Friday, May 11, 2007

Great food but bad service

Are there any restaurants that you love but don't go to anymore due to horrible service? After reading the responses to my PCG review, and an experience we had last night at Shish Kebab House, it got me wondering. How good does the food need to be to overcome fairly abysmal wait staff?

We went to Shish Kebab House last night for dinner. We got there around 7:45pm and there were maybe 6 tables of diners when we got there. A few groups came after us, and they topped out around 9 tables. Service has never been the strong point there, and it was especially bad last night for most of the tables. We were in the middle of the dining room and I was facing the kitchen. They had only two girls waitressing, and from our last visit a few weeks ago, we knew one was still new. It turned out the other was even newer. We overheard at least three tables complaining of bad service, which the new girl shrugged off and merely said "I'm new." We could tell the kitchen staff wasn't happy by how many times and how hard he hit the little "meal is ready bell". I could see the prep table in the room between the kitchen and dining room, and it would be filled with meals. Eventually the owner came out and stood watch over the girls, but that didn't help. At least two tables got wrong dishes and the waitress said "He didn't order that. Well, I didn't HEAR him order."
Our personal experience consisted of being seated by the newer girl and being told the other one would take our order. We always get the same thing, so we didn't need to crack our menu. After about 10 minutes, during which time the waitresses passed us several times, the girl we were told would serve us stopped as she was walking by and asked if we'd ordered yet. Well, our menus were still sitting in front of us on the table, instead of stacked on the front counter, so she lost points there. We then ordered our drinks, hummus, Tara's koubedah, and my gyros platter. She then said "That's it?" Nice. She then went to enter the order and do whatever else she did. While we waited, we got the floor show described above.
Our salads and the hummus came out at the normal pace, but they never gave us small plates to put our pitas on. Drink refills were done fairly timely. No dishes were ever removed from the small two-top we were at, so it got crowded. During the height of the fubar that was the service, I could see our entrees on the prep table. The kitchen guy ended up grabbing our plates and walking behind the front counter and basically handing the plates to our waitress and pointing to our table. Our entrees were still warm, but Tara likes hers blazing hot. Mine was fine for me. Rather than push things too far, we just ate them. The food was still great. I love the peppery gyro meat and Tara generally cleans the hummus bowl down to the glaze.
Overall OUR experience wasn't as bad as the other tables once we ordered. One table next to us complained to the waitress saying they probably won't be back. Rather than get the owner, she gave the "I'm new" reply. Wrong answer. If it was our first trip there, we probably wouldn't go back. However, we love the food there. It's our favorite hummus and my favorite gyros. Tara loves the koubedah. So we can deal with questionable service because we know the food is always good. One problem is the perpetual lack of customers probably doesn't help them maintain good servers. On our first visits we always saw different waitstaff, but the last few before this one we always got the same waitress who was good. She wasn't there last night. They do a good take-out business, but we don't live close enough for that to be an option. At some point the owners need to step up and do something to fix the situation. We really love the food and will go back on that basis, but I'm sure that casual visitors will probably try someplace else after some of the experiences we witnessed.

1 comment:

Tara said...

I'd like to add a comment about the ordering process. Our waitress came over and said "have you ordered yet?", to which we replied "no." Then she said "Do you wanna order?" Even though we didn't have terrible service, everyone else did and you could tell she was not happy. She was very quiet and short with us, almost to the point of being rude and inconsiderate. I realize she was probably feeling like a puppy that's been kicked, but she was meek to the point of being rude.