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The Foodie Quipper:
by Joe Ferri
The young hostess found our Open Table reservation in the system. This was a good start. It all went downhill from there.
When asked if we could sit outside (it was a mid-August gorgeous night after all, and there apparently were plenty of available tables on the patio), we were told “No, we’re too busy!” Then, during a series of minor missteps after a runner had brought out our food - including missing flatware, unlit table lamp, late delivery of beverages - our server could not be located.
Finding our wayward waiter was vital, in that one of the entrees was missing its protein component!
We dispatched the busser on a mission to locate the server, who arrived after a good five minutes had passed. In lieu of an apology and immediate rectification, a plate inspection and discussion ensued. This played out over the backdrop of an amateur photographer/diner who incessantly used the brightest flash I’ve ever seen outside of a studio, blinding us every few minutes! No staff member ever curbed his enthusiasm. Nor did they police the toddlers running around the dining room.
We inquired of another waitperson (who we are friends with) if there was a manager on duty, and she assured us that there was, although we had not spotted him/her during the course of this debacle, or indeed at all that night.
The restaurant is not inexpensive, we are
locals and regulars. I was appalled and shared
our disgust with our friend, the other server.
There were many other defects in the evening’s repast: improper temperatures, no requests to refill beverages, bread etc. and many other minor and major nuisances.
I opted not to have the heretofore invisible manager hear our tale of woe directly from us - assuming that the standard response would be a complimentary dessert, which we didn’t want or need. Incredibly, our server-friend told us that our waiter was a multi-year veteran of the establishment.
My dilemma was what course of action to take. I admittedly did not tip the customary 20-25%. Should I post an uncomplimentary review on Yelp or Trip Advisor? Any one of the minor annoyances that we encountered (prior to the missing waiter/protein) could be excused. Given together, they represented a monumental failure. I’ve decided to use the experience as a cautionary tale.
I have great empathy for the struggles of the independent operator. I regularly read the blog posts of owners, servers and patrons alike. What we and many other observers are experiencing is a downward spiral in the standards of indie operations, and the misbehavior of staff and diners. And it worries me.
Why don’t managers not manage? Staffs are not trained. Standards are not upheld. The patron’s needs are no longer being considered paramount. As an industry person, I am dismayed by the lack of post-recession restaurant upgrades. As an insider, I am appalled by the degradation of the dining experience.
What can we collectively do to improve the situation? Simply illuminating it has not halted the rapid demise of a once-pleasant experience. Is it simply symptomatic of the larger systematic sickness of the retail industry?
I’ve noticed a trend in the various make-over television shows to simply condemn the operations and call in the auctioneers! Can any of us afford to abandon the independent restaurant operator?
The Foodservice Equipment and Supplies Industry has comfortably provided for many of us. We must face this existential challenge together. Patronizing local establishments remains an important component of giving back to the business that sustains us. More must be done to educate our end-user customers. It is incumbent on us as industry professionals to lead the way in a restaurant renaissance.
Suppliers can and must go the extra mile to assist restaurateurs in profitably upgrading their operations. Our livelihood depends on the fortunes and the vibrancy of the operators. Help them to elevate their patrons’ perceptions.
Together, we can restore hospitality in the Hospitality Industry.
We are desperately in need of a good caption here:
At least they're "inverted".