Thursday, 24 May 2007

Waiter! My steak is undercooked/overcooked/meant to be tuna

we welcome your views and complaints
honest we do

Kav posted a question yesterday which I thought demanded a bit more than the usual throw away crap, sorry I mean short pithy remark.

Kav asked: "I would like to see a post on how Manuel recommends dealing with the thorny issue of when the food or service is shit. I know it'd never happen where you work, but it does happen sometimes..."

And it's a good question.

I have a philosophy on waiting tables and working in hospitality in general and it is this: People these days work long and hard, life can be very difficult and so when people do get a moment to out with family or friends they deserve to have the best possible experience that is available. (Big hug anyone?)

Waiters want a smooth shift, we want our customers to be happy, and we want them to return. More customers means more cash for Manuel, which means more loving for Little Miss Manuel. Chefs share those goals too. We don't want it to happen, we don't want you to be upset, we don't want to have to stand there in the middle of the restaurant and get a dressing down from an irate customer. You should bear that in mind before you let loose with the hairdryer rant. But from time to time things get fucked. Fact.

Most food related complaints can be dealt with straight away by the waiter, wrong sauce, not hot enough, wrong side order etc. These problems are solved with a quick dash to the kitchen. If the complaint is related to the waiter my advice is to go straight to the manager. Bypass all other staff and go straight to the guy in the fancy tie. If you ask the waiter to get the manager chances are they will know what you are up to and that's when the misinformation will start. I have never done that, oh no not me.

Here's how to avoid your meal going wrong from your end:
  1. Book a table! If we know we are going to be busy we can staff accordingly. If you don't book then you might have to wait for a table, accept this with grace and don't make a dick of yourself. I have heard them all before, we wont be long, there's only 2/3/4/12 of us, I know the owner. So do I, so what a-hole. Oh and if you are running late, don't stress out just give us ring and let us know.
  2. READ THE MENU! Oh my that's where things go wrong. People scan the menu see something they like and order without checking the description. The lamb rump is served pink, it says so on the menu, so don't start bitching when it arrives with a little blood on the plate.
  3. If you make substitutions to the way the chef would make it, then expect it to be different from what is listed. And don't be surprised if this is reflected in the price.
  4. Listen to the waiter when he is asking you questions or informing you that the lamb is served pink and act/order accordingly. If you don't want it pink just say so.
  5. Be at the table when your food comes out! This is seriously rude and not on. If you are outside for a smoke and your food arrives don't start bitching that your food isn't as warm as it should be. If we have to put it under the heat lamps until you return things are going to dry up.
  6. This is my favourite gripe and leaves me mystified every time. When the waiter comes to your table and asks you if everything is okay, bloody well tell him what you think! If it's great, that's brilliant, carry on. If not, this is your opportunity to get it sorted. So many times (in 18 years of service that is) I have cleared away food only to be told that they weren't happy with it despite having been asked earlier. The first thing the chef will ask me is "did you check them?" You are unlikely to get a discount etc if you have cleared the plate and failed to complain when asked.
  7. Have a heart and act accordingly. If you look round you and the restaurant is bursting full and the waiters are going a dinger then you should assume the place is busy and things are going to take longer than they did on the Monday night when you came in and it was quiet. Oh and if you order your steak well done expect to wait, wait, and wait.

Now the real nub of the question, what to do when you have a complaint.
  1. First thing to do is breathe. Flying off the handle, no matter how serious and legitimate your complaint may be, will get you no where. I know it's difficult but you must resist the urge to start swearing and shouting. If you take this route you can expect to meet resistance all the way, and you will leave unhappy. If you swear at all the game is over and most managers will walk away leaving your bill intact.
  2. Call your waiter over and state the problem clearly and be specific. The waiter has to tell the manger/chef what is wrong. I can't go to the dark place of satanic influences (kitchen) and say "table four didn't like this". I need to give then hard fact. All most every situation where the customer has a legitimate problem with their meal should end up with that product being removed from the bill. My advice is to insist on this.
  3. We want you to leave happy. And in the long run it is cheaper to take something off the bill or give you a free bottle of wine than have you leave all bitter and grumbling under your breath. In round about terms the manager /waiter should ask you what they can do to make you happy. Touching the bum of the 19 year old waitress isn't an option.
If you don't get satisfaction and you feel you have been treated unfairly then there is nothing like a hand written letter to get results. E-mails are good, but nothing scares the crap out the management more than a hand written letter. There is also nothing like a hand written letter praising the staff either. I have a wall full of those, well I am thee worlds greatest waiter, lover, blogger....

All complaints to....

17 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Medbh said...

Wow, Manuel, what a detailed guide for proper restaurant etiquette. "Well done" indeed."

I hated it when they ate the whole meal and then complained about it in a brazen attempt to get something for free. Also didn't like it when people used my tip as a threat "if you don't do this I'm not leaving a good tip" blah, blah is annoying as all fuck.

Medbh said...

Why does blogger eat the first lines of the first comment?

Fat Sparrow said...

Not that this has anything to do with the post, buuuuuuttttt....

The Fledgling Sparrow took me out to dinner the other week, and since she is getting to that age where she is almost human, I thought it's high time she learns how to calculate the price of dinner, tax, tips, etc., so I proceeded to instruct her.

We had sat for a really, really long time (it was a restaurant that had a buffet option as well as a menu) as I am a slow eater and a slack bastard besides (and let's be honest, if the sign says "All You Can Eat" I am gonna be there awhile), and I told her that we would be tipping extra, as we took up a table for a long time. It dawned on me that I may not have put this in my previous comment on the tipping post, so I'm adding it here: Tip extra (and I mean double on a busy night!) if you're going to linger. Lingerers may piss off the management, as their sales will be slightly down, but you'll still be in good with your waiter, which is what counts.

savannah said...

well done, sir! i really think that everyone should work food & beverage at least once in their life...tis good training in civility and gentility.

Old Knudsen said...

long and hard


So is it Spires you work at?

ellie said...

Feck sake! I was just getting my head round how to behave and how to tip, now I have to learn how to complain.
I think I will stay home and phone for a chinese take away.
It's all making my head hurt :(

ellie said...

Manuel, can you have a look over at Savannah's and give me your take on what is a full Irish breakfast! Thanks.

whyioughtta said...

Great advice. Another point: The quality of service, food, atmosphere is also a factor of whether it's an independent or large chain restaurant. For example, most chain restaurants where I live are utter crap--noisy, tasteless food, overly peppy/practically comatose server. I used to complain about the terrible food (when asked the first time), but now I just don't go to those restaurants. Small independently owned places are almost universally better, at least in this city, because the people who work there take some pride in what they do.

savannah said...

please do mauel..i would love to know what's in a real irish if i ever make it over to ireland i wont look a fool when i order :D

paddy said...

I smile ask politely for what the waiter would recomend, I usually go for that no matter what after all I out for the evening not to indulge in food that I know very little about. I'll eat it if I like it or leave have a few more drinks to compensate, pay the bill and tip reasonably. If I like the meal I'll be back again. See you I'm off into the bog to do a few lines befor I head off to the nite club. Don't tell Llittle missManuel wont you not.
Cheers. Y;-) Paddy

Neel said...

Thanks for the advice, a lot of it seems like common sense, but then again common sense is severely lacking these days. One question though- I've heard conflicting opinions on whether the customer should suggest what he wants as compensation for a kitchen error or extremely poor service...asking for dessert on the house, for example. What are your thoughts on this? Should the customer suggest something like that, or leave it up to the restaurant management to do what they think is best?

Manuel said...

Medbh: Ah the ole tip-o-mter crap, hate that. Other thing? Don't know!

Fat Sparrow: Teach em young and teach em well Sparrow-wan-kanobi

sav: it's a leveller for sure.

Old K: wrong

Ellie: Breakfast eh? I'm there!

Wio: Correct, the individuality is beaten out of the staff in chain stores...

Paddy: Ask the waiter to choose for you, we love that! And as for LMM she sees all

Neel: The control should never shift back to the customer. A good manger should control the situation and be able to make a judegment call as to what is needed. Sometimes its a round of drinks other times its a comp'd meal. Every situation is different as is every customer.

Manuel said...

Oh and here, wheres Kav? Any use to you or wah?

Fat Sparrow said...

Kav's either getting laid or getting a book deal, or both.

Kav said...

Excellent Manuel, thanks for being so comprehensive. You covered almost every aspect except for how to complain if you find pubes in your soup.

I've been tres busy this weekend, and, although I read your post the other day, did not get a chance to comment on any blogs until today. I'll try harder next time.

Kav said...

And sadly FS, it was the former (well, for six minutes of the weekend), and not the latter.

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