Bad Service at a Restaurant: What Would You Do?

bad-serviceThis past weekend, I dined out a restaurant (one not on the OpenTable network, and, on behalf of my fellow diners, I am glad for that) and experienced really poor service. I’ve waited tables at many restaurants. Because of that, I am always apt to cut servers a lot of slack. It is a difficult job and, as a waiter, you cannot control every element of the dining experience, even though you are the face of the dining experience. That said, I usually don’t complain about service unless it is abominable. And this was.

After botching every possible aspect of our meal, I voiced my opinion to the server. The manager, with whom I’m friendly, came over and offered up various amends: different dishes, comped entrees, or free drinks and dessert. I told him I wasn’t interested in any of that as we had to leave, and the point wasn’t that I was looking for money off my bill. It occurred to me, though, that I didn’t know what I wanted. Probably an apology from the waiter. Ideally, a do-over on the whole meal, which came at the end of a very stressful day. Looking back, I think I should have asked the manager for a different server as soon as things got off course.

I’m reminded of a silly (and — WARNING! — often off-color) film starring Ryan Reynolds (aka Mr. ScarJo) called Waiting, about servers toiling away at an awful chain restaurant. In one scene, a patron wants to send her food back, and the poor server points out, “Ma’am, I don’t doubt the steak was overcooked, but did you have to eat it all before you complained about it?” Diners can behave badly, too, and negatively impact their own dining experience. However, great service has the transformative power of making a mediocre meal fantastic. Terrible service can overpower any food, no matter how carefully prepared and delicious it may be.

How important is quality service to you when you’re dining out? What do you do when the service is less than stellar? What should I have asked for from the manager after my experience? Weigh in here or over on Facebook.

And, speaking of service, stay tuned tomorrow as we roll out our Diners’ Choice Awards for Best Service provided by restaurants in America. Find out if your favorite restaurant makes the cut!

Michelin Picks New York’s Best Restaurants for 2010

michelin-new-york-2010The Michelin Guide New York City Restaurants 2010 is out, and New York’s restaurateurs have more to be proud of than ever before. Five Manhattan restaurants received the coveted rating of three stars, including Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, and Per Se. While even a single star from Michelin is impressive and indicates that a restaurant is very good, three stars means that a restaurant is a destination in and of itself, worthy of a special culinary expedition.

New to the list are A Voce, Bouley, Convivio, Corton, Eleven Madison Park, Marea, Rouge Tomate, Seasonal, and SHO Shaun Hergatt, among others.

Congratulations to all the restaurants included on this influential list. Reserve a table at these restaurants today to find out if you agree with Michelin’s team of anonymous experts.