I love great food. I love great cooking. I love great presentation. I love clean bathrooms. I love imaginative and tasteful décor. I’ve always felt a clean front of the house and clean bathrooms are an indication that things are ship-shape in the back of the house where raw food is being handled.
Here is yesterday’s tale – and perhaps my first restaurant review …
Working late, running late – but I had a great day. Too tired to cook, not wanting to eat alone, I called SB … she hadn’t eaten either.
She was running off to a late appointment with her accountant. Getting together to eat something good, somewhere near where she was headed – near Peter’s Drive Inn – seemed like a good idea. Neither of us wanted double cheeseburgers, so we needed to pick somewhere else nearby.
I suggested a place. I’d been there before. A full parking lot on Wednesday evening was a good sign. 2/3rds of the tables had people at various stages of their meals.
Being seated and left without a menu, a glass of water or any comment like “can I get you started with something” was not a good sign … so seeing others come in after I did being seated, provided menus and beverages, and ordering … before I saw a menu was not a good start.
The menu was impressive. A bit pricey, but not outrageous.
The food was superb.
The service was slow.
The TIP was zero.
If I could leave a TIP just the chef, I would have, generously.
But TIPs in restaurants are for servers, not for chefs.
If I wanted to send a message to the owner, I guess I should say – ‘don’t go there, the food is good but the service is slow, off-hand, inattentive and not at all friendly’ – which would not be directing my frustration at the right party.
The food was very good. I’d been there once before, for lunch, and remembered it as being quite good. Well, now it’s much better! Décor is improved too – all things you would love in a restaurant, all ingredients in success. The bathroom was spotless and nicely decorated. A lot of details – they got them right.
Except for the second most important of all in a restaurant – service.
As I was keying in my PIN # to the hand-held device to pay – and wanting to give the server one last chance to earn a TIP, I asked her if they normally have two servers working on a Wednesday evening (my thought – if she’s swamped because someone called in sick, well then I would forgive her slow inattentive service and TIP her modestly) but her answer was “no, we always just have one – that’s enough”.
That sealed it for me. No TIP.
Even when given an obvious opportunity to say something like “I’m sorry my service was slow”, or “I’m sorry I didn’t pay any attention to you or even inquire if you were enjoying the food or try with even an ounce of enthusiasm to make your dining experience memorable or fun” … she passed on that opportunity, but given that she didn’t come close to performing on any of those things, I must say I could have been far better served by an average speed robot.
As I see it, if a restaurateur goes to all that trouble of having fabulous décor, ambiance and spotless housekeeping, and has a great chef producing fabulous food, but can’t be bothered to have adequate serving staff, then the venture deserves a failing grade.
It shouldn’t fail – because there are too many mediocre restaurants – but it should be urged to pull up its socks …
As long as they have serving staff with that kind of approach to service quality, speed and with such dis-interest in patrons, then I can’t consider going back or recommending that anyone go there – unless they want half a dining experience.
So – my recommendation is this – if you want great food (I recommend the scampi) with inattentive no-personality service, go to Il Chianti at 277 – 20 Avenue NW, Calgary on a Wednesday evening – you won’t be disappointed.
I thought, mulling it over, that maybe it’s just me. Not so apparently. I went online, searching for reviews and comments. I found many. Lots of postings praising food, ambience, cleanliness … but no comments about great service, I couldn’t find any.
Consistent great food is important for a restaurant to be successful.
Sadly, one owner doesn’t think service is important.
I welcome good service – I love it and would love to go back there to give someone a large and well deserved TIP.
I won’t be back unless I see an advertisement inviting me back which says same great food AND new owner or new server(s) or new attitude – because then I’ll have confidence that someone is addressing their obvious big problem.
Meanwhile, all I can do is recommend you try that place and enjoy their great food. But, if it’s service you want, go with plenty of time to spare and very low expectations - or go to some other place.
Or maybe I should scold the owner for lack of foresight – only having one server on when his/her restaurant is 2/3rd full of customers with an expectation of service …
column written/ published from Calgary
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