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When Your Hostess Has The Leastest


beezy
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From time to time, I get the urge to go out to someplace popular on a Friday or Saturday on the spur of the moment when I ought to have made reservations earlier. Perhaps I'm walking by and it looks good; maybe it's just a whim.

Personally, I don't think it's unreasonable for me to call and ask if there's a last minute cancellation, even on a busy night - how happy are we both if there's an open table or no-show? I recognize that it's not likely to happen, but it MIGHT, especially early or late. Maybe I can eat at the bar. Maybe there's take out. Perhaps OpenTable hasn't been updated.

I would expect that there would one of two veins of answers when there are no tables free:

1: I am so sorry, but we are completely committed tonight. Thanks for calling!

2: All our tables are booked. You are welcome to come and dine at the bar if there are seats available.

So, why is that when I try the approach of calling before I come over and cluttering up the restaurant's waiting area that I have the horriblest reactions ever?

Perhaps it's me - perhaps I'm yet another jerky self-important entitled ass. But, I swear - I'm reasonably well dressed, I'm bathe, and I have good manners in public. I promise that I'm nice when I'm asking about cancellations or reservations.

These things have all happened to me - is there something I'm missing? Note that it was not Restaurant Week, a holiday, or some kind of festival or special event - these are all average, nothing going on days.

- It's 9:30 on Friday, and I call a nice restaurant in Arlington when they first opened, to ask if there are any tables free (this is before they had OpenTable). I get a snappy, nasty lady who tells me that they all full. Fair enough - it's Friday, after all,

I ask if we could dine in the bar, and she snaps 'It'sfirstcomefirstserveandwecan'tguaranteeseating.' And hangs up on me. I get so annoyed that I refused to go there for two years.

Last night at 5:30, (Saturday), Mr. Beezy really wants to go, so I cave into my boycott. OpenTable says that this place is again booked, so Mr. Beezy calls, gets the sister of the previous Ms. Nasty, and has the following conversation:

Mr. B: I was wondering if you happened to have any last minute cancellations?

Ms. Nasty: [hostile] Hold.

* waits for a couple of minutes *

Ms. Nasty: [hostiler] No. Nothing until 9:45.

Mr. B: OK, thank you.

Ms Nasty proceeds to hang up the phone so loud that I can hear it through the receiver, across the living room.

I am ready to continue with the boycott, but Mr. Beezy looks sad, so, I call back, get a much more pleasant gentleman, who tells me that I can eat at the bar, and that it is not very busy right this minute, and please come on over. We had a fine time [save for the gentleman who insisted on yelling into this cel phone about his 2pm flight to London to interview Al Gore, as well as arguing quite loudly with his wife about his loud cel phone use, but the rant on the special place in hell for these people is best saved for a later time. I digress].

- 6pm Saturday, a beloved Indian restaurant in Penn Quarter. Mr. B and I decide to stop and get a couple of small plates and a cocktail before a show - it looks empty. There are two tables seated, one table at the lounge and two people sitting at the bar - otherwise, it is completely deserted. We approach the host stand.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait a good 5 minutes out of perversity until the host stops chatting with both the waitstaff and the bartender. We ask for a table, and are told that they are completely booked. We ask if the lounge is free, and we are gestured to sit. Not, mind you, actually spoken to, just sort of waved at.

And wait.

Make eye contact with the bartender. And a waiter.

And wait.

And watch another party get waited on.

And wait another 10 minutes, then get up and leave because no one has deigned to look in our direction.

- and again - 4pm at a nice gastropub, walking in and sitting down with two other people in the place. The bartender lets us sit for 10 minutes, before telling us that there is no table service right now.

Not, mind you, asking us if we would like to sit at the bar, or otherwise being helpful, just 'There is no table service right now'

- 9:45 Thursday walking in to a fancy restaurant of famous restauranteur who has a lot of very famous restaurants in DC, and asking if there is a table.

The hostess looks at us and says, swear to God 'NO!', like I'd grabbed her fanny.

[There's open tables I can see right in front of me]

I ask if we can sit at the bar. She says [swear to God, again] 'You're welcome to, but lots of luck.'

***

Now, I can understand if the problem with the late nights were that they stopped serving food at 10, or there was a waiter's strike, or they had run out of onions, or the entire Washington Redskins backfield was due in 30 minutes, but can't we just say that? And what's the point of ignoring me until I go away?

Did someone ban me from nice restaurants when I wasn't looking?

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When people are placed in FOH positions for the wrong reasons (the way they fill out a skirt, blessed by the hair follicle gods), given little or no training, and have the luck to be working in a place that's in high demand, it does become all about them. The world revolves around their wants and needs and the average customer is a temporary annoyance unless they are throwing around large amounts of cash.

Usually these folks don't last a long time in the business, but damn, they are annoying as hell in the meantime.

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Beezy - edit your post and name names. I'd like to know which places to avoid.

yeah man, out with it!

I don't believe I've mentioned this in another thread but I was recently shot down for a table on a Saturday night at Bonefish. When we moved to the burbs, someone gave us a gift card to the joint, so I figured what the hell, let's try it out. We were prepared to eat early so I called at about 5 on a Saturday and asked if we'd have any trouble getting a table if we showed up in a 1/2 hour or so. I was flatly told there would be an 85 minute wait by that time. WTF? I felt like I had just gotten off the phone with El Bulli or something.

Such high demand for such a restaurant only reinforces my belief that 2/3 of the population are idiots. It's the culinary equivalent of Dancing with the Stars, Desperate Housewives, the incredibly slow speed of the news crawl on CNN, and the election of certain people to public office. As long as there is a line out the door at these chain mega-restaurants, we're f*cked.

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I am blown away by the Saturday night waits of lousy restaurant chains in MoCo.

yeah man, out with it!

I don't believe I've mentioned this in another thread but I was recently shot down for a table on a Saturday night at Bonefish. When we moved to the burbs, someone gave us a gift card to the joint, so I figured what the hell, let's try it out. We were prepared to eat early so I called at about 5 on a Saturday and asked if we'd have any trouble getting a table if we showed up in a 1/2 hour or so. I was flatly told there would be an 85 minute wait by that time. WTF? I felt like I had just gotten off the phone with El Bulli or something.

Such high demand for such a restaurant only reinforces my belief that 2/3 of the population are idiots. It's the culinary equivalent of Dancing with the Stars, Desperate Housewives, the incredibly slow speed of the news crawl on CNN, and the election of certain people to public office. As long as there is a line out the door at these chain mega-restaurants, we're f*cked.

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One night I had a ninety-minute wait to get a table at Sweetwater Tavern in Sterling!

(No, I didn't stay.)

Heh. There's a reason we've only been there twice in the however-many years it's been open, despite living 10 minutes away. The beer isn't good enough to put up with that level of hassle, especially when we've got O'Faolain's basically across the street from it, where there's Guinness, nice owners, and no wait.
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I remember when my wife and I lived in Columbia. A Macaroni Grill had just opened up . We waited a few months, but one night we just wanted to go out and decided it was OK because the restaurant was no longer 'new' and it was 9PM. We wander in and the place is pretty packed. To the gills. We ask if they have anything avaiulable. They tell us it is a 90 minute wait.

We leave.

And head over to Piccolo's (RIP :blink: ) and had a great meal and seated in just 5 minutes. Thank goodness those folks returned by opening up Aida.

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Alrighty, kids, but here go some sacred cows - don't yell, these are all true stories:

<story 1>

- It's 9:30 on Friday, and I call a nice restaurant in Arlington when they first opened, to ask if there are any tables free (this is before they had OpenTable). I get a snappy, nasty lady who tells me that they all full. Fair enough - it's Friday, after all,

I ask if we could dine in the bar, and she snaps 'It'sfirstcomefirstserveandwecan'tguaranteeseating.' And hangs up on me. I get so annoyed that I refused to go there for two years.

This was Willow. I have made more than one call (at the behest of Mr. Beezy), and only gotten one quite nice man on the phone (I assume he was a manager). All the rest of the time, it's 'bite me for calling.'

I will say that once I got there, they were charming and made a lot of effort with the service.

</story 1>

<story 2>

- 6pm Saturday, a beloved Indian restaurant in Penn Quarter. Mr. B and I decide to stop and get a couple of small plates and a cocktail before a show - it looks empty. There are two tables seated, one table at the lounge and two people sitting at the bar - otherwise, it is completely deserted. We approach the host stand.

Rasika. Honestly, I was really shocked by this - they have some lovely service, but they need to actually let you sit down for that.

<story 3>

This is Poste, at the bar. I'm not sure what was up with this - during hockey season, there's an awesome bartender who remembers what I like every time.

- and again - 4pm at a nice gastropub, walking in and sitting down with two other people in the place. The bartender lets us sit for 10 minutes, before telling us that there is no table service right now.

Not, mind you, asking us if we would like to sit at the bar, or otherwise being helpful, just 'There is no table service right now'

*story 4*

Cafe Atlantico. I've had similar foolishness at Jaleo.

- 9:45 Thursday walking in to a fancy restaurant of famous restauranteur who has a lot of very famous restaurants in DC, and asking if there is a table.

The hostess looks at us and says, swear to God 'NO!', like I'd grabbed her fanny.

[There's open tables I can see right in front of me]

These are places where this behavior should just not occur. Ever. Period. They charge too much and try too hard to be classy places.

Just to counter this negativity, 4 hosts that have given me their most are:

Number One with a Bullet: Dino

No matter what I ask, how big my party is (12 and lingering), or how much fussing I ask for, someone always answers my email, helps me figure out what wine to order despite that I'm a wine ignoramous, is patient with my 90 year old granny for ordering imported prime rib to a crisp, and makes me feel like an honored guest and overall superstar.

Corduroy

The only place in town that will bring you a birthday cheese plate, chat you up or leave you alone with unerring judgment.

Man with the great big heart - Michael Landrum

We all know Michael's dedication to charities and building a neighborhood restaurant. No matter how crankypants you think he is, it's coming from the right place. The only person to really piss off Mr. Beezy, then call back twice to apologize and make things right. Another person who is kind about my granny's steak ruining habits.

Liberty Tavern

I'm hoping this is going to be the place that everyone knows your name. Passionate smart servers, and a kind, efficient take-out service.

Honorary shout out to the folks at Cheesetique, which is not a restaurant, but will be endlessly patient about finding you precisely what you want and feeding you cheese til you make up your mind.

Hey Rocks - did Sweetwater tell you that it was 90 minutes? Or did they just make your wait and wait?

I honestly don't mind waiting for a long time, if someone TELLS me, hey, it's a long wait. I can decide whether or not I care to stay. Plus, be nice.

I will give Great American props for their call ahead service (when it works) - helpful for people with kids or guests who can't stand around and wait for whatever reason. Personally, I wouldn't wait 90 minutes for Sweetwater, but some people do like their meat and beer.

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Interesting that Poste was where folks encountered the staff who ignored the sitters. I have witnessed this myself. I am at the bar over there with some frequency. The last time I was there, it seemed the staff behind the bar, who also seem to be responsible for waiting tables in the bar area, was making a conscious effort to ignore people who sat themselves down on the patio. Inevitibly, after waiting 10-15 minutes, people wandered back inside to ask about a server coming out to the patio, and then they would be informed that the section wasn't open. Not sure why this was going on and why the staff would only tell you there was no patio service after you sat and were ignored for a while. Why not just get a "this Section Closed" sign or something?

This was surprising, as I have encountered some really great staff there. In particular, one woman who I once saw defuse a nuclear bomb of worked-up patron with kind words and glass of chardonnay.

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I don't think there's any excuse for poor customer service!

...And head over to Piccolo's (RIP :blink: ) and had a great meal and seated in just 5 minutes.

That almost brought tears to my eyes. I do miss Piccolo's! I used to order a quart of there marinara sauce and fresh pasta (uncooked) all the time and make it at my house on a regular basis.

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Hey Rocks - did Sweetwater tell you that it was 90 minutes? Or did they just make your wait and wait?

Sweetwater always gives an estimate when there's a wait.

It's very rare when I'm bothered by service, but it happened last night. I was dining post-NSO (Thanks HS!) at Les Halles, and at some point my friend said, "I don't like our server." For her to say that was remarkable, and it made me curious.

"Why not?"

"Because she's fake. She's smiling at her customers and then rolling her eyes whenever she walks away from the table."

At this point, I started to notice, and I couldn't stop. It was a continuous display of haughty, entitled, "I don't want to be here" nastiness interspersed with fake smiles and phony cordiality. And she was doing it to us, too.

There were only a few tables left in Les Halles, since it was after 11 PM. A table of four gentlemen had been given the winelist, and one of them was trying to decide on a wine - while the server was there, rolling her eyes as he perused the list, smirking, tapping her foot, and copping a "hurry the hell up and choose" attitude. It was so blatant it was infuriating.

She turned away from their table, scowled, rolled her eyes toward the ceiling, and I couldn't take it anymore.

"Excuse me a minute," I said, in annoyed voice, as she flew by and started to go up the stairs.

She put on her fake smile and returned to the table.

"Yes sir, how may I help you?"

"You can start by not rolling your eyes whenever you walk away from a table. You see those guys over there? They're having a good time, and they don't need your disrespect."

Needless to say, that pissed her off.

She composed herself and smiled again. "Is there anything else I can do to help you, sir?"

"No."

She scurried away. At one point I looked up, and she was upstairs by the bar, looking over and scowling.

"I refuse to let her ruin my meal," my friend said.

At one point she returned with the check. We had ordered the Cote de Boeuf for two (well worth ordering as a late-night meal for two, by the way), and there was a fair amount left - we wanted to take it home.

"Would you like me to wrap that up for you, or shall I bring you a container?"

This was just about the easiest question I've ever answered.

"A container, please."

It may surprise you that we left a twenty-percent tip - I did not want to feel beholden to this miserable creature in any way.

On the way back, I turned to my friend and said, "She sort-of did ruin the meal, didn't she."

Nodding her head slightly, my friend replied, "She put a dent in it."

HAG!

AMATEURISH, ANGRY, UNPROFESSIONAL HAG!

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I worked customer service for years. The one thing you absolutely cannot do is make fun, or show contempt for, someone when another customer is able to see it.

Someone upthread hit the nail on the head - many of the hosts/hostesses are chosen for their comeliness rather than their competence.

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One good experience to share...I called Komi on a Thursday afternoon and asked for a reservation that night...at Komi... They were very professional letting me know that they were booked, they typically don't have cancellations, but they could put me on the cancellation list just in case. Later that day...just my luck I got a phone call and a 9pm reservation at Komi!!! So it's just not all bad out there. Don't give up hope!

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I have to second the positive Komi experience; one night, relatively shortly after the Komi makeover, we wandered down 17th St looking for something to eat. There was a lengthy wait at Sushi Taro so we popped over to Komi and they pleasantly explained the new terms and immediately seated us and treated us like old friends, despite our rather casual attire and lack of a reservation. A great time was had by all.

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I think everybody would agree with you there. But at the same time, at least your issues were acknowledged rather than ignored or glazed over. That would be far more unsatisfactory.

I find that it is usally best not to accept the offers and send the message that it should not continue again. I am sure that we all know where it is easy to bitch about somthing and get somthing for free. I alos think it promotes the entitlemnt of the diner to expect things when they are not 100%. For me if it happens more then twice and are related, I simply do not go back.

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Alrighty, kids, but here go some sacred cows - don't yell, these are all true stories:

These are places where this behavior should just not occur. Ever. Period. They charge too much and try too hard to be classy places.

Just to counter this negativity, 4 hosts that have given me their most are:

Interesting that my wife got very similar treatment from one of the "4 hosts that given the most". Because of the timing and the response by management her boycott will never end.

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