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MissAusten's avatar

What was your worst restaurant experience?

Asked by MissAusten (16127points) June 11th, 2009

Last night we went to a new restaurant for an invite-only, “soft opening.” My husband had done a lot of work in the restaurant, which is a very upscale, beautiful place. This being the first night they were open, we didn’t expect great things. However, the owner decided to also open the door to the general public due to a large crowd from a nearby car show. We arrived with another couple, sat down at 7:00, had two bottles of wine and waited almost three hours before leaving without dinner. We did get one appetizer, but it wasn’t what we ordered and none of us cared for it.

My husband and I finally gave up and left, with three kids at home and a babysitter to relieve. We told the waiter to cancel our orders, but our friends stayed at the restaurant. We later learned that the food finally arrived a little after 11:00—all four entrees. Later, the waiter gave them a bill totalling almost $200, including charges for the appetizers we never had and the two meals they’d returned to the kitchen. The waiter claimed he couldn’t find the owner and couldn’t change the bill himself. Our friends refused to pay for anything other than the drinks and their own dinners, then walked out.

I truly feel bad for this restaurant having such a disastrous opening (none of the tables around us were getting their food either), but I can’t help being mad about the whole thing. I’m sure we’ll try the place again in the future, when they’ve gotten their act together. At least the artwork looked fantastic (thanks to my talented husband).

Has something like this happened to anyone else? How did you deal with it, and did you ever go back?

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37 Answers

calvinette's avatar

My worst restaurant experience was going into a local cafe near Lake Okoboji, Iowa, with my friends, after an overnight camping trip. It was the Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast hour. The place was nearly empty, though, which should have been our first clue. There were about six or seven of us, and no one to greet us at the door, so we seated ourselves. And there we waited for about twenty minutes. Saw two or three other diners who seemed perfectly content, but we never saw a single staff person. Nada. It was like the Twilight Zone in there. So, we left. Later, I thought perhaps this was an extremely laid back local place, and they decided not to acknowledge a large group of young, slightly hungover out-of-towners. Too bad for them, because I am a great tipper.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

The restaurant is doomed to failure, because the owner doesn’t have a clue as to what he’s doing. Usually opening nights are free or reduced menu, to a limited crowd, so the staff can test the kitchen process, service, menu, etc. Opening to the general public is a sign that the owner is both clueless and greedy.

suzyq2463's avatar

My worst experience was when we went to a local Thai restaurant. My hubby and I were having a quiet lunch without the kids. We got our entrĂ©es and began eating. My husband was in the middle of an interesting story when I looked down at my food and saw a German cockroach in the midst of my food. At first, I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but when I fished it out, sure enough, it was a roach (cooked). My husband looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong.” Afraid I might barf if I opened my mouth, I just pointed. We called the owner over and showed her. She was really apologetic, but we just got up and left. Needless to say, we never went back.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

My worst experience was at a Morton’s Steakhouse on my birthday several years ago. We ordered expensive dinners, and for a number of reasons, my daughter and I only ate about 4 bites each of our extremely expensive steaks. So we asked to have them wrapped to take home to eat later. The waiter took them into the kitchen and we waited and waited and waited. About 30 minutes later, the waiter came back to the table with the bill. When we asked about the steaks that were being doggy bagged, he told me they threw them out. I explained that we had barely touched them, and wanted to take them home or to have at least one of them taken off the bill. He said, sorry, no. I asked to speak manager, who offered me a raw steak to take home.

MrItty's avatar

Small Italian restaurant down the street from where I work. Coworker friend and I decided to try it out. We walked in, saw nobody. Finally a guy came out behind the bar, and ignored us. We specifically asked if they were open and if we could get a table, and he finally called someone else out to show us to a table. Ordered both drinks and entrees at the same time. 15 minutes for our drinks. 45 minutes later for the entrees, which were simply hot sandwiches, and which arrived cold. There were no other customers anywhere in the restaurant for them to be occupied with. We left, now a good 30 minutes late for getting back to work, and haven’t been back since.

MissAusten's avatar

@PandoraBoxx We’ve been to quite a few restaurant openings, and never have we been charged for our dinner. It’s always fun and relaxing, especially for my husband who gets a lot of attention because what he does is such a visible and impressive part of the restaurant. We still managed to have a good time (all that wine helped), and as we hit the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home we were laughing about it.

And a raw steak? That’s classic!

@suzyq2463 How awful!! That makes not getting your meal at all seem like much less of a problem.

@calvinette, sounds like something out of a horror movie. Maybe they were too busy cooking up the last batch of campers to wait on you?

MrItty's avatar

@suzyq2463 my roommate and I similarly found a dead white bug her her salad at a very upscale place last year. We immediately stopped eating, told the waiter to get the mgr, and pointed it out to the manager. He simply said nothing other than “Oh, I’m sorry”, and then stared at us. We just got up and left.

MissAusten's avatar

@MrItty, are you sure that place wasn’t really a front for something else? Maybe they didn’t want customers to come back a second time. We went to a place like once—no diners, just a few guys at a back table whispering in Italian and one waiter who seemed like he’d rather not have us there.

Les's avatar

My parents and I wanted to try this Italian restaurant in our neighborhood which we had just seen on a show called “Check, Please” where they review restaurants. It got great reviews, so we decided to give it a try. I think it was about 5:30 or 6:00 on a weekday, my dad dropped my mom and myself off so he could park the car and we could get a table. When we walked in, there were maybe three or four other tables with people, and the rest of the place was empty. We walk up to the hostess and request a table. “Do you have a reservation?” she asks. “No, we don’t,” we respond. At this she gets all huffy and tells us that we will have to wait because they need to get a table ready. Fine. We’ll wait. Then another family walks in and approaches the hostess. “Do you have a reservation?” she asks. “No, we don’t,” they say. “Right this way, please.” And she seats them with no problem.

That’s it. I’ll never go back.

calvinette's avatar

@Les, it sounds like they got a little too big for their britches after being featured on TV, and thought they could pick and choose their own clientele. Maybe they knew someone or recognized someone from that other family who walked in and thought it best to seat them before you… the way they do at snooty places.

Les's avatar

@calvinette
You could very well be right. The funny thing is that we left that place and headed to another local pizzeria which was also featured on the same show. I’ve never had a bad experience there. The manager walks through the restaurant and chats with all the customers and actually gets things for you (he brought me a cappucino once, just because he could). But different strokes for different folks, I guess.

casheroo's avatar

@Les Having been a hostess…an empty restaurant means nothing. You may have walked in at 530, but those 6, 630, 7 oclock reservations need those tables. I would be furious when people demanded a table..
And that’s what made the last place I worked a terrible restaurant, we took any body and everybody, even if they didn’t have reservations, because people demanded to be sat if it was empty. So, people who specifically reserved booths or certain tables would be shit out of luck because of selfish people. People would wait up to two hours because of the other assholes. (and because the owner was greedy)

I had a terrible experience at Star Diner in Wildwood, NJ. It was the one and only time I refused to tip someone. She was a horrible waitress and had no excuse for her behavior. We were completely ignored, and she was very rude to us.

MrItty's avatar

@MissAusten No, I am not even remotely sure that’s not true. It was, in fact, something we theorized to each other on the way back to work.

MrItty's avatar

@casheroo the people with reservations weren’t “shit out of luck” due to selfish people. They were SOL due to your restaurant not knowing how to hold a reservation. If the table is reserved for 6pm, and a customer approaches wanting it at 5:30pm, you say “I’m sorry, we have nothing available”. If they point to the empty table, you say “It’s reserved for another party with a reservation”. Simple as that. If they get huffy, you turn them away.

Les's avatar

@casheroo: I understand the reservation thing, and that’s what we initially assumed. But when the next family came in, also with no reservations, and were seated immediately, what then? Maybe my mom and I looked funny. :-(

dynamicduo's avatar

@Les Were you and your mom the only ones out, and was the family more than two? If so, it makes financial sense to give the 4 top the table with 4 seats instead of wasting the two chairs by giving the 4 top to you two. Doesn’t make the customer feel shiny and special, then again the four top would spend more money than you two possibly… oh the restaurant business. Perhaps it was the case that their 2 seater table was just finishing dining or ready to pay. At the same time, the huffy attitude is never appreciated no matter what. I can’t stand servicepeople who make it obvious they hate their job.

Les's avatar

@dynamicduo
I think the family was 4, but we requested a table for three (my parents and myself). You could be right, but still. The vibe we got was lousy. Whatever the reason was, it just didn’t seem worth it to us. We went to another restaurant, and had a great dinner, so I guess there was no harm done. We just felt like the first place didn’t like the way we looked, or something.

casheroo's avatar

@MrItty Have you ever tried to deny someone a table when you have an empty restaurant, on the main line? You can talk to me when you have.

@les Not sure, I guess they wanted the 4 top over you. I hate when I have that happen, people taken back ahead of me when I was obviously there first. I always want to ask why, but don’t want to piss anyone off.

MrItty's avatar

@casheroo No, I have not. I didn’t say it was easy. I said it’s not the fault of one of your customers that another of your customers was screwed out their reservation. If you don’t have the backbone to stand up to customers who “demand” something from you, you don’t have the right to be offering reservations.

And what the hell does “demand” mean in this context, btw? What is the “or else”? Or else they’ll leave? Well, good, that’s what you’re going for! Or else they’ll tell all their friends? Heavens, no. Not a bad review from a rude customer! Is that worse than a bad review from someone who actually bothered to make a reservation and was screwed out of it by the restaurant employee who lacked the backbone to uphold the reservation?

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Restauranteurs refuse service all the time.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I was traveling by bus to visit my auntie and uncle in Minneapolis when it stopped at a Burger King in Hudson, WI., just over the river. I went in to get a diet Coke, and when I got up to the teenage cashier, she gaped at me in shock as I placed my order. I repeated it and she did nothing in response. She wouldn’t punch it in, made no move to serve me and her staring had turned into glaring.

Today, I’d’ve asked to speak to her manager. 20 years ago, I was 18, it was my first trip away from home by myself, I was the only person of colour in the entire place, and I was too scared to make a stink, so I just went back outside and got back on the bus. Nothing like that has happened to me since, I’m glad to say.

casheroo's avatar

@MrItty My old bosses response to you would be “I have to put my kids through college” That was his go to. So, we had to be the jerks and make people wait, while he was off in the back, avoiding the backlash.

MrItty's avatar

@casheroo Your old boss was an idiot. Did he think the guy who had the reservation somehow wouldn’t have contributed to his bottom line? Didn’t the folks with reservations who were denied their table walk out and not come back?

casheroo's avatar

@MrItty Usually, conversations with customers went like this (every time I worked)
Custome:I’d like a table for two
Me: Sorry, we have a lot of reservations coming in, so we have no tables available, but we serve the full menu at the bar
Customer: But there are no people in the restaurant
Me: I understand that, but we have reservations coming in, so we need those tables for them
C: But I see empty tables, and I won’t be more than an hour
Me: I really can’t do that since we have reservations
in walks boss, threatens to fire me because he wants every single customer he can.
I seat customer
Customers come in with reservations, and wait up to two hours, first guy is just hanging out having a ball. No regard for anyone else.
Customers think it’s ridiculous, but they usually wait, and bitch the entire time but they wait. Not sure why, since the food was really crappy. But, the restaurant made people feel like they were fine dining when it was definitely not. Cheap people, cheap food, so they wait. I’d never experienced anyone walking out. We had to comp people a lot though.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@MissAusten Fantastic question! I have enjoyed it so much. In fact I hope more people answer and I can read the responses or another similar question gets asked :) If I could give you several lurve for Great Question I would.

MrItty's avatar

@casheroo Ahh, so it wasn’t your boss that was an idiot, it was your customers. I can believe that. Your boss, apparently, was smart enough to know that your customers were idiots. :-)

crisw's avatar

Well, at a Greek restaurant in San Diego, years ago, I heard a whirring noise and something landed in my hair. It was a giant cockroach. The manager just said that they liked to live in the planters full of silk flowers!

Al a Round Table Pizza in La Mesa, clouds of fruit flies were zooming over the salad bar, and when I went to the front counter, a baby cockroach crawled out and scampered around (ignored by the teenage cashier.) One of my coworkers ordered a pizza slice from there once- it had a big dead cockroach in the middle of the cheese!

Supacase's avatar

Ordered a pepperoni and green onion pizza. Took a bite and chewed… and chewed and chewed and chewed. The more I chewed the bigger it got. I was embarrassed because I was with my boyfriend’s family and didn’t want them to notice anything was wrong since they were paying, but I finally took it out of my mouth and found a thick hunk of pig hide with hairs sticking out of it.

Darwin's avatar

@MissAusten – Your experience was almost identical to ours with a local place that was beautifully decorated and supposedly very upscale. We also endured long waits, forgotten food, incorrect orders, an incorrect bill, and a miserable experience. The place managed to survive for two years, mostly, I think, due to the bar, but then closed.

A year or so later, the same owner also opened a second restaurant for “family dining.” He did learn part of his lesson because the opening night was organized and the food was good. However, as time went on the food quality diminished, until one day I was served something that was supposed to be gumbo but which seemed to be pure roux. That restaurant closed within a year.

I understand the owner has been smart enough to realize that there is something about the restaurant business he just doesn’t understand and has decided not to open any more eateries.

Personally, I think he does have quite an eye for design – both places were gorgeous – but he has no skill at actually running a restaurant.

cak's avatar

My daughter was in 3rd grade and won an award at school – so she picked the restaurant, that night. She loved Applebee’s, she went there often with her dad, but I rarely would go…not my favorite place, so that’s where we started.

We got there, it was just the two of us and were promptly seated at a dirty table. They came over to clean it and proceeded to fling the food, everywhere. I was ready to leave, that moment – but she wanted to stay. We ordered, waited on our drinks and waited, and waited. I almost always order water and she ordered sprite It took forever to get the drinks. I asked where the restroom was located, the server said she would hold our food until we came back out, in case it came up when we were in the restroom; however, when we came out…our table had been cleared, drinks gone and someone was cleaning it. We were gone a few minutes, not an eternity.

That was it, we left. I told the manager, he offered fre gift certificates, I declined.

Why would I go back?

casheroo's avatar

@cak I’m very wary of Applebee’s. We went one night, and my husband asked for water, they said they couldn’t give any because the water was out. Both of us, having worked in the restaurant industry knew immediately that the place was in direct code violation. A restaurant without water?! How were the cooks washing their hands?! We promptly left.
A restaurant my husband worked at had a water issue, and they shut down immediately. It grosses me out to think that we’ve eaten there.

MissAusten's avatar

@Darwin Oh, I hope this guy has better luck. I hope he learns from his experiences and can make the place work. Our friends did say that once they finally got their food it was fantastic. I’m keeping my fingers crossed—there was a review of the restaurant in the local paper from someone else who attended opening night, and he only had great things to say.

Besides shameless plug alert, it would sad for the place to close and lose these murals and this grotto behind the bar. This photo of the murals was taken in my husband’s studio before they were installed, and the grotto wasn’t quite finished yet, but it gives you an idea.

Honestly, I’ll take the experience we had over dead (or live) bugs and hunks of hairy pig. Bleah!

cak's avatar

@casheroo – Yeah…we haven’t returned and I just think they are crap. I’m not above a chain restaurant, I’m just above one that is completely crappy…like Crappelbees. They earned that nickname for a reason!

Oh yeah, operating without water…massive code violation! EEEEWWW! Just nasty, too!

mizzthang's avatar

Husband and I stopped at a new Mexican restaurant one evening. We ordered beef nachos because they were one of the specials that night and we weren’t terribly hungry. After waiting for about twenty minutes (there were about five other couples in the whole place), a paper plate covered with Doritos and topped with a frozen hamburger patty came to our table. Um, yeah. We got up and left without paying.

Sweetpea's avatar

My husband, two kids and I went to Cold Stone on a hot day. We all ordered our ice cream and sat down to eat. I took a bite or two and noticed some long, gray, wiry hairs in mine. I was so grossed out. My husband took it up to the server, who was so embarrassed, and she prepared another one for me. My husband delivered the fresh bowl of ice cream to me. This time I scooped out a spoonful of ice cream and there was an even larger wad of hair in it!!! I picked up the dish and dropped it in the garbage can. I have never eaten there since.

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