Today I was solo for lunch, so I tried a new-ish, highly touted, chef-centered place with a casual attitude, a reputation for being very serious about the menu, and prices in the moderate-to-moderately-expensive range. I've waited three months since opening to let them equalize the issues that I find perfectly expected and understandable at any startup business.
I arrived a bit after the lunch rush had gotten underway. They were pretty full, and since I was eating alone, I happily accepted the host's offer to seat me at the bar. It took a while for me to be acknowledged and get my order taken, but it looked like the bartender was also waiting or at least assisting at a couple of tables as well as manning the bar. I understand he had a lot on his shoulders.
I ordered an iced tea, a small starter and a sandwich. After about 20 minutes, I realized I'd run out of things to goof around with on my phone, but my appetizer hadn't shown up yet. Five minutes later I got that. The tea had only gotten there 10 minutes before, and it was almost empty by that time.
About 45 minutes later, the bartender came up to me and said, with a smile, "They're plating your food right now."
My meal was finally delivered at around the 55-minute mark, after which time the woman next to me at the bar had already ordered, received her (simple) dish, eaten it, guzzled two vodka tonics, paid and scooted out the door. A two-top behind me had done the same.
In other words, they obviously lost my order in the kitchen. This happens. But usually with an apology.
Now, I have to admit my food was pretty good. While the chicken was overcooked, it wasn't bad. The side dish was truly excellent. It was all very fresh -- meaning the bartender had lied about it being plated ten minutes previous.
But by that time I was absolutely seething with frustration. I really didn't enjoy the food much because I was so worked up over how long it had taken and how nobody even gave a word of apology or even explanation.
When the bartender asked how things were at the five-minute sweep-by, I said, "OK." He didn't notice my tea glass was again empty. I mean, he'd refilled it just 30 minutes before, so what's the big?
I ate quickly, tipped about 8% and left fast. (I normally tip at least 20% for adequate-to-good service. Many of my peers are waiters and baristas, and I recognize how hard they work, and how often they get stiffed.)
I'm sure the lousy tip got my point across. And later that day, I e-mailed the restaurant about it.
I should have said something, obviously. "No, actually, it's not OK that my lunch order took almost an hour, and that you lied to me about its progress."
Even my favorite places have screwed up like this in the past. I've forgiven gladly when it's been handled professionally.
I need assertiveness training. And now I'm even more annoyed at myself.
Shouldn't any reasonably savvy server not take some initiative when it's obvious a $16 lunch, served at the blazed bar, isn't ticking along like clockwork? Should I HAVE to say something in that situation? I'm cheap -- just comping my beverage would have made a world of difference.
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