My husband and I had dinner last night at one of our favorite restaurants. The service there has always been excellent, friendly, efficient, and competent. But last night, oh dear, bad bad bad clouds floated in our midst, and the place seemed to have gone southbound. I used to be a server, so I am more tolerant than most when I know the server is slammed or "in the weeds," but when the service is just plain lazy, stupid, and moronic, my feathers get ruffled.
The hostess sat us outdoors (without asking if that was okay). I was cold, and the patio was uneven, thus making the table and chairs wobbly. We POLITELY asked to be moved indoors because I was cold. So Dolly Dingle moved us to a table NEXT TO THE DOOR. The silverware was in a napkin "roll-up," which was a new presentation for this establishment. I find this extremely tacky and cheap. The server asked me to keep my fork when she cleared the appetizer plate. We asked her to bring appropriate wine choices for our entrees, which turned out to be a colossal mistake, as her choice was two glasses of (the same) very flat red wine.
I was so frustrated at the lack of finesse, simple refinement, and creativity throughout this whole meal, that I started thinking, well, what MAKES the dining experience? We love all levels of dining, from the hole in the wall local joint to white tablecloth. We savor them.
The most basic elements of Service:
The greeting. So simple, yet so often botched. A solid, confident, "Good Evening," is simple, easy to teach, and sets the tone for the guest.
The seating arrangement. There are good tables and crappy tables. If there is a good table available, the guest should be seated at that table. A cold, rickety, metal, uneven table with an uneven chair, on an uneven surface is annoying. The guest has the right to expect the dining experience will be enjoyable, not an annoyance. (Last night, I noticed several open tables in a warmer, more intimate section of the restaurant, they remained open for the duration of our meal).
The service. This silverware should be laid out in a proper fashion. The server should replace the silverware. If the guest requests the server make a choice, that server might want to ask them about their likes and dislikes.
I realize this is a bit of a rant.
What do the Chowhounds require for service to be considered excellent? What makes service bad?