Service: Can we get on the same page here?

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Vinnie P
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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby Vinnie P » Mon Sep 20, 2010 5:36 pm

Madison wants it both ways when it comes to "big city" versus "small town". When they're trying to push something they claim to be "just as good as Chicago!" When they fall short of the mark, it's "well gee whiz, you can't compare us to Chicago!"

Being a small town is no excuse for bad service - neither is being something other than "fine dining". Some of the best service I've ever gotten has been at truck stops in the middle of nowhere. Some3 of the worst, here in good old Madison.

Bunky's sucked. The Bayou sucked. Mickey's sucked. Lazy Jane's sucked.

On the other hand, Lilliana's, Samba, Taquerita Guadalahare, and The Pince Cone are all great!

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby holyghost » Mon Sep 20, 2010 7:10 pm

I have worked in the service industry and thus been on both sides of the coin...Guess I just want to add that one should never underestimate the power of a friendly and sincere server who understands that the customer is *always* right.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby Stebben84 » Mon Sep 20, 2010 7:57 pm

Vinnie P wrote:Mickey's sucked. Lazy Jane's sucked.


I've been to Mickey's for food so often it's bordering on ridiculous. The service has almost always been good for me. If there is a wait, they always apologize and it's usually cause they got nailed and weren't expecting it. Plus this is one of those places that you can't expect THAT much cause you're only paying like $10 for a meal.

I've been to Lazy Jane's a bunch of times as well and never had bad service. I'm kind of confused how it can be that bad since you order up front. If they are really, really busy then expect it might take a little time.

I'm mostly pissed off by sitting at a table and waiting forever and never having someone greet and/or serve us. Get a cocktail in my hand and I'll gladly wait a bit longer. I'm less upset if the food takes some time because I know sometimes kitchens get swamped and often it's unexpected(I've worked at a restaurant and this does happen). As long as the waiter/waitress keeps us in their radar and lets us know we haven't just been overlooked, then I'll have patience.

I agree with most that you get what you pay for. Part of going to higher priced restaurants is definitely the service. When I was in Miami some friends and I went to a restaurant that had the best service I have ever encountered. I think there was a different person filling our water for every 3-4 people(we had a big group) When I left for the bathroom and came back, I had a new napkin folded neatly in front of my seat. It was amazing. We also threw down over $100 a person.

I also went to Flemmings with some co-workers just for drinks. The prices on drinks weren't too bad and the service just for that was awesome. They actually helped me on with my coat when I left and we didn't even order food.

Great food AND great service come at a price. Not always, but that has been my experience eating in the states and abroad.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby Average Joe » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:25 pm

Stebben84 wrote:
Vinnie P wrote:Mickey's sucked. Lazy Jane's sucked.


I've been to Mickey's for food so often it's bordering on ridiculous. The service has almost always been good for me. If there is a wait, they always apologize and it's usually cause they got nailed and weren't expecting it. Plus this is one of those places that you can't expect THAT much cause you're only paying like $10 for a meal.


Mickey's Tavern or Mickey's Dairy Bar?

I've been to Lazy Jane's a bunch of times as well and never had bad service. I'm kind of confused how it can be that bad since you order up front. If they are really, really busy then expect it might take a little time.


The few times I've gone to Lazy Jane's for brunch there has literally been a line out the door. If someone stands in line to eat at an establishment they forfeit their right to complain about the service. If someone goes there when there isn't a line, walks up to the counter, orders food, sits down and waits until their name is called out to get their food and complains about the service they wandered into the wrong establishment.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby swoon_queen » Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:09 pm

It may be true that the "professional waiter class" that exists in other cities doesn't exist here (I'd argue that it does, but only very infrequently) but that doesn't mean it shouldn't exist here. Or that anyone (students included!) making decent money in a high-end restaurant to provide service shouldn't provide service at an equivalent level to that in the cities jjoyce mentioned. I've noticed that typical Madison/Midwest tip percentage seems to run low (with 15% being the standard, rather than 20% as expected in many other cities), and convoluted splitting practices are abundant. If the server is A. receiving a lower gratuity overall and B. having to “tip out” a higher portion of their gratuity to others (bartender, kitchen, etc.) they’re nowhere near as motivated as someone who can expect to make a solid $15+/hour in tips on a steady night (as is fairly common elsewhere).

I agree with boston_jeff on every point, #3 most vehemently, and would add that every region has its perks-- service in the Midwest might not be as savvy-- it might also not be as snobby. That said, having spent 14 years as a server in various types of establishments, on both the East Coast and here in WI, I feel for the servers in Madison but as far as complaints-- you asked. I have a few particular ones that came to mind right away.

1. Menu knowledge. This is so key, and so easy (all one has to do is taste what the establishment one works in is serving!) yet countless times, all over Madison, when asking about specifics regarding a dish, I hear: “I dunno-- I’ve never had that” (apathetically) or “I’m a vegetarian” (apologetically) or some variation of a verbal shrug. Never had it? Have it. Vegetarian? Ask someone else for a good, detailed description. Any restaurant worth visiting should let its employees sample everything it serves. Or if that’s an impossibility for some reason, a good response is: “I can’t tell you, but I will go ask someone who knows and be right back.”

2. Minimal intrusion. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten from a man who called himself a “service industry philosopher” and supported a family of 5 on tips was this: presume that everything is great, unless you’re told otherwise, because in a high-caliber establishment that should always be the case. Some might argue that this approach means a customer doesn’t get a chance to tell a server if there’s an issue, however, I believe that if a server is providing good service, he or she will be around the table enough (filling waters, replacing silver, checking on drink levels) that the opportunity for a customer to speak to him can easily occur naturally. Don’t hover, interrupting conversation with pat questions, like “How was everyone’s first bite?” Be polite and friendly and even enthusiastic when you’re spoken to or introducing yourself/reciting specials to the table but remember you’re not part of the date/business meeting/whatever-- also, if a customer’s a regular, at least switch it up!

3. Fix problems, generously. Anywhere dinner entrees are above, say, $15, it is absolutely true that the customer is always right! I’ve seen issues ranging from raw chicken to a mayonnaise lid in a salad in high-end restaurants around Madison and the way it’s dealt with is key. Don’t argue with the customer! If they think the chicken’s raw, or a lid in their salad is disgusting, that’s what matters. Comp the problematic dish and offer a free appetizer, cocktail, or dessert. It might seem like you're losing a the restaurant a few bucks, but in actuality you're saving your own tip, as well as creating a return customer and someone who creates somewhat positive buzz about the place ("X happened; and then they actually did XYZ! How nice was that?!") rather than bad karma ("X happened, and they did nothing. I'm never going back.").

I could go on, but I probably shouldn’t as I've basically written a book here.... I should also add that if service is good, I tip really really well, and if it's bad, I tip usually around 18%.
Last edited by swoon_queen on Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby LaughingGirl » Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:35 pm

Don’t hover, interrupting conversation with pat questions, like “How was everyone’s first bite?”[quote][/quote]

I was invited as part of a group to a downtown restaurant last year for a birthday dinner. Our server was so obnoxious and intrusive that it was very hard to enjoy the meal/company. He clearly thought he was adorable and hilarious and couldn't take a hint. If I had been there of my own choice, I would have spoken to the management.

Other than that, I have found service in Madison overall to be quite good. There are a lot of great servers out there. It's a tough job.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby towanda » Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:21 pm

Vinnie P wrote:Madison wants it both ways when it comes to "big city" versus "small town". When they're trying to push something they claim to be "just as good as Chicago!" When they fall short of the mark, it's "well gee whiz, you can't compare us to Chicago!"

Being a small town is no excuse for bad service - neither is being something other than "fine dining". Some of the best service I've ever gotten has been at truck stops in the middle of nowhere. Some of the worst, here in good old Madison.

Exactly.

If I've been in your establishment for two hours and still don't have my entrée, you damn well better comp at least half of my meal or give me a gift certificate for a free meal at a later date.

If I send my dish back to the kitchen, it should go to the front of the line to be fixed and sent back out, not treated as a new order. And the waitron shouldn't argue with me about whether it's edible.

It's not just restaurants, though. Customer service in general in Madison is worse than anywhere else I've been. It's as if a lot of people here aspire to mediocrity.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby wallrock » Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:48 am

swoon_queen wrote:I've noticed that typical Madison/Midwest tip percentage seems to run low (with 15% being the standard, rather than 20% as expected in many other cities), and convoluted splitting practices are abundant. If the server is A. receiving a lower gratuity overall and B. having to “tip out” a higher portion of their gratuity to others (bartender, kitchen, etc.) they’re nowhere near as motivated as someone who can expect to make a solid $15+/hour in tips on a steady night (as is fairly common elsewhere).

I've definitely seen this play out. I've got friends that are all in all great people but when it comes to tips they're the cheapest skinflints you'll find. I don't get it: you don't mind paying more for a higher quality of ingredients but view service as given, with a 15% tip if all goes well. This is what happens when people don't work a service job for tips growing up.

I've had a few poor experiences over the years but I can't say I've had more than one or two that were so bad as to be memorable to this day. But I'm not much of a complainer, and I've never been able to carry a grudge. Now my cousin, she could tell you all about some restaurant that gave her a fork with a bent tine ten years ago and didn't even bother to comp her drink and how she's never been back because of it. She'd say I was settling for mediocrity, I'd call her whiny. So it goes.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby Endo Rockstar » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:18 am

swoon_queen wrote:It may be true that the "professional waiter class" that exists in other cities doesn't exist here (I'd argue that it does, but only very infrequently) but that doesn't mean it shouldn't exist here. Or that anyone (students included!) making decent money in a high-end restaurant to provide service shouldn't provide service at an equivalent level to that in the cities jjoyce mentioned. I've noticed that typical Madison/Midwest tip percentage seems to run low (with 15% being the standard, rather than 20% as expected in many other cities), and convoluted splitting practices are abundant. If the server is A. receiving a lower gratuity overall and B. having to “tip out” a higher portion of their gratuity to others (bartender, kitchen, etc.) they’re nowhere near as motivated as someone who can expect to make a solid $15+/hour in tips on a steady night (as is fairly common elsewhere).

I agree with boston_jeff on every point, #3 most vehemently, and would add that every region has its perks-- service in the Midwest might not be as savvy-- it might also not be as snobby. That said, having spent 14 years as a server in various types of establishments, on both the East Coast and here in WI, I feel for the servers in Madison but as far as complaints-- you asked. I have a few particular ones that came to mind right away.

1. Menu knowledge. This is so key, and so easy (all one has to do is taste what the establishment one works in is serving!) yet countless times, all over Madison, when asking about specifics regarding a dish, I hear: “I dunno-- I’ve never had that” (apathetically) or “I’m a vegetarian” (apologetically) or some variation of a verbal shrug. Never had it? Have it. Vegetarian? Ask someone else for a good, detailed description. Any restaurant worth visiting should let its employees sample everything it serves. Or if that’s an impossibility for some reason, a good response is: “I can’t tell you, but I will go ask someone who knows and be right back.”

2. Minimal intrusion. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten from a man who called himself a “service industry philosopher” and supported a family of 5 on tips was this: presume that everything is great, unless you’re told otherwise, because in a high-caliber establishment that should always be the case. Some might argue that this approach means a customer doesn’t get a chance to tell a server if there’s an issue, however, I believe that if a server is providing good service, he or she will be around the table enough (filling waters, replacing silver, checking on drink levels) that the opportunity for a customer to speak to him can easily occur naturally. Don’t hover, interrupting conversation with pat questions, like “How was everyone’s first bite?” Be polite and friendly and even enthusiastic when you’re spoken to or introducing yourself/reciting specials to the table but remember you’re not part of the date/business meeting/whatever-- also, if a customer’s a regular, at least switch it up!

3. Fix problems, generously. Anywhere dinner entrees are above, say, $15, it is absolutely true that the customer is always right! I’ve seen issues ranging from raw chicken to a mayonnaise lid in a salad in high-end restaurants around Madison and the way it’s dealt with is key. Don’t argue with the customer! If they think the chicken’s raw, or a lid in their salad is disgusting, that’s what matters. Comp the problematic dish and offer a free appetizer, cocktail, or dessert. It might seem like you're losing a the restaurant a few bucks, but in actuality you're saving your own tip, as well as creating a return customer and someone who creates somewhat positive buzz about the place ("X happened; and then they actually did XYZ! How nice was that?!") rather than bad karma ("X happened, and they did nothing. I'm never going back.").

I could go on, but I probably shouldn’t as I've basically written a book here.... I should also add that if service is good, I tip really really well, and if it's bad, I tip usually around 18%.


this. over and over again. Anyone who serves or wants to serve in Madison, if you do these things you will be just fine.

One a related note, my little sister who is a senior in high school this year, and who has been a server at a little kayaking/mountain biking resort in northern WI for a the last two years came to town. We invited her along to a dinner at Francesca's, and after dinner I asked her what she thought of the service.

"The server was a creeper and he didn't know the specials," she paused, "and they forgot my f*cking Arnold Palmer" haha, Gotta love my sis, a 17 year old girl from a small town, and nailed it right on the head. I asked jokingly if I should take it off his tip and she just laughed, cause she's exactly like me, a chronic over-tipper (its worse for me after a few cocktails).

-Dan Motor

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby Stebben84 » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:27 am

towanda wrote:Customer service in general in Madison is worse than anywhere else I've been. It's as if a lot of people here aspire to mediocrity.


I've lived in Madison for almost two decades and I have to disagree. I've generally had good service. There have been a number of occasions where the service has sucked, but when you live in a town for long enough, it's unavoidable.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby c02 » Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:53 am

swoon_queen wrote:3. Fix problems, generously. Anywhere dinner entrees are above, say, $15, it is absolutely true that the customer is always right! I’ve seen issues ranging from raw chicken to a mayonnaise lid in a salad in high-end restaurants around Madison and the way it’s dealt with is key. Don’t argue with the customer! If they think the chicken’s raw, or a lid in their salad is disgusting, that’s what matters. Comp the problematic dish and offer a free appetizer, cocktail, or dessert. It might seem like you're losing a the restaurant a few bucks, but in actuality you're saving your own tip, as well as creating a return customer and someone who creates somewhat positive buzz about the place ("X happened; and then they actually did XYZ! How nice was that?!") rather than bad karma ("X happened, and they did nothing. I'm never going back.").


My only issue with this is it assumes the server has the authority to 'comp' anything. Of course it's been forever and a day since I was in the service industry but I can't imagine it's changed that dramatically. The server may want to comp all or part of a meal to 'save' their tip but in the end it's typically a manager/supervisor that makes that decision. In some cases it goes beyond that as the manager answers to the General Manager who may have some restrictions on comped meals.

Some things are out of the hands of the servers. Judge their service and their effort.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby swoon_queen » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:15 am

My only issue with this is it assumes the server has the authority to 'comp' anything. Of course it's been forever and a day since I was in the service industry but I can't imagine it's changed that dramatically. The server may want to comp all or part of a meal to 'save' their tip but in the end it's typically a manager/supervisor that makes that decision. In some cases it goes beyond that as the manager answers to the General Manager who may have some restrictions on comped meals.

Some things are out of the hands of the servers. Judge their service and their effort.


This is definitely true, and I worked in a few places where I wasn't allowed to give "comps" without a manager's express permission (and there wasn't always a manager on the premises). In those places, on the rare occasion that something was totally off, I paid for the offending dish/complimentary offering myself. It was worth it every time.

However, I'm commenting more on the fact that too often, I've ended up in an argument with a server."This chicken is raw in the middle." "Our chef says that the chicken isn't really raw, he cooked it the same way he always does-- it's fine." The correct answer is "I'm sorry your chicken is underdone. I'll be back with a fresh plate, or would you prefer something else?"

Another lesson I learned early on: always tell your table if you are charging them for something they didn't necessarily order (bread basket, not-free refills), and tell them the prices for specials, especially if the specials are distinctly more pricey than the regular menu. I was really disappointed at Graze when the server described the "Market Catch" on the lunch menu, I ordered it without thinking it'd be significantly more than their regular menu ($8-$14) and it was $21. (also, not that tasty or substantial, to be honest.) That said, when the server overheard my shock, she responded by saying, "I'm guessing you're paying for him--" and gestured toward my friend, who had ordered a $9 sandwich--"so we comped his food."
A strange approach, but I appreciated the effort.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby jjoyce » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:47 am

I've never waited 40 minutes -- let alone 2 hours -- for food mainly because I would have walked looonngggg before then! Are you kidding me? Are you really this much of a glutton for punishment? Do you expect anyone to believe that you sat in a restaurant for 2 hours waiting for your food?

And how can you complain about service at a counter service restaurant like Lazy Jane's? I've been there dozens of times and never had to wait past what I thought was reasonable to hear my name bellowed from the kitchen. I think that people who bristle at this kind of service simply don't like places like Lazy Jane's.

Last time I checked, there were other places.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby Vinnie P » Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:41 pm

Average Joe wrote:Mickey's Tavern or Mickey's Dairy Bar?


Mickey's Dairy Bar.

I've been to Lazy Jane's a bunch of times as well and never had bad service. I'm kind of confused how it can be that bad since you order up front. If they are really, really busy then expect it might take a little time.


The girl at the counter was apparently having a bad day and chose to take it out on her customers.

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Re: Service: Can we get on the same page here?

Postby Vinnie P » Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:49 pm

jjoyce wrote:And how can you complain about service at a counter service restaurant like Lazy Jane's? I've been there dozens of times and never had to wait past what I thought was reasonable to hear my name bellowed from the kitchen. I think that people who bristle at this kind of service simply don't like places like Lazy Jane's.


Part of good service is not treating your customers like shit. If you don't like working at a food counter, don't work at a food counter, or learn to act.

My employer has some real shit-heads for clients. Most of the time I don't have to have any contact with them, but inevitably the worst of them always wants to talk to the guy that's actually doing the work. If I let them know what I really thought of them, their project, or if I took my personal frustrations out on them, I'd be out of a job.


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