I recently dined at a local favorite of mine here in Los Angeles. I won’t name names because I do like the restaurant and plan to return. It’s a restaurant, in fact, whose service I’ve defended to others in the past. It’s a restaurant that has been lauded for its food and maligned for the quality of its waitstaff, which I’d never found wanting. Until, well….
Unfortunately, I had very shitty service there last night.
I’m lenient when it comes to service. As long as I feel modestly taken care of, I let a lot of things slide. Casualness. Harriedness. I don’t really care as long as I feel that I’m being maintained–I’m being checked on, well recommended and not hurried.
Our server made zero appearances at our table except to 1. take our order and 2. refill our wine. That’s it. Only things that could directly earn him revenue.
Sure, food can be dropped by a runner. I don’t mind. I’ve worked at restaurants where that was the case. I did, however, always go by the table shortly after they’d taken a few bites and checked on everything. Not the case. And he wasn’t particularly busy. We had a late reservation and, although still full when we arrived, by the time our food arrived there were only a half dozen tables and at least two waiters still working.
The problems went deeper than an inattentive waiter, too. The bussers–who admittedly did a good job keeping our water glasses filled–were very eager to clear our plates. On one occasion we were practically forced to take food off of the platter and move it to our share plates so that they could, inexplicably, clear the platter for no end other than to clear the plate or slightly accelerate our departure.
For dessert, we also had a very bad creme brulee. I blame this on the service because it was bad due it obviously lacking brulee-ness. This was plainly visible as soon as it was dropped. We would’ve said something but, again, the server was gone. The top was barely cooked and the dessert, although full of excellent flavor, was annoyingly bad because of it. The custard was cold in parts and, again, the bruleed top was barely browned. That’s the type of thing that a server or food runner needs to notice and rectify before it’s served. I’ve done it numerous times as a waiter and, sure I’ve been yelled at by chefs and cooks, but in the end I’ve never served an inferior product to a customer. I get it. It was late. Maybe they’d put the blowtorch away. But that’s never an excuse to offer a poorly-executed dish. If you can’t adequately serve the creme brulee, then 86 it after 9PM.
The last egregious error on the restaurant’s part was that, despite there being 3 or 4 tables still left in the restaurant, the back waiter staff began rolling out the brooms and dustpans and sweeping up. That’s completely unacceptable–it hurries your paying customers and makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s not worth it. In another 30 minutes everybody would’ve been out of there. Every restaurant I’ve worked at have contracted with an overnight cleaning crew who takes care of the heavy-duty cleaning well after closing.
(Yes, we had a late reservation but it was for 9:15 and the restaurant closed at 10PM. The place was packed when we arrived and we were not the last table to leave. If you want to have everyone out the door at 10PM, you need to close at 9PM.)
Will I be back? Probably. But if this happens again I might not be.