How Important Is Good Service to You?

With a (very) few exceptions, lately I’ve been appalled by the poor service I’ve received in restaurants of all levels. Inattention, laziness, unconcern, wrong orders, incorrect checks, passive-aggressive behavior, sloppy serving, impoliteness, insincerity, dishonesty the list goes on and on. In most cases, I decide it’s not worth complaining to management about, and unless it’s grossly negligent or hostile, I still tip.

But I’ve learned that poor service spoils my dining experience, regardless of the price or food quality. I’m lucky to live in a city where there’s an abundance of great places to eat, so I’m learning, after 1 or 2 bad experiences at a place, simply not to bother going back. But this bothers me a little, because I wonder if the owners understand that poor service in their establishments is hindering their success.

One of my pet peeves is menu offerings that may be discontinued or sold out–why would a server not give notice of this? Another is complete unfamiliarity with the beers or wines offered. Still another is the crooked kibuki surrounding “Do you need change” when I lay down 2x the cash necessary to pay the bill, and the change comes in denominations impossible to make an appropriate gratuity.

On the other hand, if I find a place with great service and the food is merely good, I tend to go back.

So… I’m curious… Do you have it in you to go out to eat and feel your money was well-spent when you’ve had poor service? Can you separate the food/service aspects sufficiently to justify being repeatedly subjected to lousy service?


My companion in life and I go out to dinner to enjoy enjoy the evening - each others company as well as the restaurant experience. And, yes, service is an important part of the experience. I’m not sure whether bad service holds more importance for us than bad food in deciding whether to return or not. But I think I find that if one aspect is bad, it tends to make me more critical of the other. Perhaps.

That said, I come across bad service much less often than I come across bad food. And, when I do, it’s usually some fairly trivial matter - a bugbear is with places where the staff don’t note who is having what. It’s such an easy thing to record on the order pad (and some order pads even have a little notation at the top - say, numbering seating positions.

I’m reminded of a meal we had in 2014. Service was OK - amateurish but nothing to complain about. At the end of the meal, the restaurant manager came over and said that we had been served by a trainee and they were waiving their usual 10% service charge. We said that service had been fine, and folk have to learn when they’re new, so would she please add the 10% back on. Which she did.

By the by, I have different expectations of the service if I go to the Indian place in the village or to the Michelin starred place, 30 miles away.

I’m lucky to live in a city of mediocre restaurants . So service is very important , When I go out I’m not expecting much in the way of food . I go to be served .

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I rarely experience poor service but on the rare occasion I do it definitely effects the whole dining experience.

I have to agree with Harters, I dislike the ‘who’s having the omelette, who’s having the steak au poivre’? comments from diner to upscale restaurants. I do understand that sometimes another server helps bring our plates but really how hard is it for the server to make a note of person #1 and serve the right food to the right customer?


I don’t expect much in the cheap and cheerful places, but sometimes I’m surprised.
I expect a lot in the expensive restaurants and very rarely I’m let down.

It’s the ones in the middle that really confound me because they are a real mixed bag and I will often rule out a return visit if the service is poor. I’ve noticed a trend where the wait staff takes your order then sends out waves of clueless runners who don’t know who ordered what, or sometimes even which table it’s for. I’ve watched them go from table to table waving a plate of risotto at whoever cares to look.

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So how often, on average, do all of you go out for a meal? For us on average it is once a month for dinner save for the occasional Saturday night takeout pizza. For lunch? Maybe six times a year.

Last year, we ate in 132 different restaurants (not including meals at, say, chain pizza places). Some of those are meals when we’ve been away on holiday, so they may well be every night of the holiday. Some will be lunches. Generally speaking, when at home, we have dinner out once a week.

Hi Gourmanda:

5-7x/month is about right. Fine dining about once per month.


Wow. More than a third of your nights. Do you keep a journal of your dining experiences?

I write reviews which I would now usually post to Hungry Onion and, before we came about, to Chowhound. For the UK ones, I would usually also send a copy to the Good Food Guide, which is our premier restaurant guidebook (and to which I’ve sent reviews since pre-internet days) - I love it when I see their write-up of place and note that they’ve used some of my words (he said, modestly). My notes go back to the end of 2007 - stuff prior to that got lost.


Used to go out to eat about once every two weeks. These days it’s more like every 4-6 weeks because of a strict diet. Same frequency for takeout.

We go out for breakfast about once a week. Lunch the same. Dinner probably once a month. I happen to like to cook :slight_smile: so much more than that would seem like a job. LOL

Personally, because I see clients during the evening, I can eat out anywhere from 3-5 nights a week. So for me I’m eating out approximately 150-250 nights a year. Probably 75% of which are what would be considered “fine dining” even when I’m alone, I prefer to be in a more formal setting, where I can sit, unwind (use to have a few martini’s) and relax over a good meal. 25% would be considered family dining type restaurants or chains.