Which is more important — good service or good food?

Lately, it seems that whenever I get together with my fellow food writers the issue of good service/hospitality comes up. We’ve pretty much decided that when it comes to the question, “Which comes first — good food or good service?”, good service wins every time.

Well, I’ll admit that I dine out more than most people due to my job as a restaurant critic (another issue I will rant on some time in the future), but I am still amazed at the way diners are treated. Whether from lack of training on the part of management or sheer laziness/ditziness on the part of the staff, receiving lousy service is a real drag.

When I do get bad service it almost always ensures that I will not return to that establishment. And no doubt, I will share the info with anyone willing to listen.

Recently for example, my husband and I went out on a Friday evening for a few drinks and some bar food. We opted for a “bistro” near the house because we had enjoyed a nice meal there about a month before and because I am a strong believer in supporting local restaurants.

Well, to make a long story short, we were basically ignored. Ignored is probably not the right word exactly. We were just never noticed. We sat at a table next to the bar so it wasn’t as though the bartender couldn’t see us. There was one server who had maybe two other tables. We waited for over ten minutes and then left. Sure, we could’ve gone to the bar to order, but we shouldn’t have to. The owner was informed via a friend, but I haven’t heard anything back from the owner since.

Another story involves a coworker who went out to a hip restaurant/bar on a recent Friday night. He and his date ordered some beers while they waited for their table. The bartender brought two bottles to the table and my friend noticed that there was a chip on the lip of the bottle. When he pointed it out to the bartender, he was told not to worry because the bartender was sure no glass had gotten into the bottle and here was a glass anyway. No apology, no here’s another one, no offer of a free drink. In fact, the bartender got huffy when he was asked for a replacement.

These kinds of things should not be happening in an industry that is based on customer service. Smiles are free and gettiing a smile from a bartender or server or hostess as one walks in a place pays big dividends in the long run. Even when a place is swamped, paying attention to each and every customer is vital to having a successful place.

I know when I review a restaurant, if I get great service and mediocre food, the place will get a great review because I was made to feel welcome and my needs were more than met.

We’ve all been in restaurants when certain diners give the staff all kinds of grief and I sympathize. But I am not that person and I shouldn’t be lumped into that category.

Management must train the staff in all aspects of hospitality, not just the daily specials. Management must also treat the staff with respect and by doing so, the staff will buy into the idea that this is a great place to work and they will want to do a good job for their employers.

Every diner that walks through the door of any establishment should be treated as though they are the only people in the place. If the food is cold, it should be fixed. If I want more water, that shouldn’t be a burden for my server. I could go on and on.

But suffice it to say, the restaurant business is built on repeat customers. No matter how good the food may be, if customers are treated shabbily they will not return and soon the doors will shut and another restaurant will bite the dust.

So, here’s the burning question: What do you think is more important — good service or good food? Why?

Comments

  1. Betty Crocked

    I hear you girlfriend.

    I had an experience where the food was so-so and the service was so-so but everything was greasy. The menu was greasy. The salt-n-pepper shakers were greasy. The food was greasy. The chair was greasy.

    After the server brought the check, she asked the requisite, “How was everything?” And my husband replied, “greasy!”

    She told us to leave and never come back.

    Why ask the question if you don’t want an honest answer?

  2. I am more willing to look past good service if everything else is outstanding — the food is superb, the atmosphere is fun and lively, I am with good company, and I am not in a hurry.

    This is tough to pull off consistently. Too many variables that can go wrong.

    Yes, service is important for me to return time-after-time, but if I had to choose, the quality of the food experience is more important to me.

  3. slowenlow

    I know I’m a bit late to comment …. but, as an American restaurant owner/chef/manager in Spain, I am intrigued by some clients notion of “good” when often times we are the providers of not only “not good” but non existant and even disrespectful. Good manners, courtesy, and social pleasantry is not “good service” it is a pre-requisite … good service, like good food should be appreciated and enjoyed by all to be practiced professionally. We’re constantly teased for the slowest and lowest priced service and cuisine in town. … and not a food critic to give us their blessing in sight … yet, we still press on with our repeat customers year after year. TIP-
    To-Improve-Promptness is as silly as BISTRO!BISTRO! Russian for hurry….Good service and cuisine should be savoured and enjoyed offering with pride ..or not all all! Thanks for listening … I like your sight a lot … I prepare the best fattoosh, but call it a Peasant Salad cause the ingrediants are to be found in the fields and roadsides here…and in the Middle east. PoorPeoples cuisine is so ironic..no?

  4. Hola! Slowenlow, thanks for putting things in perspective. You are so right. Love the Peasant Salad name concept – it evokes visions of healthy milk maidens with rosey cheeks.

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