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Jul 24, 2014 07:05 PM

Bad Service - Libretto's on Ossington

I love Libretto's and hadn't been there in a while but decided to go while I waited for my iPhone to be repaired. They have a great lunchtime special - $15 for salad, pizza and dessert. I arrived at about noon on a weekday and the place was about 1/2 full. There were tons of serving staff. The waitress was very pleasant and smiley and I immediately ordered as soon as I sat down. She brought water immediately and then 10 minutes later some bread and olive oil. A couple sat down beside me right then and also ordered.Then another 10 minutes went by, Finally I motioned her to come over and asked if the salad was going to be coming. She said it wouldn't be long. 5 minutes later it came out, delivered by someone else. 25 minutes is kind of a ridiculous time to wait for a small arugula salad with some shaved pears and parmesan, no?

My pizza came out about 10 minutes later, again by another staff member, along with the pizza for the couple beside me (they had no appetizer). I gobbled it up quite quickly as I was starving and the waitress came by a bit later and asked what I wanted for dessert. I asked for the gelato (they give you one big scoop in a glass). Well that took 15 minutes to arrive, yet again by another staff member! It takes 15 minutes to scoop up one scoop of ice cream into a glass?

During the whole episode my waitress must have walked by a hundred times. Anyway, i asked for the bill because I didn't want to wait even longer for that. Yet another person came out with it and one of those handheld credit card machines (which I am not very fond of). The automatic tip button on the machine was hard-coded at 17% (of the after tax amount). WTF? Why tip on the after-tax amount? They never got that when the taxes were lower and it has nothing to do with them. Also, why 17%? Why increase it from the standard 15%? Anyway, I was so peeved about the very slow service and that 17% button I tipped 10% before tax to send them a message. In fact any time I see a tip button that is more than 15% I am going to tip less than 15%! And, yeah yeah I know it may not have been her personal fault about the slow service but if it wasn't she could have put a bit of a bug in the ear of the kitchen staff about the salad and dessert. ANyway, the fact is restaurants share tips so all are involved in ensuring good quality food and prompt service. Lastly, maybe she could have had the presence of mind to apologize or explain why the service was

Has the service level gone down at this place or did I just happen to have a bad experience? And what's with 17% of after-tax amount hard-coded as a tip? I bet most people just hit the button because they don't want to look cheap especially when they have to hand the terminal right back to the server instead of before when you just sign the credit card slip and ran out the door. Psychological studies do show that the main reason people leave adequate and sometimes high tips is not because they think the tipee deserves it but because they don't want to look cheap, especially in front of others.

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  1. Where is Libretto's on Ossington? I've been to a similar place in the same area called Pizzeria Libretto and have always had good service. ;)

    1 Reply
    1. re: ThoughtForFood

      That's the place I meant. Many call it Libretto's. I've been going since it opened.

    2. Honestly they probably don't care much about your $15 meal....The 17% is also not the server's fault. And I bet the kitchen wouldn't care for your $2 in tip anyway. They do have food runners at libretto and I guess that's why they ran the food to you instead of your server? Did the food taste good though? $15 good?

      18 Replies
      1. re: brushfire

        unfortunately that's the reality. It's like brunch. Unless you're spending $$$ most servers can't be bothered.

        1. re: brushfire

          "Unless you're spending $$$ most servers can't be bothered."

          That is not even close to true!

          1. re: chowfinder

            In other cities it might not be true. In Toronto, I find that brushfire's statement is accurate.

            Toronto has horrible service (generally speaking).

            1. re: magic

              The worst is, lately, wherever I go, high end or mid range, the service is great, up until the point that I'm finished with my meal. Then, I get completely ignored while trying to either find the server or get his/her attention to get the bill. It drives me absolutely nuts!

              1. re: kwass

                I agree that the service is generally great at mid range for sure...and casual too. From my experience, I have sometimes found it tough to cash out as well. When I've asked I've been told that the resto doesn't have enough of those machines to go around so the wait time begins. Usually servers are very happy to get you out and turn the table. :-) Meanwhile enjoy the good food kwass!

                1. re: justsayn

                  I've been to some great restaurants this summer, and enjoyed the food at all of them. It just gets frustrating when you're ready to leave and have to wait 15 minutes to get your bill.

                  1. re: kwass

                    Skip the bill and ask them to bring the machine over. Much more efficient and saves a bunch of time. I never ask for the bill.

                2. re: kwass

                  In my own experience I find that servers in Toronto adopt an attitude where serving and customers are an annoyance. Or that servers are generally inept and unknowledgable. Or that servers are unfamiliar with the concept of gracious hosting. Or that servers possess a combination of all these things.

                  When I travel to other cities I'm always stunned by how much pride, graciousness and knowledge servers have.

                  And it makes me realize how bad we have it in Toronto. Again – this is taken only from my experience and is generally speaking; it does not apply to every service experience I’ve ever had here.

                  1. re: magic

                    Well, as they say, "the fish rots from the head" - the best service I have had is in places where the owner(s) and chef know what they are doing, and engage the respect of their entire team top to bottom, who in turn understand that creating a nice night out in a lovely room with good food and great service is what keeps people coming back, and it involves a commitment to teamwork.
                    In many places I've dined at, the servers seem disconnected from the chef, they are plainly just putting in their hours. There is no camaraderie on display amongst them and their fellow servers (no, I can't bring you water, it's not my section....")

                  2. re: kwass

                    when dessert comes, not only do I ask for the bill but also I give them my card. De rigeur, no exceptions.

                    1. re: kwass

                      16 of us went out for a staff lunch from work when a colleague was leaving and everyone except me paid by debit or credit. which meant that for those 15 minutes that the waitress was brining the machine over to those 15 people she was not looking after other tables and no one else could pay because she had the machine!. Before these machines people would just throw down the cash and you would be out in 3 minutes...

                      Also as it was lunch pretty much everyone else in the restaurant was also trying to pay at the same time as they all had to be back to the office by 1. Same thing happens at bars at the end of the night.

                      Until the point when each staff member has their own machine this will continue to be a problem. And right now these machines are cellular and pretty expensive as each one actually requires its own phone number & sim card to communicate.

                      So moral of the story is that if you are getting ignored by your server at the end of your meal it may just be that at large group of people are all trying to pay by card at the same time and not that there is some conspiracy against letting you leave.

                        1. re: pourboi

                          I don't agree with what you said about each machine requiring a SIM card. Most have various communication options available, and wifi is one of them.

                          Have you ever wondered why most restaurants have wifi even if it is not for the customer's use? Its for these terminals.

                          I can't imagine why a restaurant owner would use the cellular network when wireless is an option.

                          Here is a terminal that I did some development for:

                          I heard it costs around $250 so it not really all that expensive to have four or five

                          1. re: foodyDudey

                            And how many times have you heard someone say "Shit the wifi is down" with all of the separate rooms, patios, kitchens covered in stainless steel, wifi is a huge pain in the butt especially when you are talking about a restaurant of the size that needs multiple machines.

                            Cellular is the most reliable (after land line).

                            Moneris (a very common payment processor) is cellular on their terminal:

                            and even their "short range" system does not use wifi but instead uses Bluetooth to a local base station.

                            1. re: pourboi

                              Sure, that can happen if you cheap out and get monkeys to install the wifi. If it's done properly, it will work. Now back to the regularly scheduled program....

                          2. re: pourboi

                            Never for a minute did I think that there was a conspiracy against me. Half the time the server just disappears when I want my bill and the other half, I just can't get his/her attention.

                            1. re: pourboi

                              But the machine doesn't stop you from continuing to throw down your cash like before.

                    2. re: brushfire

                      I didn't care about who was delivering my food. What bothered me was the long waiting time. The food was great as always, except the salad seemed to be a bit smaller then if it wasn't a part of the $15 fixed prix.

                    3. Besides it being slow, what was "bad" about the service? Just that everyone was helping out with bringing you food, and a management decision to have 17% be the default on the handheld?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: canadianbeaver

                        Slow service is enough. It's hard to screw up on bringing a plate to your table other then the waiting time, right?

                      2. I believe that servers can only enter the grand total into those machines, which is why they can only calculate the post-tax tip automatically (the machine doesn't know the pre-tax total).

                        As for 17%, maybe this is to compensate for the post-tax tipping, and end up with a final tip that would approximate a 20% pre-tax tip?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Michael N

                          That makes sense -- I hadn't thought of that before.

                          This wouldn't exactly be a difficult technical problem to solve if it were something anyone in the restaurant industry really wanted to solve. But I suppose inputting two numbers would slow the process down and increase the chances of errors happening, as well.

                          Still, I find it odd to blast one restaurant for something that's true of every restaurant. I don't think I can recall the last time I got one of those prompts with only one option and it was 15%. If there are multiple options, they're often 15, 18 and 20 or similar, but if there's just one, it's usually 17 or 18, not 15.

                          1. re: Jacquilynne

                            It is not true of every restaurant. The majority of restaurants I have been to both here and in other cities do not have a % tip hardcoded into the handheld credit card machine and when they have it hasn't been the single choice of 17% or a $ amount. Most just have '%' or '$ Amount' and you choose what % or what $ amount.. So, I think it's quite presumptious of a restaurant to expect what amounts to a tip of 19.2% of the pre-tax amount. So, given this I will blast all I want, lol.

                            As for having to punch 2 numbers in. That would have taken the server 10 seconds vs the numerous long waits I had for my food.

                        2. Did you comment to a manager yet?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Pincus

                            No, Because of the excessive delay I was already late and had to leave, not to mention I was already so peeved I was not in a mindset to want more aggravation by having to wait for the manager to come over (and given everyone else's tardiness in this place it would have been a wait) and then have an unpleasant discussion with them.

                            Maybe I'll email them and hopefully get a complimentary meal next time which I hopefully won't have to wait too long for again.

                            1. re: Flexitarian

                              If you're so inclined, you should send a tweet. The owner has always gotten back to me whenever I've sent one.

                              1. re: kwass

                                If your tweet was a complaint and not a compliment, have you gotten anything complimentary from them the next time you visited?

                                1. re: Flexitarian

                                  I've never had reason to complain, but I always get a response to any inquiry I've had. Chef Rocco is very gracious, so I wouldn't be surprised if he does offer you something complimtary.

                              2. re: Flexitarian

                                Yeah, I gathered lunch was running far too long. But, it can't hurt to contact management. At worst, there's a new restaurant to cross off your visiting choices.