HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Customer Service: How important is it to you?

Hi! I once had a friend who told me that a Particular place in San Fernando, CA serving the local community is known for having extremely rude employees; but he says he doesn't care because he knows the food is extremely good. I actually went to the place and yes, the giant burrito I ate was yummy--but not to the point of returning. I guess I could be a lil sensitive at times, but I would like top customer service and knowing the people cooked with love, and served me because they like what they do, not because "It's a job". I say...don't apply in the first place and find something that will make you happy. So what is your opinion on customer service in general?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. not an exact answer to your question, but:
    in my experience, most folks "cook with love" and "like what they do" and don't treat work just "as a job" do so when they, themselves are being treated well and are being adequately compensated for their work.

    for any restaurant to be on my regular rotation, i need to see some evidence that the employees are well-treated by the management/owners/customers.

    in one of my regular restaurants, the owner makes it his business to be kind to his employees and to be intentionally INHOSPITABLE to any customer that treats his employees badly. this, among other policies there, has lead to his staff demonstrating an esprit de corps that makes the place especially welcoming.

    1 Reply
    1. re: westsidegal

      <has lead to his staff demonstrating an esprit de corps that makes the place especially welcoming>

      These types of owners/managers know how to run a business. What you're describing makes all the difference in the ambiance, the service and the quality of the food.
      There's no mistake in this approach…it's very mindful of what makes customers come back for more.

    2. You go for food you stay for service.

      1. <I would like top customer service and knowing the people cooked with love>

        I appreciate excellent customer service as well as the next person, but this "cooked with love" thing...I would like for it to stop. Imagine if that standard were applied to all retail transactions. When you go through a toll booth, are you disappointed when your change isn't returned to you with love? People need to work. As long as they do their jobs reasonably well and aren't suffering, I could give a flying frittata how they feel about it. (And that goes for me, too, a person who sometimes likes what she does, and sometimes not so much.)

        3 Replies
        1. re: small h

          I'm with you. I don't care about the inner landscape of my servers existence. Just do your job. It might be possible that my server is not loving their job that day, my mail person is getting a divorce, my barista is getting evicted, my doctor's kid got an "F" in science.... Okay.

          Some days just ain't filled with love. Do your job, go home and vent to the folks that *actually* care about you and your issues. Customer service is about service (to me) not about "inner feelings" about service.

          1. re: small h

            "I appreciate excellent customer service as well as the next person, but this "cooked with love" thing...I would like for it to stop."

            Oh God yes. Just give me a good meal. I get all the love I need at home.

            1. re: small h

              <when you go through a toll booth are you disappointed when your change isn't returned to you with love?>

              I don't need a kiss on the cheek but I DO find it a little ridiculous that the person can't at least smile with a little human exchange.
              Some of the customer service I've experienced as of late makes me want to shake the person and tell them to wake up, enjoy the day and remind them there about 100 people who'd love their job.

            2. To me, there's a lower limit below which the customer service is unacceptable, and where I won't go back (or will leave mid meal). I expect customer service to be polite, and reasonably efficient and accurate, and if there is a problem to acknowledge it and work to solve it.

              If a place has aggressively rude staff, or a habit of getting orders wrong, or forgetting dishes, or taking forever to get the food out, or serves half the table, and then the other half of the food shows up 30 minutes later, they might have fantastic food, but it's not worth it.

              I don't, however, have moral standards for how I expect people to feel about their jobs. Yes, it's nice if they like it, but that's about them, not about me. Whether they like their job, or are making and serving the food with love is none of my business, as long as they do their job competently.

              And as far as restaurants go - in most restaurants, you don't even *see* the person cooking your food - the cooks and the waitstaff are separate jobs. And I think "I expect you to serve my my food while being paid less than minimum wage with love, or it's not acceptable" is way too special snowflake.

              1. Good food trumps service.....the latter is over-rated. i go out to eat and drink, not have my arse kissed.

                12 Replies
                1. re: fourunder

                  While that is true, bad service will turn you off from a restaurant real quick, no matter how good the food. At least for this hound...

                  1. re: ns1

                    bad service puts a dark black "X" through a place for me and i simply will not return. i do not expect to have my ass kissed, but a polite demeanor and efficient attentive service is part of the job description.

                    i worked in restaurants for many moons and understand it can be a very shitty job a lot of the time. so i am empathetic, but surliness, too much 'tude, screwed up orders or no follow-up (like refilling water or asking about another round of drinks) all mean i will spend my $$$$ elsewhere. small lapses i can forgive, a new person on the job gets latitude, etc., but life is too short.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Totally agree with this.

                      One of my favorite markets in my area has hired new people I've never seen before. Their job is to work in the deli, make sandwiches and do simple tasks to keep the area clean.
                      They act like their job is secondary to their texting, their visiting with other employees and picking up a cloth to keep the area clean isn't being done.
                      I've stopped going there as often as I have been (daily) because I'm tired of bringing things to the attention of the manager…nobody seems to care.
                      Conversely, when an employee acts like the job they're doing is their pride and they do it with 100% efficiency it makes all the difference in the world.

                      1. re: latindancer

                        Yes. And as someone who has had plenty of "rotten" jobs, I can attest to the fact that approaching any job with a positive attitude makes it far more pleasant for the one doing the work.

                        To me, smiling, being courteous, respectful, friendly and helpful to the customer is about having pride in oneself and wanting to do a good job because that's the kind of person you are, not about kissing someone's butt or feeling inferior to the customer.

                  2. re: fourunder

                    I'm with you, my sage friend. Generally speaking, it would take a waiter smacking me in the face with a two by four as he took my order, to turn me off to a place that offers solid chow. Even in that case, I might turn a blind eye to the inconvenience if the chef was exceptional and special plate that I had my heart set on.

                    Mr. Martinez put it very well: "Great food can compensate for bad service. Great service can 'never' compensate for bad food."

                    1. re: MGZ

                      Using NYC Chinatown as an example....food good, service bad. If I were like the many on this thread who expect good service....I would never have ventured into Chinatown for the past 50 years.

                      1. re: MGZ

                        Unless of course ...the goo/bad service includes an exceptional rack.

                      2. re: fourunder

                        "Good food trumps service.....the latter is over-rated. i go out to eat and drink, not have my arse kissed."

                        Sure, but I think the OP is referring to whether or not you are willing to put up with "rude" service, as in the place she referenced.

                        I don't, even if they are serving bliss on toast.

                        1. re: EarlyBird

                          So what is your opinion on customer service in general?

                          1. re: fourunder

                            I expect a minimum standard of politeness, professionalism and competence regardless of the food. That's all. I have no time for surly or too-cool types, especially when I'm paying to be around them.

                            1. re: EarlyBird

                              I was quoting the last line in the OP...

                              *as in the place she referenced.*

                              Your comments about mine. I have no idea where the OP references

                      3. I used to go to Sam Wo, a legendary San Francisco dump, to get insulted by Edsel Ford Fong, the world's rudest waiter. Food was excellent too.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: mwhitmore

                          Edsel Ford Fong was a pro at putting on a show. To take it seriously would be a mistake. I think he made a very good living in tips with all that "Chinaman Schtick." Bless his heart, RIP.

                          1. re: mwhitmore

                            This inquiry made me think of a place in San Francisco which I had been to in the mid to late 1990s twice. I couldn't think of the name. It was Sam Wo. Before I went the first time, the review said that I would be insulted.

                            I don't think I was. Edsel Ford Fong to me was impatient and wanted to tell me what to order, but he wasn't rude, just surprisingly controlling. The food, especially for a really inexpensive Chinese restaurant, was excellent.

                            1. re: gfr1111

                              i have never heard of this place, but am fascinated by the notoriety of a chinese guy named edsel ford fong.

                              i lerve america, lol. :o

                          2. It's important to me, but sometimes I have to consider where I am. An excellent example is last night. My husband and I went to a local bistro. On Thursdays pizzas are half off and beer is discounted.

                            I became annoyed by how long it took our server to get around to taking our order, bring us our beer, etc, etc. I then realized where I was...basically in a pub, on half price night. I chilled out and I made sure to tip our server based on what the bill would have been on a normal night. He was working his butt off.

                            At a nicer establishment ($20+ for a meal) I expect attentiveness.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: UTgal

                              if i'm in a sit-down restaurant there is no sliding scale for doing a good job regardless of price point. if a server is weeded that is entirely something else.

                            2. Service is the only thing anyone has to sell ~~~ Period.

                              32 Replies
                              1. re: Uncle Bob

                                Yep. I go into my favorite places, exchange warm greetings with the super friendly server, and then throw $30 down on the table and walk out.

                                End of story.

                                Come on. The greatest service in the world won't make up for awful food. All I ask out of a server is that they be efficient and reasonably attentive. Then if the food is good, or even great, that's enough.

                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                  Well I hope you walked out of your favorite place with something. A bottle of ketchup, a new car, a hamburger, or perhaps a book on reading comprehension...All of which can be bought at any one of numerous locations. Hopefully one that offered good service.

                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                    Great food can compensate for bad service.

                                    Great service can *never* compensate for bad food.

                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                      That is not true at all.


                                      That may be true for you, but definitely not for me. I'm sure we're not alone in our vastly disparate opinions though.

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        Let me ask you a question. Do you ever see any threads entitled "What Restaurant Has The Friendliest Servers?"

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          The friendliest server were at Outback....and they get Universally panned for trying to be nice and pleasant. they get mocked for sitting at your table and etc.

                                          I get the the impression those who require good service expect so from servants, not servers.

                                          1. re: fourunder

                                            i don't want to be friends with my server and sure as hell don't want him sitting at my table.

                                            is this really a thing? i have never eaten at an outback.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              I can't say for sure it's still done today....but it certainly was done in the past for many years.

                                              I really don't frequent Outback and haven't bee in a couple of years....but I have nothing against the place. I like their Crabcakes, Prime Rib and Rack of Lamb....but I usually sit at the bar.

                                            2. re: fourunder

                                              I actually don't find Outback's canned and condescending brand of service to be good service at all, but I generally feel that way about the service in our American chains that target the same market.

                                              Overly familiar to the point of near rudeness at times for me, but I get that some people think it friendly.

                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                I went to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. with a couple of friends once. Already a nauseating thought, but then the waiter sat down at our table and chatted with us. Please, no...

                                              2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                that has nothing to do with anything.

                                                1. re: ns1

                                                  Sure it does. This is a FOOD board, not a SERVICE board.

                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    erm, except this is the "not about food" board. :0

                                            3. re: Bob Martinez

                                              Bob I don't think we really disagree. Your focus is narrow, mine is broad. ~ I can buy anything, (not just restaurant food) at multiple locations. I can buy a bottle of ketchup at least 20 different grocery stores....I buy it from the one that gives/has given me the best service. I can by a screw driver at any number of hardware stores...I buy from the one who gives/has given me the best service. I can buy a John Deere tractor at numerous locations....I buy from the one.......well you know. All any retailer/wholesaler has to offer/sell is service. Regardless of the product/service they have to sell. The smart/successful ones know this. They know you can buy the same damn product down the road, or in the next town. At the end of the day, service is all they have to sell...be it burritos, bubble gum, or brown shoes.

                                              1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                i don't think supermarket service vs. restaurant service is an apples to apples comparison though. for groceries, i like good price:quality ratio in a clean store. i don't food shop to be waited on, whereas when i eat out, i do it specifically for that purpose. a surly cashier can be disheartening, but it doesn't weigh on my decision as to where i buy food.

                                                for me, i don't care how good the food is at a restaurant -- if the service sucks i won't go back. if you hate your job or are simply inept, go find something else to do to pay the bills. foh restaurant work can attract a lot of misfit toys, and it's management's job to cull them.

                                                BUT, if the service is good and the food sucks? i won't go back there either. $$$$.

                                                1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                  Actually, I don't think we disagree, or at least not that much.

                                                  In some situations I prefer friendly service. A bartender, provided they're someone I'd talk to even if they weren't serving me. Someone interesting. A bartender who's smiley and chatty and boring is a negative for me.

                                                  Most of the time efficiency is more important. If I'm at a hardware store and I'm looking for a certain type of wrench I'd like someone who can find it quickly. A smile is nice but optional. Someone who's really friendly but takes 30 minutes to find the wrench is not going to win me over.

                                                  In a restaurant I want someone who's attentive to the table, takes our order correctly, and looks in on us from time to time to see if we need anything. If there are specials I want them to let us know, and better still, let us know the prices.

                                                  On rare occasions I've had the server from hell. One that was brusque to a fault, banged down dishes, and was borderline rude. It made the meal unpleasant and I undertipped accordingly.

                                                  More frequently I get above average service. Someone who's a real pro. Smooth without being robotic. I appreciate that and I'll tip extra for it.

                                                  Faux friendly servers drive me nuts. It's like those people from cult religions who try to buttonhole you on the street and tell you about the Good News. When I go to a restaurant just because I sit at your table doesn't make us best friends. Pretending that we are is creepy.

                                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                    Ketchup? Really? You walk to the shelf and you pick one up or off the shelf....You go to a line, wait and they ring it up. They take your money and give change if necessary. The only service I can see is whether they put it in a bag for you or not....or if you have to do so yourself.

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      If you ever own a chain of grocery stores, you will understand that great, friendly service goes a long way towards being successful. Why else did that customer drive past 3 other stores where they could buy a bottle of Heinz ketchup, plus everything else on their list? Well several reasons I could mention, but service sure as hell is high on lthe list. Good afternoon, and thanks for shopping with us Mr. Fourunder. Oh, and would I sell your grandmother a half a head of lettuce because she just can't eat a whole one before it goes bad??? Of course Mr Fourunder, and for half the price too! Have a great day.

                                                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                        also, when they reconfigure the wine/spirits department, and i can't seem to find the wine i've bought there in the past, it makes all the difference when the manager sends a clerk with me to help in the search.

                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                          We have a local chain bought out by a national one. Local chain was known for walking customers to the product the customer was looking for. Although the national chain has kept the local stores name, customer service is nowhere to be found, and the prices are much higher A number of stores were closed, the only ones that remain are in wealthy neighborhoods.

                                                            1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                              Ding Ding Ding! A winner, taken over by Uncle Safeway.

                                                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                well, they probably need to spend the money on servicing the leverage they took on so that they can immediately start extracting money from the deal. . . .

                                                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                  25 or so years ago I was very familiar with Randall's. ~ Great company. ~ Great merchants.~ Their New Generation and Flagship stores were very innovative.

                                                              2. re: James Cristinian

                                                                What you (and UB) explain is certainly a nice gesture....but in the same breath if they tell me the item is in aisle 8 on the left or right side....I'm good with that. Helping seniors or others is commendable...but I'm still able to navigate my way through a store.

                                                                Having a helpful deli slicer, fish guy or butcher is one thing...I don't need my hand held to shop otherwise.

                                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                                  Most people don't....nor require it.... But ain't it nice to know that hand is there if needed? ~~ Don't tell me you don't like to walk into an establishment and feel welcomed, and genuinely appreciated (not patronized) and maybe even recognized.. oh crap!!!..and if they called you by name.

                                                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                    I share a name with an employee at my local Safeway and I always jump a little when the PA blares out "Monica -- Office -- Immediately."

                                                                  2. re: fourunder

                                                                    No, but it's nice to show you where something when you can't find it. I know two local stores very well but at times have wandered past an item I don't usually buy on numerous occasions. It's nice to have knowledgeable help. Once I wanted to try for nostalgia sakes a Chef Boyardee Pizza kit and passed it several times. When I got back to my cart I'd parked at the end of the store some other gracious shopper had wandered off with it and dumped it in another part of the store I had not been to. Pizza box and missing cart took a good 20 minutes. Oh yeah, an employee had told me pizza box was on aisle 8, but it was obscure on the bottom and I passed by a minimum of 2 times, plus other aisles.

                                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                                      fourunder, these days, as an over-the-hill adult, what you say is true.
                                                                      but, when i took my first job as a personal chef and I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO COOK
                                                                      what got me through were:

                                                                      A) the kindly butcher at the local safeway.
                                                                      he taught me the difference between chuck steak and real steak. he knew how to cook and he made it his business to make sure i was able to hold on.

                                                                      B) THE JOY OF COOKING

                                                                      without that butcher i would never have been able to navigate the terror of those first few weeks. . . . .

                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                        With regards to A.....I believe he may have realized real steak before him...and not chuck, and used the teaching moments really for his own benefit.


                                                                        With regards to B....my copy was lost to an old GF. At times, I miss both.

                                                            2. re: Uncle Bob

                                                              I agree with this, even though I reckon it's an almost impossible question to reach a consensus about because most people differ wildly on what constitutes good CS at restaurants.

                                                              For my H, it means simply that his hot meal is delivered hot, and that his water/bev is refilled. That's it. The server could simply grunt and point and he wouldn't mind much...it wouldn't be a dealbreaker.

                                                              For me, I'd add some familiarity with the menu (what's today's soup? what's in a "Dave's Special?") and attention to basic details (if I order my steak rare and the kitchen gives you a charred briquette, please don't deliver it to me; please try not to slop coffee onto my lap when you pour because you're chatting with another table).

                                                              Our dining out budget is limited, so when we go out, we want a good experience. We tip well and are polite, considerate guests, so we expect polite, considerate service.

                                                              1. re: pinehurst

                                                                I don't disagree with any of the above comments. Perhaps my OP was much to broad/general in scope. ~~ However the next time someone is in a retail/wholesale outlet of any description and you encounter, poor, rude, impolite, etc, etc, service, One may find themselves saying, "Frick this place. Let's go, I can buy it down the road" Or perhaps, "Frick this place! I want ever come back". ~~ Y'all come back now, Ya hear?

                                                    2. We are currently living in the Midwest.

                                                      We can make great food at home.

                                                      If you (restaurant owners) want to stay in business here consider friendly/efficient servers. If you find a good one pay him/her well.

                                                      The patron/server relation experience is actually super-duper important.

                                                      1. DEPENDS..............
                                                        If I'm out with clients great service is very important
                                                        If I want great Apizza on Wooster Street in New Haven-Sally's, I ignore the not great service for what I consider the greatest Apizza. But I only go with close family or long-time New Haven native friends who know the drill.

                                                        I dontcare about the rushed servers, the wait or that over the past 55+ years, I have been known to clear/bus the table I want, set it and even pick up my apizza from the counter when it comnes out of the oven and still tip the full amount. In fact over the years, I have helped serve/clear other tables when they are slammed. I am a loyal regular, loyal to both the family who owns the place and the food. The service is incidental and not really important.

                                                        1. For me, there is no food so good that I would knowingly subject myself to knowing and persistent bad service or shitty attitude.

                                                          More and more it's becoming my experience that as exceptional as an arrogant someone may think their product, there is someone out there who can and will provide the same quality of output with a generally good will and a pleasant demeanor.

                                                          They may be fewer and farther between than I'd like, but I'd rather stay home and cook (or boil myself a packet of ramen) than support a business that either prides itself on, or does not care to improve upon, its poor service.

                                                          1. The few places I go out to eat. The owner is preparing the food. You bet it's made with love.
                                                            As far as service goes. Know when to come by my table and when not to.Pretty basic.

                                                            1. There is a reason why the restaurant industry is also part of the hospitality industry. Being rude to customers is not hospitality. I am very likely to not take such attitude kindly and may well respond. Even if they catch me on a good day, then I'm coming back.

                                                              1. There is a minimum standard of politeness, professionalism and competence that I expect and which is important to me, regardless of how good the food is.

                                                                Above that, it's all gravy.

                                                                1. I've already respond to thi post, but as I look at the question I am reminded of the Jerry Seinfeld 'Soup Nazi' character..........................

                                                                  1. I wouldn't go back to a place where I was treated poorly.

                                                                    I include places where others seem to be receiving great service and I am getting poor service. Like the Chinese restaurant where the Chinese customers are fawned over and I get the "everything is good" bums rush. Or anyplace that caters to its regulars, and ignores everyone else.

                                                                    Someone else will get my money in the future.