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Q&A – Dealing With a Bad Server

Here’s another great question from a fan that I though deserved a proper answer on my website. This one involves how to handle issues with restaurant service.

Connie N. Asks,

“I know I shouldn’t be so picky, but one of my biggest pet peeve’s is when your meal arrives and the waiters start to sweep the floor around the table where you are eating. It really gets under my skin, and I really do not care for floor dust and dirt particles flying in my food. The fact is, that I think it is very rude and shatters your whole dinning experience. How would you resolve this problem with management?”


DSC_0597In this particular case, I don’t think you are being picky at all! Anything that happens or that you observe during the course of service that disrupts your dining experience is not good and you, as a paying customer, have the right to say something. However, I must say that determining who you should address the issue with is the key factor in your problem.

During a dining experience, the server is your first contact for customer service. They should be the first to field any questions, comments, or concerns and they should have the first opportunity to correct any issues. In this issue, simply making the server aware that what they are doing is bothersome or in error should be enough to stop or correct them. There’s no need to be snide or attempt to turn it into a lesson for the server (not saying you were doing this). Most of the erroneous actions of servers are without malice. Their tips and earnings resides in your having an enjoyable experience, so I find it highly unlikely that there is any negative intent in the mistakes that servers make. It is more likely that there was just a naive or momentary lapse in judgement.

When to Involve the Manager

If addressing an issue with server does not fix the error or if there will be need of some sort of compensation to make up for a mistake, that’s when it is time to get the manager involved. In most cases, only a manager has the ability to comp a meal or give a free drink or desert. If your experience was so bad that you feel like you deserve something to make up for the mistakes, get the manager involved.

The biggest thing is not to address the manager with a demand for something. Make the manager aware of what has transpired, and give them the opportunity to determine what should be done to make it up to you. Most of the time a manager will know exactly what to offer. Plus, you are more likely to be made happy being given something rather that demanding something.

Doling Out The Punishment

So many people rate their overall dining experience with their tip. This is a mistake! Tips should be used to compensate the server for a job well done (or not done). If your food was off or wrong, then take steps with your server or manager to make it right, but realize that your server may have had very little control over what transpired in the kitchen. They shouldn’t be punished for the oversight of somebody else. Recognize what your server can or cannot control during your meal and judge/tip them by those standards.

Most Importantly

Shows like Restaurant: Impossible provide viewers with a great behind-the-scenes look at how restaurants run, and have done a lot to help average diners know what to look for and what to expect during their dining experience. Social media has also helped to provide a voice and and an outlet for commenting and criticism of how restaurants run. Having a more educated consumer base is a great result from watching my show and being able to get direct customer feedback is an amazing aspect of sites like Yelp and Facebook. However, I am always concerned about a person’s joy and love of cuisine being overtaken by the type of overly analytical and overly critical mentality that was once reserved for industry insiders and professional journalists. Basically what I am hoping is that people will approach their dining experience without cynicism and be open to the opportunity to be “wowed.” That’s what the restaurant experience should be all about!!

When do you think a customer should involve the manager? Share your thoughts in the comments?

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