Dining Out isn’t Always What It’s Cracked Up to Be

I’m pretty sure this isn’t Rant Friday, but oh well.

The other night, Mom and I went out to dinner. We selected a restaurant we’d eaten at before, one where we’d had a good dining experience. We expected nothing less.

Were we mistaken.

Upon entering, we were escorted to a booth smack-dab in the busiest section. One where a blazing fireplace was happily belching out smoke so thick our eyes started burning.

We got up and moved to another booth — less crowded, sans fireplace.

Little did we realize we were getting the sorriest waiter available.

“Howdy, girls!” Mr. Cheerful greeted us.

Girls? Seriously? I don’t know what his definition of “girls” is, but I’m pretty sure my mom hasn’t been a “girl” for several decades!

He took our orders and promised to return.

Of course, he didn’t say when.

Eventually, he brought our sodas (minus straws). Mom went to the ladies room; I sat.

And waited.

Finally, Mr. Cheerful reappeared with our salads, hot buttered rolls, and straws.

I’d taken one sip of my lemonade and maybe two bites of salad when another server appeared — with our main course.

You know, if I’d wanted fast food, I’ve have gone to McDonald’s. The wait-staff at sit-down restaurants is supposed to put orders in so patrons have time to chew.

As this server set the dishes down, Mr. Cheerful materialized.

“I see your food is here,” he chirped. “Anything else I can bring you?”

I told him the main course showed up far too early. I hadn’t even had a roll or finished my salad.

He chuckled and said, “Yeah, the kitchen is rockin’ and rollin’ tonight.”

Funny, none of our fellow diners with different waiters seemed to be having that problem.

So I cautioned him if my food was cold by the time I got to it, he was going to hear about it.

He didn’t say a thing. Just slipped off into oblivion.

My food wasn’t cold — only because I shoveled lettuce into my mouth like a starved prisoner.

I’d barely set my salad bowl aside when Mr. Cheerful was on it, gathering dishes and for all intents and purposes, hurrying us along and out the door.

He didn’t bother to ask if we wanted drink refills. Or dessert.

I was so tempted not to leave him a red cent as a tip. I know that sounds cruel, but a tip is a “thank you” for a job well done, not an entitlement.

And Mr. Cheerful is fortunate the manager didn’t come over to ask if everything had met our satisfaction.

He’d have gotten an earful!

Sometimes it’s just easier to eat at home, isn’t it?

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25 thoughts on “Dining Out isn’t Always What It’s Cracked Up to Be

  1. “Sometimes it’s just easier to eat at home, isn’t it?”

    Amen and hallelujah, Debbie! I totally agree with you 100%! Which is why I barely eat out anymore. And if I do, it’s usually a place where I order my food at the counter and just sit down and eat it. But table service restaurants is just not a pleasant experience anymore. It’s like flying. The service used to be great on planes, but now it’s non existent.

    “I was so tempted not to leave him a red cent as a tip. I know that sounds cruel, but a tip is a “thank you” for a job well done, not an entitlement.”

    No, not cruel at all. Because a tip IS a thank you for a job well done. And I have, on occasions, complained to management about the service. I mean how else do they learn unless customers speak up?

    GREAT rant, Debbie!

    Have a FAB weekend…x

    • I’m glad you empathize, Ron (well, actually, I’m sorry you’ve had as bad an experience as I have!)

      You’re so right about flying, too. I can remember flying home for college breaks, when air travel was wonderful. I felt pampered, like a princess, and the flight attendants really outdid themselves in catering to passengers. Sadly, those days are no longer here.

      Of course I left Mr. Cheerful a tip (though not as much as he’d have earned, had he been competent, ha!)

      Hugs to you, my friend!

  2. Debbie,

    Happy Friday! I just tried to leave a comment on your site and Im not sure what happened but youre either going to get three duplicate comments or none. I wasnt posting but when I posted it, a message came up Oops, you already said that. Here it is in case you didnt get it and feel feel to delete any duplicates if they come through:

    Love it, Debbie. That’s a really good rant and I certainly can’t argue with your reactions here. I’ll bet anything, Mr Cheerful thought he was being very helpful. He’ll probably learn the hard way from someone not as nice as you that his waiting-style is not working. True, sometimes it is better to stay home but I love the idea of no prep and no clean-up.:-)

    Enjoy your weekend , my friend!

    Kathy

    • I got your comment, Kathy, and I thank you for it. I hope Mr. Cheerful learns that:
      1) women don’t particularly like being referred to by young guys as “girls”;
      2) no one likes being forced to shovel food in before the waiter grabs their plate;
      3) a sit-down meal is supposed to be FUN!

      You’re right, though, that no prep and no clean-up are two very good reasons why dining out is so popular!

  3. I like a waiter that is almost invisible and food that is served at a leisurely pace. So Mr. Cheerful would not work for me. Having said that I’m glad you tipped-I would hate for it to get ugly and for your dinner out to turn up as another internet tipping meme. Take-out always works for me :-D

    • I could never in good conscience NOT tip. I mean, he *did* bring me food — even if it wasn’t on my schedule, ha! I’m inclined to like the take-out suggestion, too, but my dear mom every so often likes to feel “pampered.” Too bad a hurry-up kind of waiter doesn’t fit that bill!

  4. If it ever happens to you again, you might consider a tactic I’ve used – perhaps three times in my life. Go ahead and tip, but tip something like 50 cents. That communicates more than no tip that you’ve been dissatisfied – it makes it perfectly clear that you didn’t forget to leave a tip, or assume someone else had.

    I tend to be a generous tipper, but I’m also more than willing to speak up to inattentive or obnoxious waitstaff. Nicely, of course, but it’s my evening out, and it’s not my job to move along so they can do more seatings in an evening.

    • You know, I’d be willing to try that short-tip suggestion IF I had no intention of ever eating at that restaurant again. I’d just be too afraid they’d spit in my food (or worse!) the next time they saw me darken their door.

      I suspect I should have taken the manager aside and registered my complaint (nicely, of course). I wouldn’t want to see somebody fired over something like this — jobs are sooo hard to come by — but on the job learning is essential — and how can he learn if he isn’t aware customers are unhappy?

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one to feel this way, Monica. The sad thing is, we’d eaten there not too long ago and it was superb! Restaurant managers must learn that so much of their repeat business depends on friendly, capable wait staff. Thanks for commiserating!

  5. It is a fine balance sometimes what is good service. I hate the hovering waiter but the invisible waiter is not good either. Somewhere in between is a good mix. We usually try to “engage” our waiter/waitress at the very beginning and make a connection so that we feel like we have a relationship established. We are very good tippers and I could never not leave a tip even if the service was horrible—-I just would not tip as well. Sorry your experience was frustrating—-maybe a note to the manager is in order. Sounds like the waiter just didn’t “get it”. Eating at home is all on my so if the food is late or cold it is my fault. :-)

    • I never did waitress work, but I can see where it would be a balancing act. Some customers are never happy; I’m not one of those. But it’s insulting when a young guy refers to women old enough to be his mom as “girls.” And I know they never offer to take your plate back to the kitchen and keep it warm until you’ve had a chance to enjoy your salad. What’s really aggravating is, it’s the server’s fault for turning in the order before bringing your first course. The other servers apparently weren’t doing that because all around us, people were enjoying their salads. Oh, well!

  6. Interesting. I’m wondering if this is the new way of doing things in restaurants. Mark and I ate at a local restaurant last night, one that’s part of a national chain. We usually enjoy this place for a spontaneous, casual dinner out. Our server was polite and good at his job, in general. But we also received our food surprisingly quickly – and it was delivered by someone other than our server. Our server was back before I’d chewed my first bite to ask how everything tasted. He wanted to know if we wanted drink refills before we’d drank a third of our drinks. The food was good. The service was polite. But I definitely felt rushed. This doesn’t seem like a good trend for the restaurant industry.

    • Terri, while I’m sorry you and Mark had to endure an equally rushed dinner, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one! Restaurants have to move customers along and clean their tables for the next patrons, but nobody wants to spend good money and leave with indigestion. You’re right — this doesn’t seem like a good trend to me, either! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. I waitressed in college, so I’m pretty picky when we go out. Sure, if it’s busy, I can excuse an empty glass of water. But if it’s not and the server is in the corner gossiping with co-workers, I get irritated. I’ve also had the waiters ready to take my plate before I’m done, which makes me feel rushed. When I was in the business, I would ask once how everything was and then walk by later to see if more drinks were needed or plates needed to be cleared, but I wouldn’t interrupt them to ask. I figured if they needed something, they’d be looking for me :) A good clue about when someone is done eating is when their plate is nudged to the side, or they are leaned back in their chair.

    I’m sorry your experience wasn’t better. Timely reading this because my husband wants to go out to eat tonight (my older son is on a 2-day Boy Scout hike, so it’s just us and the young one…we must party :) )

    • Janna, I so hope your “party” turns out wonderful! It sounds like you must have been a conscientious, observant waitress. Sad that wait staff aren’t being schooled these days in the basics. Still, most restaurants I’ve been to of late are PACKED, so maybe other customers aren’t as particular as I am!

  8. I’ve had the main meal brought out too soon many times…I think it may be a trend to turn the tables over faster. And I HATE when servers stop by multiple times to ask if we’re “still doing OK?” interrupting conversation. But we always leave a tip because for all we know that’s the house policy. We just don’t go back.

    • I’m glad this didn’t happen only to me, Dawn (though I’m sorry you, too, had to experience it). Yes, I suppose it’s designed to help the wait staff (and the restaurant) make more money, but it’s not a good thing for diners. I didn’t have the heart not to leave a tip, though in retrospect I probably should’ve said something in private to the manager. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  9. Oh la la, Debbie. How awful. The French would be horrified to be rushed through a dinner like that. Mealtime is meant to be cherished and food should be savored, not shoveled!

    • Pat, thanks for putting things into perspective! Yes, I fear this hurrying-to-eat thing is an American invention, and I hope it doesn’t spread across the world. Other cultures are so much more knowledgeable than we are when it comes to healthy eating — and that doesn’t mean rushing through meals! Someone labored long and hard to prepare that food; the least diners can do is savor each bite!!

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