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Found 14 results

  1. This is NOT the result of a wide spread statistical survey or a labor study. It is impressionistic based on our observations into the restaurant (and catering industry) from the placement office at the Professional Bartending School in Arlington. This school has been providing strong bartender placement services for the past 3 + decades. We've always focused on placement services and have provided them in a variety of ways over these decades trying to service our students and employers while doing so in a manner that works for the staff and volume of graduates. Its a free service to employers. Specifically over the last year we have simply seen an astonishing increase in the number and variety of restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs, and caterers that post with our school. This increase corresponds to a significant increase in available positions advertised for both FOH (front of house) and BOH (back of house) positions in the various classifieds on the web. Over the decades we've monitored this, and we are simply seeing significantly more positions being advertised. Its a dramatic increase. With both unfilled positions and industry norm (always high) turnover I'm not surprised at the volume of complaints about customer service. Its difficult to provide great customer service at any level or time. That is not a function of unemployment rates or staff and management stability, but a function of the remarkably few people with great customer service qualities. As we've heard over the decades its not difficult to train a lot of people for most restaurant positions, its always difficult to find great people. Even as we regularly and continuously contact employers to list job opportunities with us and accordingly see increases in the volume of listing employers the natural increase of employers over the last year has been breathtaking. Besides the hundreds or thousands of bars, restaurants, and hotels that don't get referenced at DR.com there are an increasing number of employers from among those restaurants including those that are highly lauded here. There is simply a shortage of staff and an ever increasing volume of job opportunities. I could cite the comments from owners/management in general but one recent comment struck me as an employer referenced that as of May, he needs to start reviewing resumes, and interviewing for autumn hires NOW. He can't wait. The influx of student employment will leave as he well knows and hiring good staff is always difficult and more difficult now. Staffing is a major issue. All of this results in customer service issues. New staff, management turnover, etc. always culminate in customer service glitches. They could pop up in neighborhood restaurants, and frankly they can pop up at your favorite fine dining establishments especially if and when internal turnover that customers don't see result in entirely new staff and/or staff that is less well trained and managed by new management. I suggest this may be a recurring issue, at least as long as this under employment status continues. What would I do? Well I think I'd continue to visit and patronize the family run operations that maintain dedicated staff and/or any restaurants wherein I know when I walk in the door I'll see some or hopefully many of the same staff faces. Hopefully if I see the same faces in the FOH, the same faces will be in the BOH. In the meantime I'd suggest get used to customer service glitches.
  2. I won't go that far, but I'd say I'm batting under .500 for my career - there is *no good reason* for this, because all it does is induce worry, and that's in a best-case scenario.
  3. La Scala in Little Italy, Baltimore was very good. We hit there on a Saturday evening, with a medium-sized party (reservation of course), and were seated promptly. Their shuttle to/from our hotel was a nice touch so we did not have to mess with parking. From the Grilled Caesar salad and garlic bread to the homemade sausage, jumbo shrimp and spinach over penne pasta (made inhouse), everything was served hot and perfectly seasoned. We had Chicken Parm, fettuccine verdi alla Bolognese, Gnocchi, penne with tomato sauce; everything was available in 1/2 portions for children. Their waitstaff was very well informed, courteous but not overbearing. Food came out as ordered, and courses were timed well - they were very busy on a Saturday evening. The drinks were great. We did not enjoy dessert although they all were homemade and sounded good. As a side note, the bocce ball court on the basement level of the restaurant was a good distraction for the kids but they have to be accompanied by an adult - just a head's up. Interior is a little dated, and nothing to write home about, but the food was the focus and it all worked for us.
  4. I just got back from a short vacation in Berlin. While there, I discovered (again) that one of my premier pleasures in life is sitting at a bar, whiling the time away while chatting with bartenders/bar managers who (1) are friendly and charming and interesting and fun, (2) have the time and inclination to chat back, when not busy,* and (3) know their **** inside and out, serve (or recommend) consistently delicious drinks, and -- as a bonus -- are unabashed cocktail/wine/sherry/what-have-you geeks. The kind of place where the people who work there are enthusiastic about what they do and enjoy discussing their craft -- and, here and there, parceling out complimentary tastes of cool things -- or various other topics with semi-random customers who take an interest. There are places with people like this in D.C.: Bill and the entire bar staff at Tail Up Goat; Sean and Nate in particular at Room 11; Chantal at the Reading Room when she's not slammed; a few people at Lapis, Barcelona, Bar Pilar (although I've also had strikingly bad service here recently), and Ripple whose names now escape me; and of course Gina, Adam, Owen, and a couple of others back in the day when they were regularly behind the stick at a place I frequented. But I'm sure I'm forgetting, overlooking, or not aware of some places that fit these criteria, so: who are the cocktailiers/bar managers/bartenders in D.C. who are most likely to enhance your bargoing experience by their combination of skills and personality? I'm especially interested in places that (1) are in D.C. proper and not too far from public transit, since I'm thoroughly carless; or (2) I could plausibly walk into on a random night and sit down at the bar with minimal wait or advance planning (so not places like The Columbia Room, Dram & Grain, or Rose's, or The Red Hen). Thanks. *The proviso of "when not busy" is especially salient in this city, since my sense is that the really good bars (and really good bartenders) get jam-packed here even on an average weeknight more often than certain other cities with a denser, more variegated craft bar culture,** and I'm certainly not going to be that guy who tries to make small talk when someone's got six orders to fill. **(I probably spent about 9 hours of my 2.5 days in Berlin just hanging out at the bar of Pauly Saal chatting with the barstaff -- all three of whom were absolutely awesome, and absurdly credentialed -- on a Friday and Saturday night, and the room was never more than a third full, and for much of that time I was the only person at the bar itself. Also great Berlin bar experiences in this vein: Rutz Weinbar and Twinpigs.)
  5. Probably a subjective judgment. Maybe "the worst waiter in the United States" is more apt. I guess if my given name was Edsel Ford, I'd have a chip on my shoulder too... "Past steaming woks and chopping blocks and up a narrow, creaky staircase, Edsel Ford Fong -- the world's most insulting waiter -- greeted patrons with a “sit down and shut up!” Routinely, he cussed out his customers, sexually accosted female companions, and unapologetically spilled soup across laps. According to one diner, he was so malicious that he “made the Soup Nazi look like the Dalai Lama.” ' May 26, 2014 - "The Worst Waiter in History" by Zachary Crockett on priceonomics.com As a side note: In 7th grade, the Lady who served as the cafeteria monitor used to blow a whistle and scream at the top of her lungs, "Sit Down and SHUT-UP" when the decibel level rose to a certain point. Her nickname was Frau Bartelmo.
  6. I recently took a two-week trip to the Solano County area of California, and didn't want to go that long without practicing piano. A friend arranged for me to practice - every day if I wished - in a spare practice room at Gordon's Music and Sound, a humble music store on Texas Street, right in the heart of downtown Fairfield, just under the famous sign in the middle of downtown: <--- So as you can see, the sign is your landmark, and there's free street parking. The first day of my two-week trip, I walked in, piano books in hand, and went up to Cliff Gordon, the owner, and asked him if it was okay if I did this, and how much money he'd like for me to rent the room. "You can play anytime the room's open," he said, "but keep your money." In other words, he was going to help out a fellow musician by letting me come in there for two weeks, and not paying him a cent. Well, it just so happens that I *did* pay him some, because I wasn't going to be a leech - he took it, thankfully, but not very willingly, and he made it very clear that he was not expecting any money at all for this. I then made it clear that this was his livelihood, and I wasn't going to take such a thing for free. There aren't many business owners like Cliff Gordon - people who care about their fellow musicians (Cliff is a clarinetist), knowing full well that I'd be leaving town, and that he'd quite possibly never see me again. Yet, he still saw fit to allow me to practice at his facility free-of-charge. I urge any musicians who do this not to take advantage of Cliff's generosity, and to slap down a reasonable sum of money on his desk. This company has rent to pay, wages to pay, electricity, inventory, etc., and people taking advantage of Cliff's generosity, even if they're thankful, ultimately contribute to the demise of small businesses like this. If you're a young, struggling musician, give him *something*, no matter how small, as a gesture of respect. Thank you to Cliff, and to his entire friendly, courteous staff for their hospitality during my two-week stay. I hope to see you again in the future, and yes, I *will* be paying you back - sometimes in ways that you least expect, but most deserve ... like this one. Don Rockwell
  7. Dean Street is the friendly and charming corner neighborhood restaurant that other cities do so well, and DC does not. Walking into the bar room, taking a seat at a round corner table awash with morning sunlight, you want to belong here, to have the staff know your name. You can just envision coming in mid-week, having a beer at the bar, chatting with the bartender, and maybe watching some of the game on TV. If every customer was within a 6 or 7 block walk, I wouldn't be surprised. Now let's not get overblown, the food was good but not great. But one doesn't really care. It's about being in the neighborhood. The menu skews southern/New Orleans: gumbo, shrimp & grits, and lots of biscuits. Crawfish, Andouille Sausage, Cream Cheese Omelet with Home Fries (they could work on their home fries) was a tasty mess. The sort of thing a hangover cries out for. The Bloody Mary was top notch, also hangover worthy. The biscuits topped with poached eggs and mushroom gravy was perhaps too rich, and the sweet potato hash topped with eggs was enjoyed by the vegetarian contingent. If Dean Street was a couple blocks from my apartment, it would be my local.
  8. Recently my husband and I went out to dinner with two relatives who we don't see very often. I don't think it too unusual that, although we were at a nice restaurant, our purpose was to enjoy each others' company. The setting and food were ancillary. I lost track of how many times we were interrupted during our three-course meal. Just during appetizers, we were visited by the waiter twice, and also by three different managers. And someone refilling water glasses three times. One course, eight interruptions to our conversation. Eight! So here's my plea, and really it's for all restaurants: While I appreciate that you were just trying to do your jobs and be attentive, it sure would be nice if you would learn to read body language. Please. When four people are leaning into the table and talking intently, that's what we call a "clue". I have decent peripheral vision; I know you were hovering there. I was ignoring you, deliberately. Don't shove yourself in to our conversation ask how we're enjoying things. Couldn't you see that we were enjoying things just fine? By the fourth iteration, I was sorely tempted to reply "we would be enjoying things just fine if you'd fucking leave us alone." By about the sixth iteration, our guests were looking mightily pissed-off. Their faces were getting quite expressive. Can't you read facial expressions, either? Likewise, when four people are sitting back from the table, utensils down, and at least two of them are looking around the entire space, that is also a clue. It means that now we would like some attention. Don't leave us hanging for fifteen minutes. Look, I've worked in customer service. I know there's a small space between being attentive and being overbearing. Learning to find that space and operate within it is key to good service. It's a job made harder by the fact that the size and shape of that space differs for every customer. But learning to judge that space is not so difficult. All it takes is a little attention to detail and some empathy. My apologies for sounding pissy. If it were just Mr. P and me, we would have been chuckling at the ridiculous situation. But these well-meaning people seriously irritated our guests, who I am sure will never return, and frankly damaged our reputation as "the ones who always know the good places to dine". And we probably won't return either, which is a shame because this used to be one of our standby restaurants.
  9. So I thought I'd solicit the opinions of the other members of this board on an experience that left kind of a sour taste in my mouth. We had reservations recently for us and two of our friends. One of our friends is diabetic and has had severe heart problems and needs to eat on a very regular schedule. I mentioned this when I made the reservation, and the very pleasant reservationist said she had a diabetic relative herself, so she completely understood. On the day of the meal, Tripewriter was stuck in traffic on the way back from work. He called me, and I called the restaurant, saying that we were going to be a little late for the reservation, but that one member of our party had diabetes, so please seat the other two as soon as they arrived, and we'd be there right away. She asked how late we'd be, and I said I wasn't sure, but about 5-10 minutes. When we got to the location, about 8 minutes late, Tripewriter had to find parking, so he dropped me off and I went in, only to find that the restaurant had refused to seat my friends because their policy was to only seat complete parties. I then spoke with the host myself and explained again -- for the third time -- that one of our guests had diabetes and had to eat on a regular schedule. I said that Tripewriter was parking and would be there in just a few minutes. They simply restated their policy -- we don't seat incomplete parties -- and basically sent me away. They were polite throughout, but completely inflexible. Also, at no time did they offer us any food or drink while we were waiting. I was pretty peeved by this -- I mean, on one hand, I can completely understand the complete-party policy, and under normal circumstances I'm happy to abide by it. On the other hand, it seemed pretty unreasonable to me that if three out of four people are present, the missing person is simply trying to find parking, and you've been informed (twice in advance and once on the spot) about a specific medical condition that requires a guest to have food, that it would behoove you to seat the party. I can even understand that if there are only two of four expected guests there you wouldn't want to give them a 4-top on the off chance that the other two never showed up. But three people are going to use a 4-top no matter what, so what would the harm be in seating the three guests and seeing to their needs? I will say that it turned out ok in the end -- we were seated as soon as Tripewriter walked in the door, and they brought us bread almost as soon as we sat down, which enabled our friend to eat only a little bit late -- and we had a great meal, with excellent company. I'm just still a bit steamed about the stiff-arm that we got in the beginning because it seems 100% unnecessary to me. What do you think?
  10. "Police Escort Customer From Nashville Steakhouse [Morton's] After He's Forced To Remove Hat" by David Edwards on rawstory.com "A steakhouse in Nashville has responded to complaints that its staff forced a cancer patient to remove his hat over the weekend because he did not have a note from his doctor. "According to WZTV, the controversy started when a group of 16 people were finishing up a $2,000 company Christmas dinner at Morton's Steakhouse when one man, who is being treated with chemotherapy and is sensitive to the cold, decided to put on a wool cap for warmth." -- Classy. Real classy.
  11. For me, the trifecta is interesting food, good service and fair pricing. Add in some scenery for bonus points. The Orchard in the middle of downtown Frederick hit the trifecta and then some. The Orchard is Vegetarian and Vegan friendly while offering a pretty wide selection of fish, shrip and chicken dishes. What's neat is that they aren't really tied to a particular food genre like Italian, rather they build their menu generally around fresh vegetables, then around the preparation type. So for instance, you have a few main groups, including Entrees, Salads, Stir-Fries, Sandwiches and Pita Melts. Within the Stir-Fry group you have Indonesian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, etc. The onion ring appetizer was nicely done with thin rings and light batter. It suffered from being not enough for my hungry group of 5. The Monkfish over quinoa special had some spiciness to it and was excellent. We tried 2 Stir-Frys: The Polynesian was blessedly NOT that jarringly sweet; it allowed the vegies to shine through. The Indonesian was very good, maybe I could have added some more of the lime to my taste. My daughter got a chicken dish over brown rice that was also excellent. In all the dishes, the veggies were cooked but not to death. There are times when I understand that lightly cooked vegetables are the ideal; ones with snap. Other times, like here, I like a balance - our brains evolved in part so (and because) we can cook things - and The Orchard does. Service was spot-on, as good as I would expect at the very best restaurants. Nothing missed and an enhancement to the experience. The prices were very nice. We had an 1 app, 2 wines, 3 sodas, 4 meals, 1 soup, 1 salad, 1 kids meal - all for $20 a head pre-tip. Given the level of service and overall food quality, this was a very nice surprise. As for scenery, the inside of the place is just sort of average. The entrance is right in the middle of downdown, across from the tasting room and near Volt. On a late afternoon like we had Saturday, it makes for a really nice walk and downtown experience. The Orchard has been around for 25 years (how did I miss this place until now?!?!) and it shows. They really know their stuff and I look forward to returning.
  12. I am putting this on the D. C. board and ask Don not to move it. I believe this is of absolutely essential importance to anyone in the restaurant industry. Tonight, my wife and I talked about a Great country inn that I first visited in the early '80's, the Wayside Inn in Middletown, VA which is just south of the intersection of I 66 and I 81. The Inn dates to the 17th century with a particular room called the "Slaves Kitchen" (i.e. stone walls, brick floor, lower wood beamed ceiling and the only dining light from candles on the tables and in wall sconces) which is one of the most atmospheric of any in America. Frankly, it would rival some of the great rooms of character anywhere in the world. Years ago their chicken was fried in heavily crusted black cast iron skillets, with intense, thick cream of peanut soup, rich crust topped spoonbread, inch thick pork chops rolled in flour and egg and fried in lard-"Southern food" that justified it's cover story in Southern Living which featured it more than two decades ago. The more I talked about it, the more I built an image and a taste-the more we wanted to go. No idea if it was would be anywhere near as good, no idea if it was still open-but we had to try. And, they have a website and a phone number. The 24 or so rooms of the Inn seemed to be still open, too. I called. ...and got a recording. I called again. ...and got the same recording. I tried the restaurant, the Inn-I tried every combination, every number I could. ...and nobody answered. We had a problem: we talked our way into the Virginia countryside and a country inn and our first choice didn't seem to want a human being to talk to them. Well....there's another restaurant we haven't been to in a long time that I thought would work well, also: The Ashby Inn. I called. ...and got a recording. I called again. ....and got the same recording. I tried the restaurant, the Inn-I tried every combination, every number I could. ...and nobody answered. The Wayside Inn. The Ashby Inn. On a wednesday night on the last night of October, wanting to visit the next night, neither was answering the phone. I thought that with leaves falling and changing color this was not a good sign. Nor was it a good sign if I was trying to reach someone staying in one of their rooms. We then called Foti's in Culpeper which we were at two weeks ago and left wondering why we had waited so long to visit them again. They answered on the second ring. We will be there tomorrow night at 6:00 after visiting a couple of Virginia wineries. BUT the real point of this post is very simple for the many in the industry who follow this board: don't direct anyone to a computer or recording. Have a human answer the phone. No, I don't want to leave a recorded message nor do I want to send an e-mail. Part fo the success of a good evening is for the customer to feel wanted. If the experience starts without this it is not an experience worth having. I wish someone would pass this along to the owners of the Wayside Inn and Ashby Inn. We won't be visiting either anytime soon. We did try. We very badly wanted to go to them. And couldn't. As I type this and remember how much we loved Foti's four years ago (three stars from Sietsema then) and how much we liked it two weeks ago (a different restaurant but still excellent and in a room of great character), it is for the best that it was they who answered their phone.
  13. I generally think that a restaurant should not post a menu outside unless it's accurate. On the other hand, I can't identify with someone arguing over $2 for a burger, especially if that person then says the customer service is "shitty." This isn't a customer service issue per se - the restaurant is simply charging what's on its inside menu. I'm not sure that a restaurant is "bound" by its outside menu? Were there fine prints not mentioned? Why was the manager inexcusable? I was surprised that so many of Tom's chatters came out for the writer. The way he tells it (for some reason I'm pretty sure it's a he), he pushed back ten or more times. Dude. It's two bucks. Ask about it once, maybe twice, and if you don't like the answer, leave and tell them why. Reading his diatribe, I was half expecting him to move on to waterboarding if the manager hadn't capitulated. Incidentally, after making that much of a stink, I was amazed that he actually stayed and ate. Palena should have agreed that they made a mistake and charged him the $12 from the get-go, but their staff should get a freaking medal for providing him with "not rude" service after that. Sounds like pretty non-shitty customer service to me.
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