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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 management....no 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.

                        2. Sorry you didn't enjoy your first experience at Porta. ( am I right.....????)

                          Here's the story.....no server(s) have comping authority so there was no way you were getting anything from the two servers you engaged.

                          You needed to ask for a manager after the first 10-15 minutes went by without any site of your additional pie or original server. It's up to management to make those decisions and if the server did forget to place the order, then yes, perhaps it should have been on the house.

                          As someone else pointed out, without involvement of a manager you limited yourself, the only option you had was to reflect it in their tip.

                          Calling the place now (especially if its Porta) will do next to nothing at this point.

                          Next time ask for the manager especially when your server is no where to be found.

                          ***Edit I just realized this was the NAF board and not my local so my guess of establishment is most likely incorrect.

                          1. As someone else said, you should have gotten a manager involved as soon as you felt you were abandoned by your waitress and a reasonabe amount of time had gone by for the second pizza to arrive. Also, it is never a good idea to ask another wait person for particulars about your table; there's just too much that can go wrong and then you are left waiting even longer (as you experienced). In any service industry, the manager is in place to help solve the problems once the person immediately helping you can no longer do so. Always a good rule to remember.

                            1. I wouldn't have sat there that long waiting... when pizza number two failed to show up and pizza number one was already finished, I'd have told them to forget it and give me the check MINUS the missing pizza because I wasn't going to sit there all night waiting for it.

                              1. There are a lot of things that could have caused your order to take so long. If you were only ordering two pizza's it seems unlikely a server would forget to ring one of them in. It's also possible the kitchen misread the check, burned it, or dropped the pizza and had to remake it, or another server/expediter grabbed the wrong pizza and took it out to another table, in which case they can't take it back and bring it over to your table. Pizza's take about 10-15 minutes.

                                The waitress should have communicated any delays more pro-actively and kept your drinks filled in the meantime. But if she was a new/inexperienced server she may have been frazzled and overwhelmed.

                                I would have brought it to the manager's attention so they could find out what caused the issue. More than likely they would have comped something off the check for you.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Atomic76

                                  Excellent reply. I said it and you said and it cannot be said enough; once things start going south, always ask to speak with a manager. It's their job!

                                2. I would not have expected a comp on food I consumed.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: The Oracle

                                    A comp is a free dish or drink. In order for it to be a positive for the customer, shouldn't it be consumed? What's The difference if the manager comps something that's already been consumed? Wht other kind of comps are there?

                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      If a person orders something and does not like it....then yes it should be comped if there was a problem with preparation....but if they consumed it an liked it, then it should not. The manager certainly is free to comp any additional food or beverage at his or her discretion.

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        But as a gesture of good will, a manager can comp a food item that was grossly late in being served, but was consumed. I've had it happen without even knowing it until the bill arrived. Now, to expect such a comp, that's another story.

                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                          I don't disagree with anything you say here, but in your prior post it's a little different in the details. I think The Oracle was simply stating his/her standards, not in general.

                                          Comping anything on a visit is strategy....if it's grossly late as you have cited, it may make sense to comp just to keep the guest happy. Let's say though, the pizza was 14-18 dollars.....instead, i would give the party a $25 gift certificate for a future visit....which should be a win win....but if the party does not return. then the restaurant is not out anything monetarily.....this is of course assuming with the comp, the party would not return either.

                                      2. re: ttoommyy

                                        To clarify: I would not expect to be comped FOR food I consumed, if I had issue with the food (it was brought out late, not to my exact preference, etc). If it was good enough to eat, I think it should be paid for. If a mgr decides to comp it for whatever reason, I'd be grateful for the gesture, but I would not expect it (since I consumed it 'as is').

                                        If I have a problem with the food, I'll flag someone down and/or the dish will sit until I can get the situation rectified. In the two times I can recall having this issue, once the dish was replaced with something else (and I was not charged for the offending dish), and the other was not removed from the bill (nor was the dish touched). I didn't press the issue with it being on the check (I should have)... and have not stepped into that restaurant since.

                                        1. re: The Oracle

                                          I was reminded of this thread this evening. I went out for dinner to a local steak place. I was there once before and it was good--not great, but solid and I had been at an appointment all afternoon and was starving. So, I order the sirloin medium. DC and I munch on an app as I eagerly await some *real* food.

                                          Meals arrive--DC's fish looks gorgeous; I cut into my steak and it is well done. Actually, it's beyond well done. I urge DC to chow down while it's hot and flag the server. Server apologizes profusely and returns the steak to the kitchen. DC is halfway through her meal and still no steak. Server returns and says my steak will be out in two minutes.

                                          At this point, I'm not feeling so warm and fuzzy, as a medium steak should not take that long to prepare. New plate arrives. This time the server waits for me to cut into the steak to ensure proper doneness. Yep, steak is more medium well to well. But it's juicy and, as I mentioned, I was famished. So I told the server it was better than the first one and I dig in.

                                          As I am eating (DC almost finished by now) the manager stops by the table with an offer of a third steak. I can only assume the server informed him of the two misses. I assure him it's fine and continue on my meal. I eat the steak, potatoes and broccoli. (Did I mention I was hungry?) The sides had been replaced rather than reheated and the steak was overdone, but still flavorful.

                                          Server drops the bill and it looks light. Turns out, my meal was comped. I ate it all and so absolutely expected no consideration, let alone no charge at all. I probably would have returned to the restaurant anyway, but now will definitely give this one-for-two restaurant a third chance.

                                          And you better believe that server got a fantastic tip.

                                          1. re: gaffk

                                            Now that's a restaurant staff that understands the meaning of customer service... And then some.

                                            1. re: gaffk

                                              Nice gaffk. What place if you feel comfy telling us Philly folks?

                                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                                I'm a burbanite now . . . the restaurant in question was in Skippack.

                                              2. re: gaffk

                                                Reminds me of a similar experience I had at a Houlihans Restaurant. I took my son there for dinner and we sat in a booth around the bar area so we could watch football while we ate.
                                                I ordered a Prime Rib, which they have Thurs-Sun and it actually pretty decent.

                                                When the runner drop's my plate off it's a Sirloin, I point out to the runner it's not what I ordered she asks me to give her a second.

                                                She get's a manager who comes over asks me what the problem was I explain I ordered the Prime Rib, he takes the Sirloin with him and say's give him a couple of minutes he will have the Prime Rib out to me.

                                                It only takes about 5 mins for me to get my Prime Rib, as we all know they are pretty much pre-cooked to rare and I only wanted mine medium, it didn't matter because I was with my 14 year old son (at the time) who devours food like a tornado devours a mid west trailer park. Manager places the prime rib down in front of me offers the explanation the waitress had punched in the "Prime Time Sirloin" instead of Prime Rib as the reason for the mistake, and all is good in the world.

                                                He hands me a gift certificate for a "dinner for 1" with the prime rib and says because of the mistake our next meal is on them. Being in the industry I understand mistakes happen I'm not looking for anything I try to refuse his offer, he insists I accept.

                                                We are finished a little later I ask for the check, and neither the Prime Time Sirloin or my Prime Rib are on the check. Figuring it was an over sight and I'm not looking to get over on anyone I ask for the manager again. He comes to the table I explain their double dipping generosity and I'm ready to pay for the meal I consumed, and he insisted no, that's his policy. The mistaken meal AND my next would be on him!

                                                That is over and above anything I would have expected or ever experienced. I have not yet used the gift certificate.

                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                  Great service, so great it almost borders on awkward and not so great… I just hope your waitress didn't have to pay for your steak. That's always a concern of mine when I get something comped.

                                            2. re: ttoommyy

                                              We have never asked to be comped and only complain or send things back if we really can't eat them. Comps offered range from taking a meal off the check, offering free desserts, delivering unrequested dessert wine, discount cards for next visit with a substantial percentage off, cocktails...

                                          2. "Did I mention the 2nd pizza was mushroom which we primarily ordered since it was our son's favorite?"

                                            Obviously there are other factors here, but why in the world would the fact that the second pizza was your "son's favorite" have any bearing on whether or not you should pay for the pizza you each ate and also took the leftovers home?

                                            1. Since your post is not in Philly anymore do you feel ok about revealing the name of the restaurant knappy?

                                              1. Hello all, OP here. Thanks to those of you who gave thoughtful replies & advice. Unfortunately, the manager/chef/owner was the man cooking the pizzas, so I presumed he would know that the pizza was forgotten about when his server went to him & said (Again, I am presuming) "get this one done quickly, I forgot about it.". But, it's a fair comment to state that I shouldn't have presumed anything. Again, the place was empty when we got there, but busy when we were leaving 1.5 hours later. I momentarily stopped to discuss, but he looked like he was in the weeds. I really could not care less about the $15, so this is not a monetary thing. And, I did not name the restaurant because I mean the restaurant no ill will & certainly would go back for the quality of their food. I think Givemecarbs was spot on below about the waitstaff was exclusively college-aged women. This was really more of an etiquette/process question, and i sincerely thank those of you who gave insightful responses.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: knappy123

                                                  Ok with this additional information I would say the waitress forgot to ring in the 2nd pie. There is no way she is going into the kitchen and telling the boss she did this, so he probably didn't know it was delayed. He could for all intent and purposes have thought you were hungrier then originally thought and added the additional pie, or perhaps a new table.

                                                2. Also, as for stiffing a waitress for a few careless acts, that is not in my DNA. If I get inferior service, I usually reduce the tip to 15% (which is what she got).

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: knappy123

                                                    Fine tip the waitress who made the mistake and penalize her or not, but why expect the management to comp you something when they most likely knew nothing of the incident and while they were the deep pocket were not really responsible for the gaffe.

                                                  2. there's a restaurant in LA called Bottega Louie, that would make your experience look good by comparison.
                                                    my condolences for a wasted restaurant experience.
                                                    try not to dwell on it and move on... . .
                                                    this is why i tend to follow my rotation more than not.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                      That would be a great topic for another thread @ westsidegal: staying with a solid rotation of restaurants vs. taking a chance and venturing out. Both options have their pros and cons. We really only eat out on Sunday on a weekly basis so we tend not to experiment too much ensuring our weekly meal (and service) will always be top notch.

                                                    2. I wouldn't expect a comp. It would be nice if they did but it's not an automatic. Lets look at your timeline.

                                                      You ordered an app and 2 pizzas. You had no complaint about the time it took to get the app or the first pizza.

                                                      "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. ... The other server came back in a few minutes & said the 2nd pizza would be another 3-4 minutes ..."

                                                      Adding your numbers up it took an extra 23 or 24 minutes to get that second pie and that's with the assumption that both pies should have been delivered at the same time. Gourmet pizza places don't always work that way even at the best of times.

                                                      During that 23 minute gap you got to eat your first pizza and you'd already had an app. That's a bit annoying but far from outrageous. As I said above, a comp would have been nice but it's not automatic under those circumstances.

                                                      (Good for you for flagging down that other server. That was a smart move.)

                                                      It's hard to say whose fault the delay was. Perhaps your waitress didn't put it in but I think that's unlikely. You only ordered 3 things (plus iced tea) so it wasn't a tricky order to get right.

                                                      I suspect the kitchen screwed up.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                        According to Harters's summary above (confirmed by the OP), the second pizza arrived 30 minutes after the first one.

                                                        Whatever, everyone is going to tend to pick a higher or lower estimate to serve their own argument. It would be helpful if we knew the place, so that others who have eaten there and ordered more than one pizza can tell us if they were served around the same time, or 23 to 30 minutes apart. I've never been to a pizza place, gourmet or otherwise, where the latter would be considered normal. What if you're not sharing the pizzas? The first person gets his pizza and eats it while everyone else watches? In that case, even 10 minutes between pizzas would be much too long.

                                                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                          "It would be helpful if we knew the place, so that others who have eaten there and ordered more than one pizza can tell us if they were served around the same time, or 23 to 30 minutes apart. I've never been to a pizza place, gourmet or otherwise, where the latter would be considered normal."

                                                          I never said 23 minutes was "normal" - I said a comp would have been nice but not automatic.

                                                          As for the time interval, I quoted the post that started this thread exactly. He seems to have changed the numbers later.

                                                          That said, a comp would not have been out of place but not receiving one isn't an outrage.

                                                          1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                            I've been to a place where they had a fairly small wood fired oven. The pizzas there were on the smaller side and we typically ordered a pie each and depending on how hungry you were, you may or may not have had some left over. I once attended a going away dinner there with about 10 people. Our pizzas came out a couple at a time as they were ready so there was close to a lag of 30 mins between the time the first and last person got their pie. (Sadly, this wasn't a sharing type of group so there was awkwardness as to wait or eat from several people there. Another time I went with a large group we all just shared as each pizza came out and a fine time was had by all.)


                                                            1. re: pollymerase

                                                              Yeah, eating out with 10 people can be problematic in a place with such small capacity. The OP is the only one who can tell us if the size of the oven could have been a factor in his case; I get the impression that it was not. And even in your case, it was 30 minutes to get all 10 pizzas out, so the pizzas were arriving every 7-8 minutes, right? Not much room for complaint there. It totally sucks to be the last ones served, but it's not an error by the server/kitchen.

                                                        2. Wait.. did you talk to the manager?
                                                          Did you leave the pizza on the table?
                                                          You had something to eat and drink and were not served to your standards and left with a to go box...
                                                          This sounds like a dont tip[.. But why should they comp you a pizza that you took with you? It was late but ediable..