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Jul 27, 2013 07:51 PM

To comp or not to comp

...that is my question. My wife, 3 yo son & I went to a gourmet pizza place much lauded on this board. We have been eager to go there for years, and the stars were aligned on Friday evening. We were the first family in at 5 PM & quickly placed our order. Our son is an excellent eater & very well behaved at restaurants, but has his limits like most toddlers. We ordered an app, which was delivered on time & well executed. Then, 1 of our 2 pizzas arrived. I waited about 5 minutes, then asked a server (not our waitress) to check on our 2nd pizza. 15 minutes later, still no pizza. Our waitress had not been to our table to check on anything, so finally had the opportunity to check with her after she served a table that was seated immediately next to us. I asked her for a refill of iced tea (glasses were empty) at the same time. The other server came back in a few minutes & said the 2nd pizza would be another 3-4 minutes, Obviously, the order was never placed. The waitress did come by to take our adjacent table's order, which afforded me the opportunity to remind her that we still had no iced tea refill. Soon after, the pizza finally arrived with apologies from the waitress, about 1 hour 15 minutes after we first sat down. Did I mention the 2nd pizza was mushroom which we primarily ordered since it was our son's favorite? We each ate a slice, took the rest to go, and I waited for the check while my wife took the boy for a brief walkabout. Check came with everything at full price & no second apology. Thoughts?

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  1. Ouch that was painful to read knappy. It was kind of you to not name the restaurant. CP and I were just commenting on another thread about the influx and departure of college students who often take summer jobs at restaurants.
    I think that service wise things go straight to hell in a handbasket starting about now. A lot of people like to take vacations in the last two weeks of July. Like a manager for that pizza place for starters. Was there a manager around? Some needs to be in charge and not downdashore.
    College students who have made enough money over the summer quit about now to have some fun before hitting the books again in the fall. Those that don't are already thinking about the fall semester. Blame the relentless back to school shopping drum beating away. If you can stand it, give them another try in the fall. Or contact a manager if they even have one. I'm sorry your evening was so disappointing.

    1 Reply
    1. re: givemecarbs

      I agree. Mistakes happen but it certainly sounds like there was a lack of staff supervision going on. As to whether the OP should have been given some of his meal for free is a matter I can't answer. It would depend on what is the normal culture about such things where the OP is. Perhaps the servers did not have authority to comp something if the manager was absent. Or, perhaps they might have been unaware what the place's policy was on such matters.

      It's not a place I'd be in a rush to revisit. There are many restaurants and I've little interest in returning to places that have got it right.

    2. I have never worked in a restaurant, so take this for what it's worth. At the very least, the second pizza should have been comped along with a sincere apology. Given the place's reputation, I would consider calling the manager. You would be doing them a favor. Imagine all the business this type of thing is costing them. I wouldn't blame you for not bothering and of course not ever returning.

      1. Yes things got a bit messed up, but don't really think comping would have been appropriate. True you were completely in the right, and they did err, most likely the waitress, thus had you stiffed her on the tip, you would have gotten your 'comp'. Was not the actual restaurant's fault as they ,l suspect, did not even know anything went awry.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          "The restaurant" is made up of many parts, including service, Of course it was "theactual restaurant's fault."

        2. If I were the owner of the pizza place, you would have been comped for no other reason than it taking 1.25 hours to receive your complete meal. Despite the well known adage, shit rolls UPHILL and the owner is responsible for the his employees actions (or lack thereof), so the argument that it is not the restaurant's fault that the waitress did not do her job is incorrect.

          1. Speaking as a former chain restaurant manager, I was given plenty of leeway to comp. However. I don't consider it a given, as many of my customers (and posters here) seem to do. I would always comp if the food was terrible AND was uneaten. You however ate some and took the rest home. So no apology probably because you seemed satisfied, aside from the 20 minute wait for your second pizza.

            I would comp if the service was totally terrible, like you never got any of your food or waited an hour or more; very rare occurrence, if ever. I could often comp, at least a drink or dessert, for a small problem, especially if they called it to my attention but didn't make a fuss, or act entitled. If they came right out and demanded a comp, which happened more than you think, that didn't incline me to accommodate them at all. Sorry if I'm going off, but this was a sore point with me. As one of my waiters used to say, if it's free, it's for me! We had regular customers that would come in already scheming how they would get a comp and nobody would want that table. It gets old after awhile, and ruins it for diners with real issues.

            I don't see anything here that terrible, you did have something to eat (app and one pizza) brought immediately and ice tea to drink....your toddler son's preferences not included of course, I understand that is of concern to you. Did he eat the pizza when it finally arrived, or was he full after the app and maybe some of the other? That could be a factor for me too. I want everyone to be as happy as possible, within reason. The waitress was slammed by being seated twice in a row (bad hostessing, not her goofing off). She had to get both of you started at the same time, not always easy. You can tell because the other server was helping her out while she was "in the weeds" as we say. You could tell they were communicating with each other, not blowing you off, and I give them extra points for that.

            I'm also wondering since it was as you say a "gourmet" pizza place, they are used to giving a more leisurely meal than a take out joint, and that an hour and 15 minutes would be an average, or maybe even fast turnover, time span? Since they weren't busy maybe they thought you might enjoy a more leisurely meal?

            These are my thoughts, not trying to upset you any further! If you're really really angry about it, get in touch with the owner or manager now, a day or two later, then he will know you are truly upset. He might do something for you, but I have done that myself a couple of times in extreme circumstances and I will warn you now, a comp is not always the result.

            13 Replies
            1. re: coll

              Thanks for the insight. Woudl you have any comments, based on your experience, on the timescales here which, if I've read the OP correctly, is approximately this:

              0 - 35 minutes - order taken, starters arrive
              45 minutes - first pizza arrives
              50 - check with second server over second pizza
              65 - check with first server
              70 - second server says pizza will be along soon
              75 - pizza arrives

              1. re: Harters

                And don't overlook how long they sat there with empty drink glasses.

                1. re: PotatoHouse

                  I'm not, they did get the first drinks promptly, and eventually the second, about half way through their visit and before the arrival of the second pizza. I've seen worse!

                  My restaurant had a short lived promotion, that if your lunch wasn't out in 15 minutes it would be free. That didn't last long, they actually took down every clock in the dining room after that. You're supposed to be dining, not running a race!

                  1. re: coll

                    Express lunches.....who, in the business, could forget those limited menus of mediocre food served quickly....

                    1. re: coll

                      Oh, yes - much worse on drinks. Only last week, we were having dinner in a Michelin starred restaurant. Second drink never arrived at all. And it was still charged (almost balanced by something that they forgot to charge for).

                  2. re: Harters

                    When they said app arrived on time, I was thinking more like 10 or 15 minutes tops. Sounds like first pizza then arrived immediately following. The hold up was the second pizza, and since they take at least 15 minutes to bake that is reasonable, not counting the original omission of course. But being an upscale destination place, I figure they are used to more leisurely dining than grab and go. Just playing the Devil's advocate though.

                    1. re: coll

                      Coll---the length of time to bake a pizza is very different from place to place. Here In New Haven area, Apizza in a trditional coal fired brick oven (Pepe's, Sally's) bakes in less than 5 minutes.
                      Wood fired brick ovens can take 4-7 minutes (I have one in my back yard). A traditional Blodgett gas pizza oven can turn out a large mushroom Neapolitan style pie in about 10 minutes. Thick crust and pan pizzas can take longer. But if a pizza place needs a minimum of 15 minutes to bake the pie, something is wrong with their oven. 15 minutes including prep time and waiting for a place in the oven, maybe.

                      All in all, the OP was the victim of lack of FOH manager checking tables and directing servers, and no BOH manager/expediter matching tickets and what is being made when. If there are orders for 10 cheese pizzas, 8 pepperoni pizza and one mushroom pizza, the pizza assembler may make them by variety as opposed to making sure the pies for each table are made and baked at the same time. An expediter can help alleviate this problem. In ancient times, I worked in a pizza place during college years and it was always a problem to get the prep guy to stop making a slew of one kind of pie because we had an order for a single that needed other toppings. It got to the point that the owner had a kid in the kitchen on busy nights who would set up toppings in order of pies to be made to match the checks. The pie man never had to look at the orders, he just assembled and baked what was laid out for him. Much better results that way.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Yeah I was basing the time on my takeout experiences, for a NY style pie. It takes 8 minutes to bake, that seems to be standard, and the rest is the ordering itself and putting it together, finding room in the oven etc. So to me, and possibly to me only, 15 minutes didn't seem excessive.

                    2. re: coll

                      I hate getting comped for food I was served and actually ate for the very reason mentioned - I don't want to be tagged as one of those (yes, there are many out there) people who go out looking for the comp. I have two kids in the business, 1foh and one boh, and there really are people who go to dinner with the intent of not having to pay.
                      Now, for the OP, yes things could have gone better. It comes down to the refills and the 2nd pizza. The refills definitely on the server, even though the host may have had a roll in putting her in the weeds - a host can sink a restaurant single handedly. The 2nd pizza? Maybe the order didn't get put in, maybe it got served to a different table (happens more than you think), or maybe the kitchen dropped the ball (or the actual pizza) and had to refire the thing (you should have been given a reason, any reason). Shit happens and personally, I'm more forgiving in pizza places with college students working than I am in places where everyone is supposed to be a professional.
                      I think having a toddler throws another factor in as the OP worked hard to get in early and order quickly specifically to avoid what happened. He should be a bit pissed and received a sincere apology but to be comped? I'm not sure.

                      1. re: coll

                        If a table orders two pizzas, isn't the normal expectation for the two pizzas to be served at the same time and eaten together? Would a restaurant, even a gourmet pizza place, decide unilaterally to serve them one after the other, as if they were two separate courses?

                        It seems clear to me that the 2nd pizza was just forgotten or lost in the OP's case. It happens. But I absolutely hate it when it is handled as it was in this case: the server just silently puts in a new order, knowing full well that the food will arrive completely out of step and the diner may not even want it anymore. For god's sake, be up-front with the customer and give them the option to cancel the order. At that point, I will almost always decide to cancel, but if for some reason I still want the food (maybe directly in a to-go box), I don't expect for it to be comped.

                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                          Yes, esp if one of the pizzas was for the vegetarians - they should wait until the meatful one was consumed or vice-versa?

                          1. re: DeppityDawg

                            I think the order of how multiple pizzas come out of the kitchen depends on variables not known.....size, number of diners, table space come to mind...even kitchen efficiency or production capabilities. There are no absolutes. There's a very popular restaurant in my area that's been around for over 50 years selling Thin Crust pizza and inexpensive Red Sauce fare. They have a small dome oven that can only fit in four pies at a time. You get your pizza when they are finished, but I would agree that the kitchen should do their best to serve them together or in a timely fashion to enjoy without a long interruption in between.