The First Class Guide to Avoiding Dining Disasters
It happened again. You got seated in a restaurant and ten minutes later you are still waiting for service. Then when you finally got your food the dressing was on the salad instead of on the side, the steak was overcooked and the side was wrong. Dessert? Forget about it. You can’t even get a refill on your drink. Just wait…the check will be wrong, too!
I know so many people for whom this scenario is a common occurrence. It just doesn’t seem to matter where they go, it’s always a frustrating hassle. Something always seems to go wrong. On the other hand, I almost never receive poor service. My orders arrive correct 99% of the time. I’ve been known to become Facebook friends with my server before the check arrives.
What makes the difference?
While I can’t make a sweeping judgement on why this happens to some people and not others, there are a few key factors that I’ve noticed seem to be common denominators for those repeatedly having bad experiences. Here are some reasons you may be experiencing dining out disasters:
1…You eat at a cheap restaurant. There’s a reason that better servers work at more expensive restaurants. They want to be compensated for their higher skill set just like anyone else. This is not to say that service at less expensive restaurants is always poor (it’s not) or that you do not deserve good service by choosing them (you do). However, if you are eating at places where they have high turnover, a lot of inexperienced or new staff, chances are higher that there will be mistakes. This is why we tend to avoid brand new restaurants regardless of price point. If that’s your restaurant of choice, you should adjust your expectations accordingly.
2…You ask for too much and spend too little. If you are having water and an appetizer for an entree, your server is going to spend more time at the table ordering appetizers, salads, entrees and wine than at your table. Do you feed the golden goose or the cow that quit giving milk? If you just want a light meal you may need to lower your expectations. The server has bills to pay, too.
3…You’re a one shot customer. One of the reasons my husband and I tend to get better service is because we frequent the same few restaurants over and over again. The staff knows us and we know them. They know they will get a good tip. They know we will not mistreat them. They know that if there’s a problem, we won’t make a big fuss. The intangible capital of loyalty pays huge dividends here. Find places that you like and make them an extension of your home. Make friends. When you enter, you want to feel like Norm walking into Cheers.
4…You’re a jerk. I hate to bring it up, but if you are treating your server like an underling to be ordered around you deserve every crap filled meal you get. They are human beings doing their job. No one likes to have clients or customers dumping on them in a desperate attempt to re-inflate their popped egos. Go get counseling and do carry out until you can learn how to respect people. Ideally you should know your server’s name, chit-chat a bit and understand that they want you to have a good meal…unless you’re a prick. Then they want you to leave and never come back. That’s why you got the dry Brussels sprouts instead of the garlic truffle mashed potatoes with extra butter.
5..You are expecting it. If you’ve had a few bad experiences it could have created the expectation in your mind that you will have another lousy meal. Without even realizing it you will actually cause this to happen. Ever hear of a self-fulfilling prophecy? That’s exactly what happens. Maybe you say the wrong menu item by accident, and when the meal arrives you are sure that you asked for something different. You notice the crack in the wallpaper instead of the beautiful piece of art hanging near your table. You rush to judgement when there’s an error on your bill. Your expectation creates the experience, usually without you even realizing what has happened. Change your dining out paradigm by actively looking for the good, the correct and the satisfying. Compliment your server on something. It makes a difference.
There are no guarantees that every meal out will be perfect. But choosing the right restaurant, going there often, being friendly and respectful and keeping appropriate expectations go a long way in keeping your dining experience from giving you indigestion. May your next dining experience be the best ever – bon appetite!