Buckle Your Seat Belt

by Chris Bjorklund

When I was out to dinner a couple of weeks ago at Carmel Valley Ranch, I literally thought about fastening my seat belt. The service was so uneven I felt like I was riding a roller coaster. I was duly impressed when the waiter offered me a black napkin, rather than a white one, because I was wearing black pants. Things got off to a good start. But then we sat there without any attention for the next 30 minutes. No waiter in sight. It started getting real uncomfortable and annoying. After the drink orders were finally taken, another 20 minutes go by. My dinner partner saw the drinks on the bar, and went to get them herself. Now we’re ready to order food, and no one, and I mean no one, comes to the table.

Rather than leave, my friend approached the maitre ‘d and said, “We came back here tonight because we’ve had fantastic service and meals in the past, and I talked my two friends into coming here. I know you don’t want to disappoint them. What can you do for us?” She stayed remarkably civil. Within minutes, the chef himself came to the table with a complimentary appetizer (fantastic!) and apologized for the bad service. The rest of the meal arrived like clockwork. By the end of the meal, the waiter (who had also apologized profusely) was conversing with all of us and we left on an upbeat note.

In cases of uneven service, what do you do? Do you ride it out like we did, and hope the business will recover, or do you cut your losses and take your business elsewhere?