Stranded. That’s how I felt the last time I had a bad restaurant experience. The wait was short, the ambiance was perfect and the food delicious. Everything was perfect until the interminable final minutes of my visit. I must have slipped into an alternate dimension the second the cheesecake hit the table. Did they completely forget about me? I was starting to think they were going to mop the floors and lock up before I got my check. No matter how great my dining experience may have been, my first recollection of the evening is how hard it was to pay the bill. A relatively small glitch has left a profound impression on my experience with the restaurant. Snafus like this happen all the time and they usually walk out the door unbeknownst to management. As a professional pizzeria customer, I know exactly what I’m looking for in restaurant service and it isn’t very much.
The sum of my requirements can be boiled down to a single word: communication. I hope to be informed about issues like how long I’ll be waiting for a table, what specials are available and why my food’s taking so long. I’m satisfied as long as I have answers to those questions. But if left uninformed, I’m probably going to assume the worst. The kitchen messed up my order, my server forgot about me, this restaurant doesn’t care that I’m here, etc. A quick drop-in every once in a while prevents me from jumping to conclusions.
If I do have an issue while dining it’s highly unlikely I’ll say anything about it to the staff. I know it’s a bad way to fix the problem but I’m at a restaurant because I want to relax and complaining to my server or asking to speak to a manager is not the best way to do so. If I were a pizzeria manager, I’d want to do everything I can to fix problematic situations before they walk out the door. Once a customer’s problem leaves your territory, it’s bound for the review sites. Before you know it, you’ll have a reputation for having slow service based on a single online review you could have avoided with a little more vigilance. The quality of your food, your perfect music selection and the cleanliness of your bathrooms will all be forgotten because of a tiny error that could have been avoided with better communication.
Rather than fixing a service issue by speaking with the manager, I’m more likely to just avoid the restaurant altogether. I’m not one to blast a negative experience all over social media and review sites but it is possible I’ll mention the incident when someone asks if I’ve ever been to the offending restaurant.
There are too many moving parts in a restaurant for service to be perfect every time, but the majority of my concerns can be prevented with simple communication. Dining out should be stress-free for the customer and you can rest assured the amount of aggravation I experience is inversely proportional to the tip I leave on the table.
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.