Restaurateurs: Please Do Not Let Your Staff Rush My Dinner
This was the overwhelming message I received for my poll about whether restaurants have the right to rush you if yours is the last reservation of the evening. I felt vindicated when 91% of 443 respondents felt the same way I did when I was recently told "the kitchen is closing in five minutes". Here is the sequence of events that led to my writing this post and conducting the poll:
1) We arrive at the restaurant within 2 minutes of our 10.15pm Opentable reservation.
2) We are seated immediately by the hostess who hands us menus to peruse.
3) We are not actually aware that we are the last reservation.
4) At 10.25pm a waiter arrives, telling us he is going to have to hurry up and take our orders straight away, he needs to rush our requests because the kitchen is closing in 5 minutes.
5) We have already chosen so we let him know what we would like, including aperitifs.
6) We ask him if he would give us just a couple more minutes to choose our wine.
7) Very soon after that our appetizers are delivered by a waitress. I explain to her I am a little surprised at the speed because we haven't yet received our aperitifs.
8) She rushes off to remind our waiter who is AWOL from our table for most of the early part of our evening and who has forgotten about our drinks.
9) The cocktails arrive midway through our appetizers.
10) After finishing our starters, we are left twiddling our thumbs for a while - unable to get the attention of any waitstaff in order to request our wine.
11) Eventually we manage to gain the attention of (not our) wait
12) I ask if we might be able to please order and take delivery of our wine before the entrees arrive?
13) "Of course" she replies and heads off to find our waiter.
14) Our waiter turns up and because one of our party of three has reason to celebrate, we order an extremely decent bottle of wine.
15) As he is taking the wine order our main courses arrive.
16) I feel that I have to say something at this point. I tell him I am extremely disappointed because I feel like we are being rushed and everything is turning up out of sync.
17) He tells me - he has to rush us because the kitchen is closing.
18) I tell him that I made the reservation in good faith via Opentable, I was on time, and I do not expect a restaurant to take a reservation if they do not have the time to honour it properly.
19) Our wine is good enough that it needs a decanter. He goes to take care of it.
20) I get the feeling that the waiter's opinion of us has changed because of our somewhat special wine choice.
21) After dinner, I order a $5 cheese and the boys settle for Sauternes.
22) Our waiter decides he should perhaps apologize at this point and comps these final three items. "I am sorry", he says "I didn't mean to rush you".
23) I find his apology to be a little dishonest. At the start of our evening he certainly did mean to rush us and said as much two or three times.
24) I notice some of the staff settling down to dinner in the corner. I guess the kitchen isn't fully closed after all.
25) I decide I want to take action to try and stop other diners suffering from a similar, uncomfortable situation.
26) I write to Opentable stating "I do not believe [you] should offer later reservations to [your] users, if those users cannot be guaranteed the same level of service and experience they would expect at an earlier time in the evening".
27) I wrote to the owner of the restaurant voicing similar concerns.
28) Opentable are very professional and return my email quickly, saying: "I would like to offer my deepest apologies regarding your unsatisfactory experience at the restaurant. I encourage you to call the restaurant directly and ask to speak with the General Manager so that you may voice your concerns. Restaurants really do appreciate both positive and negative feedback, and yours is incredibly valuable. In the meantime, we will address the situation with the restaurant in an effort to avoid this happening in the future.". (They also give me a few bonus points to show their appreciation of my custom.)
29) After 10+ days and no response from the owner via email I decide to give him a call. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
"You should not have been rushed... As long as we sit you down you should have as much time as you need... I am sorry it happened, I don't support it, I agree with you... I know it's not something that should happen. There is always a way, something to improve, fix complaints, if people don't say, I don't know."
Although the memory of our hurried evening still rankles with me, I am satisfied with the Chef/owner's explanation and apology for now. It's a good lesson in restraint to actually talk to the owner of a restaurant you have an issue instead of spouting off your grievances online without first thinking it through. I'll trust that this restaurant will fix its kitchen closing issues, so that any future late-dining guests are not disappointed like we were.
I only have the owner's word that things will improve, though, so don't hesitate to tell me if you find he doesn't deliver on his promise. If you're wondering where to find him, he's a Frenchman, whose restaurant/bar with a wood-burning oven and live piano, is hidden away behind a large gate and courtyard garden somewhere South of Market. Shouldn't be too hard to find...
PS Message for my Menu for Hope Supporters - Your Clotted Cream Postcards are in the mail!
2006 | Mabel's Just For You Cafe, In My Hood
2005 | Very Posh Cheese & Biscuits
© 2008 Sam Breach Restaurateurs: Please Do Not Let Your Staff Rush My Dinner