Letter to the Editor: What Happened to Good Restaurant Service?

Celebratory dinner flames out thanks to poor table servers and one diner wonders if it's a generational issue.

I was a horrible waitress. An absolute klutz. Just ask Pete Marino, Pam Raymond, John Casey, Jimmy Hahn or almost any other local restaurant owner kind enough to give me a job when I was young and good enough to fire me. Why I continued to pursue this line of work is a question for a therapist; grouped with my insistence to take and fail Biology 101 seven times and put myself in the labor room four times. But I digress.

The July/August week is one of my favorite. It's birthday week (this year my youngest turned 9 and my boy turned 11) and they each get to choose their favorite restaurants for birthday dinner. I’ve noticed an unfortunate dynamic over the years, but this one literally “takes the cake”.

Working in so many restaurants allowed me to understand and appreciate the dining experience. So much time, effort and money goes into setting the table – and the stage – for patrons to enjoy their time together. The responsibility of the staff, as I had been told (repeatedly) is to allow that to happen. If diners have to interrupt their discussions to ask you for what they should already have then you are not doing your job well enough or fast enough. What a difference a generation makes.

This week we had dinner in two of our favorite places. This experience is not unique to these two and I will not reveal in public or in private which they are. The point is this – we have a cultural result – the “phase one” in the release of the entitled child into the workforce - that explains what happened.

I will spare the monotony of the details, but our family of six was served when it was convenient for the wait staff and had empty glasses and dishes sit in front of us the entire night. We had to constantly flag down the staff and ask for basics.

Our table was full of dirty plates but we still waited until the bus person cleaned every other empty table (we were the only ones left at this time) in his rush to finish his own job.

After dinner was served and it was time to bring out the cake and sing Happy Birthday, the staff did so. … regardless of the fact that the 9 year old was in the bathroom.

Seeing the empty chair, the waitress simply blew the candle out herself, put the cake down at my daughters setting and the group dispersed. We sat there with jaws dropped while the birthday girl came back to her seat realizing what she had missed. Too bad we were not better aligned with the staff’s schedule.

The question begs – what kind of people have we raised? Those who put themselves first and foremost? What kind of employees/coworkers/friends/spouses and parents are these people going to become? Now that the initial result of the entitlement attitude is demonstrated, what do we do now?

As for me and my family, we will continue our traditions… perhaps bringing our own trays!



Karen G.

Yvonne Kleine August 03, 2012 at 10:18 PM
So sorry your evening was ruined by the awful service. It's easy enough to bash the kids and they should know better, of course. But what about the manager of the resturant? The owner? Are they asleep? Drinking at the bar? Have they given the wait staff any training? A situation like this calls for immediate intervention by the folks in charge and no excuses. But I have to tell you, it's not just today's kids. Fifteen years ago, my Mom took me to a very popular local restaurant, (which recently burned), for my birthday. The female co- owner screamed at us from the moment we arrived, insisting that we had a party of seven. We didn't. She slammed our menus down so hard she shook the table. Since I dislike crazy as an appetizer, I wanted to leave, but Mom was intent on having their exalted cuisine which was just OK, not fabulous. The busboy brought our glasses to the table by sticking his fingers inside them like scissors. We had a nightmare experience because this woman was so hostile, which ruined my birthday. We never went back. By the way, the party of seven arrived 45 minutes after we did and there was no apology, just angry glares. Maybe the moon was full? I've always been sorry we didn't get up and leave. No customer should be treated so disrespectfully.
Mrs. Ellis August 04, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Having been in the restaurant business for about 5 years myself, never fired, I consider this absolutly unacceptable. The waitstaff should have timed their birthday surprise accordingly. You should have however, spoken to a manager and have them speak to their employees. I don't know what restaurant you went to, but if I were managing it... I know someone would be fired over that. I would have flipped out if it had happened to me, since my son's 3rd bday is coming up in a month. But to say the entire generation is like that is just ignorant. I am 25 and would NEVER do such a thing. It's because all the restaurants want new people just starting out so they can train them their way and pay them less. Anyone w/ experience knows better, wouldn't do such a thing and at this point in time isn't able to get a job because restaurants are afraid to hire qualified people. It's a shame.
Rev. Gary Brinn August 04, 2012 at 11:53 AM
@Mrs. Ellis - generational tracking is a tool, not a rule... many folks raised since the "self-esteem" movement of the '80's have turned out to be successful, hard-working and innovative. However, there is ample data to show that the "everyone gets a trophy" approach has been a disaster, and that as a result many of these young people are having an extremely difficult transition to the workplace. I did not invent the term "Generation Me." I'd encourage you to check it out. As a young mother, I wish you many blessings. I can't imagine how hard it is for a parent to let a child fail at something, to let them lose, or to teach them that they are not the center of the universe... but many good parents do this everyday, preparing their children to learn and grow in a delightful but challenging world.
tom cavanaugh August 07, 2012 at 03:05 PM
FRIST and foremost karen you worked for some of the great restaurateur in the area who have worked their tails off to be at the top of the most difficult profession in the world.SECOND biology 101 is brutal.KAREN EVERYBODY on planet earth has had a horrendous experience in a restaurant. POINT BEING 90% of the college kids who work in the business work hard and are very conscientious.CHALK IT UP TO a bad day. TOM CAVANAUGH-----blue point
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