Lingering service creates ‘hangry’ customers

I recently attended a friends wedding at a small historic inn located in downstate New York. There were only 30 guests gathered to celebrate her excellent choice. The room was arranged beautifully with quality decor, as expected. I looked forward to the accompanying meal. I had never eaten in this renowned public house.

Dinner started a painful, hungry hour and a half after the ceremony. The waitress directed us to sit at the tables. We sat. We sat. Nothing happened. No food no water. My table questioned, “Did the restaurant forget us…?:

Finally the bread arrived. It was delicious, but then anything would have been delicious after that wait. The salads arrived. They were tasty, but not memorable. While we ate, the waitress filled the water glasses then checked with us about our dinner choices. 

By the time the salads were removed, the bread was gone and the water empty. Neither ever got replaced.

Finally our entrees arrived. My husband and I had previously selected the scallops, choosing them over the chicken ala’ orange or prime rib of beef. Did I say, “our” entrees arrived? Yes, we were the only ones to receive our entrees at our table. Our scallops sat. We were too polite to touch them. I noticed around the room that the scallops had been served to all the tables. The scallops, just the scallops, had been served. 

A lengthy “next”, the chickens arrived. All the chicken was then serve to all the tables and the “beef people” were waiting. The “beef people” at our table were very polite and urged us to eat while they waited. “It’ll get cold,” they warned, but the warning was too late. Our lowly scallops had already cooled in the wait for the “chicken people.” Eventually we conceded that although impolite, the “chicken people” and the “scallop people” should consume their meal in front of the others.

The scallops were somewhat tasty, but again nothing memorable.

As we continued eating we looked around with doubt. It’s always uncomfortable eating in front of others, especially hungry, now hangry, others. Hangry — a cross between hungry and angry. We teach our children not eat before others. We wait politely for others to start eating before we dig in. Shouldn’t the restaurant help us maintain our social skills?

The “chicken people” and “scallop people “ reluctantly finished their fare. The busboy came around with the coffee. The coffee? Where’s the beef ?

The waitress came around again, but this time she came to actually remove the empty chicken plates and the scallop plates. Still, we all wondered, where’s the beef?

Great-grandma was taken home. The crowd became restless and the noise level rose. The bride and groom visited the tables to garner their needed congratulations. The unfortunate groom had not received his dinner — he was one of the “beef people.” Certainly as the groom shook the men’s hands and hugged the ladies he was wondering “Where’s the beef?”

Finally it did arrive. It actually looked pretty good, but at that point, who cared? The “chicken people” and the “scallop people” patiently waited while the “beef people” finished their choice. It didn’t take them very long.

What happened here?

The proper way to distribute an order is to serve one table completely at a time. All food items should be brought out at once for the entire table. 

As all items should be served at one time, then all soiled plates should all be removed at one time. I really dislike it when my empty plate is remove 15 minutes before the others have even put down their fork. It shouts to the table “Look who gobbled down her food faster than the rest of you!”

The hostess had selected this restaurant because of its culinary reputation and its 5-star service. Oh Busboy! The service didn’t make it and I really don’t know if the food was good or not as one mentioned it; they were too busy talking about the service. All service professionals know that the longer the wait, the better the food has to be. 

The lack of coordinated service caused this party to break down and lengthened the event beyond enjoyment. It wounded the important day.

But this restaurant injured more than the wedding party. Restaurants need to remember that every event is an advertisement for their establishment. I doubt if anyone who was at that event will visit this inn again, but they might visit Trip Advisor.

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By Patricia Older

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