Last Update: May 5th, 2022
Bad Service Cartoon

Open Letter to a Server

Originally Published 12/5/2019:

Over the weekend we got a comment about a review written well over a year ago. I can't recall the exact details of the visit, but apparently I got service so lousy that I felt compelled to mention it. Service is the reason that people go out to eat; but too many servers don't understand their job description. They seem to think that their job is to take orders and to deliver stuff to a table, while in reality it's much more than that. I blame bad restaurant management to some extent; restaurants that don't use "shoppers" and who don't train their servers properly are just as much to blame as the servers themselves.

I don't want to "out" the server or the restaurant, so I can't print the entire comment. Just a few excerpts which illustrate this person's delusional perspective.

Server Doe wrote:

I would like my name retracted from the article. After reading the review I do believe that this person is completely unaware of how a restaurant works. In regards to me serving Iced Tea without a lemon, lemon's are INDEED served on request as there are many people who do NOT want one in there tea. Aside from that nonsense, if this person had a real complaint and had brought it to my attention, rather than taking pictures, the issue would have been resloved. Further more, as a bar tender, you are also responsible for making drinks for the ENTIRE restaurant, so these "bar chores" that they mentioned are part of my job....This indivial clearly came into my place of business with a negative attitude from the start and it appears that all they wanted to do was give a bad review and they were looking for any tiny thing they could find. I am extremely good at what I do and I take this very personally. A friend of mine brought this to my attention and I do not want any one else to view this. If he or she had such a bad experience, then they should have called our corporate offices, just like any other guest will do if they have a bad experience. I understand that as a critic they have every right to voice their opinion, but they do not have the right to slander my name.

Slander would imply that something was made up, or that the events described didn't happen. The truth isn't always convenient. But it ain't slander. "My service from Server Doe was lousy" is hardly actionable. The truth is that the review wasn't really a bad review; there was a single line that mentioned lousy service from a particular person. Objectivity is a 2 way street.

I would have removed the name as it's been quite a while, but it's clear that this person doesn't care, and that his/her attitude is the exact reason that the chances of getting good service from them would be purely accidental.

I was going to just email the response, but I thought I'd turn it into an article. Maybe some servers will read it and a little light bulb will go off in their head.

The response:

Dear Server Doe,

I would have removed your name if you were even mildly apologetic about the lousy service, but since you seem in denial I'm leaving it in. People like you are the reason we started this site 3 years ago. Hopefully it will have some impact on the woeful service that is so pervasive in this town.

"Servers" who whine that customers who complain don't know anything about the restaurant business are a large part of the problem. You clearly don't understand your job; you're just going through the motions without concern for your customer's dining experience.

Your job is not just to deliver products to a table or bar seat; it's to make sure that your customer has everything they need. Your job is not just to drop off iced tea and move on to your next task; it's to make sure your customer has lemon, sugar, a spoon or a straw; a good server will ask "what would you like with your tea"; a gruff server will ask when ordering "with or without lemon", and a bad server won't ask at all; they'll just turn and scamper away, leaving the customer with an undrinkable beverage until the next time they bother to come over. Every restaurant has different "options'; how do you expect a customer to know what is optional at your restaurant?

The notion that someone who doesn't work in a restaurant doesn't "understand" is the attitude that needs to be squashed by your bosses. Your job is to deliver a good experience, not to complain that the job is difficult. A customer either has a good experience or a bad one. It is, in fact, a litmus test. I've reviewed over 1500 restaurants and I almost never mention a server's name. I don't remember the specifics of the visit, but if I mentioned your name; the service really sucked rocks.

I know the difference between a server who is overmatched, a server who is over-occupied by demanding customers and a server who is just doing a bad job. When you're at a bar and the server is within eyesight constantly, there's no excuse for a glass to remain empty for a long period of time. I wouldn't have mentioned it unless you had multiple opportunities to notice and simply didn't; a good server notices an empty glass on the bar right away, because a good server scans the bar regularly to make sure that customers aren't sitting with an empty glass or empty plates. I seem to recall that you offered me a refill as I asked for my check (and after the glass was empty for quite some time while I finished my meal). So you knew you screwed up; but it's too late once the deal is done.

I'm sure that when you get a bad tip you complain that the customer is cheap; not even considering that it might be because the service was sub-par. People who blindly reject criticism have no chance of getting better at what they do. So I suspect that you're about the same as you were then. A bad server with a bad attitude.

A good rule-of-thumb is that you should treat every customer as if they might be a restaurant critic. If you do that instead of blaming the customer, you'll get better tips and better reviews.

What Server Doe doesn't "get" is that critics rarely go into restaurants with a bad attitude, but when they leave with a bad taste in their mouth there's usually a reason for it. Unfortunately, delusional people don't absorb criticism; they deflect it. They're perfect and people who criticize them are just angry or bad people. Or maybe they just don't "understand".

Restaurant customers shouldn't have to "understand" how difficult it is to run a restaurant; it's the job of management and staff to make such things transparent to diners.

It's one of the reasons that things rarely get better in modern society. Everyone is so great at their job that they just don't need to get better. Nothing is ever their fault.

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Which restaurant was this? This site wasn't up in 2019; was this in las Vegas?
It was an Outback in South Florida. I'd rather not say specifically as she likely still works there.

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