I had a horrible experience Friday night at one of my favorite restaurants and I need some insight. Here's what happened:
The restaurant in question is a bit of a foodie favorite serving local, sustainable stuff. Entrees range $20-$30. We had 6:30 reservations for 4 on Friday, and arrived a little before 6:30. We were seated promptly in a half empty dining room, given our menus. We went over the menu, changed our minds several times, discussed the wines, talked about what we were going to order, started some small talk, etc.
Not once during these deliberations did a server come to the table to say hello, nor did any buser come to bring water. I've dined here dozens of times before, and usually by now we would have been greeted by a server. Odd, but no big deal. But then 6:40 rolls around…and I see that a table that was seated after us has their water and are giving an order to a server.
So we all started trying to get eye contact with servers…conversation stopped. Our menus were flat down on the table. We all kept looking around trying to get eye contact with someone. I was starting to get "that feeling" that things are not going to go well.
Finally, at 6:45 one of my friends flagged down a buser and asked him to find our server and let them know we were waiting and ready to order. He nodded and walked off. My friend witnessed the buser say something to a server, who then looked at our table with a surprised look on her face. "Oh it's ok, we've finally been spotted!" he reported jokingly.
But then five more minutes go by and we still haven't even been acknowledged -- no water, no "hi, we're really busy and someone will be right with you". Nothing. Hmm…so they know we're sitting here, they know we've BEEN sitting here, they know we are ready to order at least 4 entrees (actually it was going to be 2 bottles of wine, 4 apps, 4 entrees, and 4 coffees, but I digress)…and they choose to continue ignoring us. The only conclusion was that they didn't want our money.
So we got up to go, and as we were leaving I walked up to a server and explained that we had been sitting at our table for twenty minutes with no acknowledgement so we were leaving. She said that they had just opened their back patio and the servers were still getting used to it, she was sorry. But the excuse didn't make sense. The restaurant was only half full, and I doubt many people were even out on the patio -- the weather was chilly and only getting chillier. Regardless, why would being swamped in one dining room prevent someone from just coming by to acknowledge a table in another dining room and tell them that someone will be right with them?
I have never had to walk out of a restaurant for being ignored, and I am surprised how much it still upsets me three days later. I've dined here regularly since the place opened nearly ten years ago -- as often as once a month during some stretches. It ain't a cheap place and I'm a darn good tipper.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, do you think it's worth calling the owner? I'm taking this personally, which is silly. But when you recommend a place so vehemently for so long and cheer in its success and choose to spend your money there and then they ignore you, it hurts.