I'm the kind of customer who believes that service is more important than food. If I go to a restaurant for the first time and I have okay food but fabulous service, I'm going to go back. If I go to a restautant and get outstanding food and mediocre service, I'm probably not going to go back.
There are a million restaurants - if I don't get good service, I can find another restaurant that serves just as good food and treats me like a valued customer.
I have a checklist in my mind, though this is the first time I've consciously thought about it. Service. Food. Ambience, including temperature, music, lighting, etc. How they deal with problems.
I can think of three times in the past year when I've put this into effect though I won't tell you the names of the restaurants unless you ask :)
My hairdresser loves a new little restaurant in downtown Vancouver and she's a foodie, eats out all the time - she raved about this place, the food, the service, the decor. So a friend and I wander down to have dinner there. It's a tiny restaurant - maybe 40 seats - and the decor is okay, not outstanding. The menu is interesting, small bites of all kinds of good-looking food. The service, however, is terrible. We - two middle-aged women - are teated like we're second class citizens. This is likely because (1) we're middle-aged women, (2) this is a cool hangout and they've got so many regulars they really don't care about new customers. We'll never go back, despite the fact that the food was as good and interesting as it appeared to be on the menu.
In the last week of November two friends and I went to the restaurant in a very high end boutique hotel. It's a lovely hotel, lovely restaurant, and the food is very good. The last time I'd been there, the previous winter, the room was freezing cold. And again, we sat down and it was freezing. We had okay service - though one of my friends said that this time, and the last time she'd been there, she felt as if the server was doing her a favour. The food was, as always, very good. But when we ordered coffee at the end of the meal, it was lukewarm. We told our server, and she took the coffee off our bill. Not good enough. This is an expensive restaurant, expensive hotel, and lunch isn't cheap.
Both of these restuarants failed on service and ambience. We didn't complain at the first restaurant, so I can't fail them on that, but we did at the second, and they failed. I'll never go back to either of them.
I spent a couple of days away over Christmas in Victoria on Vancouver Island. I booked - and prepaid - a relatively expensive Christmas dinner for the two of us and my sister and her partner. We arrived at the restaurant on time - and then waited half an hour for our table. The room is lovely and it's not very big - maybe 80 seats? - and it looks like they've got plenty of servers, though they're obviously running way behind. The service, however, is terrible. My partner works in a restaurant and there are things he hates - one of them being if one person's food shows up and the others have to wait - and this happened to us throughout the meal. In fact, we waited almost half an hour for two of our four appetizers. Despite the good food and the lovely space, we'll never go back to this restaurant. They didn't even apologize for making us wait in the first place.
Now, though it sounds like I'm always complaining, I eat out A LOT. A LOT. And I'm usually very happy with food and service and I go back to a whole bunch of restaurants. If you've been reading my blog you'll know that I'm often blogging about restaurants I love - but somehow, in the past month I've been to two restaurants which should have been great and weren't. I wonder why that is?
What's important in a restaurant to you? Do you have pet peeves? Do you have things you love?