"The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side." -- James BaldwinYesterday was Hub's birthday. As is usual for our family, we made reservations at a pricey but prestigious local restaurant with a sterling reputation that was the choice of the celebrant. We gathered the clan members in town, and got ready to enjoy ourselves.
As the main cook for our family I truly appreciate eating out. The chance to have great food without any effort past choosing what I want in combination with the ability to walk away from the table without having to clean up after myself never ceases to be pleasing.There is something to be said for the opportunity to not only eat food that has been well prepared, but to be able to do so in a format where everybody can get just what they are in the mood for, rather than being squeezed into a "one entreé fits all" style such as home cooks provide day in and day out.
I spent years working in restaurants both in the kitchen and in the front of the house, so I do understand how much work is involved on every level to provide a pleasing dining experience for the folks who walk in the restaurant's doors. Both ChefSon and LawSchoolGirl have now worked in the food industry in various capacities. As all our palates have become more informed, the fun of choosing more adventurous venues and the willingness to order and then share sampling bites has become an entrenched part of our fine dining experiences.
But, as our range of experience has expanded our range of what is considered "acceptable" has narrowed.
If a dish is not thoughtfully prepared, if a sauce is poorly seasoned, if the service is slow or inattentive or the temperature or doneness of a protein is off? We feel free to share our notice of and reaction to such shortfalls with the others at the table.
But for me at least, it is hard to hear of such a shortfall without that having somewhat of a negative impact on my shared experience even if my own personal order is not necessarily directly affected. Bottom line, I want everybody to enjoy their food and their time at the table together. If one person is unhappy with some aspect of the dining experience, it is hard for me to ignore that.That said, with our standards for dining out currently set so high, I wonder. Have we reached the point where we will typically not be able to fully enjoy eating out at most of the restaurants we can afford? Will there always be some oversight or slip-up to take the experience down a few notches from "great"?
What are your expectations of a restaurant experience? Are you willing to ignore poor service if the food is good? Are you OK with lackluster food if it arrives fast and hot and the price is right? Where do you draw the line when it comes to eating out in determining what is acceptable?
What is your feeling about complaining in front of other people at the table if you are unhappy with part of your experience? Is it OK to wonder aloud why the service is so slow? All right to point out how other tables who came in later have already gotten their entreés? Does etiquette require suffering in silence or should everybody feel free to critique their experience as ongoing narrative?
Please feel free to share in the comments section. I'll be interested to compare notes. Have we become spoiled and intolerant or are we merely discriminating well informed consumers with reasonable expectations? Weigh in - let me know what you think.
Postscript. The restaurant we chose for our celebration last night has disappointed two of out three visits for the length of time it took to receive our entreés.
I know from reading other reports and personal experience as a waitress when other tables are getting their food promptly while you are not? That is not an issue with an understaffed kitchen as is typically offered by way of explanation. When your group alone is slow getting entreés (barring somebody with a special time consuming order which should be both noted on the menu and pointed out when ordered by your wait staff) that is a case of your server not turning in orders and/or checking on them properly.
Clearly many of the diners present along with us at this restaurant on previous visits are regular patrons. We are not. Should that make a difference in the level of service we are offered? I vote "no" unless we are also offered a difference in the prices we are charged for the experience.