that's probably because I've been in a restaurant in which the staff just literally stared at me.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pgm123

                      Where is the proof that there is a shortage of experienced servers in DC vs. anywhere else?