Would you like sighs with your order?

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Virgil Evetts

Despite my grumblings about the very average level of service found in the local hospitality industry, I have had some truly excellent service here, a lot that was simply poor, but only a very slim minority that was really bad. The latter examples are usually pretty funny, even if they didn’t seem that way at the time.

Here are a few of my favourite bad experiences in local restaurants:

A maître de wagging her finger and berating me for having the audacity to arrive at her (almost empty) restaurant without a booking.

Being warmly invited into a shiny new establishment, shown to a table, given menus and brought water, but then told (about 15 minutes later) that the restaurant wasn’t actually open. The owner just thought we’d like to see the menu.

Being told by a waitress- when we questioned the restaurants peculiar booking rules [no bookings for less than 3 people, no bookings at all after 7:30]- that she was sure there were plenty of other restaurants that would have us if we didn’t like their policy.

I’m not too keen on waiters calling me ‘mate’, ‘buddy’, ‘bro’ or ‘dude’. There’s familiarity and then there’s just plain yokel.

In some cases bad service can be strangely appealing. I used to frequent a particular café  because the waitress was so hilariously surly. She would roll her eyes at any request and snap irritably at customers. The only words I ever heard her utter were ‘what?’ and ‘no!’ She was kind of like a belligerent floor show.

But these are all pretty mild really. My mother tells utter horror stories from her chefing days, including a cocaine-crazed head chef throwing a live crayfish at a diner, [attempting] to urinate on another and regularly shouting ‘well you can just f### off!’ at anyone who sent their meal back to the kitchen. Apparently he wasn’t big on criticism.

But I’m sure we all have treasured memories of shocking servive, so let’s have a little friendly competition- worst service experiences ever:Helen says – we have a foodlovers gift for the best story on this blog.


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15 thoughts on “Would you like sighs with your order?

  1. I went to lunch at a Wellington restaurant, Trade Kitchen, just two days ago. After sitting down at 12:25, the waiter promptly arrived with menus, the specials and water. So good so far – except for the fact that he swallowed his vowels so badly it was like listenng to a foreign language. We ordered within five minutes or so. Then we sat and waited, and waited and waited. In that time five other tables were seated, placed orders, and all of them were fed before us! While we sat and watched our waiter giving these tables their lunch, our waiter blithely ignored us. By 1pm we asked our waiter if we were goning to to receive our lunch since every else who had arrived after us had already been fed. Instead of an apology or even an offer to find out what was happening in the kitchen we received on the spot a dismissive “they are not very far away” or similar. I would have preferred the waiter to have checked rather than giving me a trite and insincere throwaway response – how could he have known since he didn’t seem to even realise or care how long we’d been waiting? 10 minutes later – the kitchen had obviously misplaced/forgotten our order – we received our lunches – 50 minutes after sitting down on a work day. No apology with it though. On payment, I waited again for an apology and thought we might have received a small discount like the bowl of chips for free, as a gesture of goodwill. Nothing. That’s the first and last time I’ll be going to this restaurant.

  2. Theo ther day I had the following exchange with a waitress-
    Me: I’ll have the creamy mushrooms with choreetho [chorizo]
    Waitress: chor- its oh?
    Me: choreetho
    Waitress: you mean chor- its -oh…
    Me: No, choreetho like Barthay-lone-a [Barcelona]and I-Beetha [Ibiza]
    Waitress: I-bitza?

    Pet hate # 372: Waiting staff who correct me- when Im right.

  3. Several years ago 4 of us went to a pre-show dinner at a small local restaurant. We all ordered seafood chowder as our entree and when the waitress (who happened to be the owner)lifted one plate of chowder off the tray, the other three tipped over and landed in my lap. Absolutely scalding hot chowder all over my hands,I began to shake them to get it off, flicking it into the hair of my friends seated either side of me. The waitress rushed off into the kitchen and brought back a cloth and proceeded to wipe the floor with it, then she tried to wipe my dress with the same cloth! After quite a bit of rushing to and fro,being served with more bowls of chowder, we got settled once again and continued with our meal. When it came time to pay, I expected that a good discount would be automatically offered, but to my horror, the bill showed 8 bowls of chowder. When I asked what was going on, the waitress/owner/cashier said they were only a small restaurant and couldn’t afford to give away food. We had 8 bowls of chowder, 8 would have to be paid for! Needless to say, we soon put her right on that score.

  4. We went to a Rotorua restaurant for a special meal and I ordered an avocado entree. When it came it was obviously rotten. I asked the waitress for another but she assured me that was how they are meant to be eaten. When I assured her (politely) no it wasn’t, first she argued nastily that it was, then when I said please take it away it’s inedible, and that I would skip the entree (as by now everyone had finished theirs), she flounced off to bring another……which of course was the other half. No, we have not been back

  5. My husband, daughter and I went to a great local eatery and were chatting away with each other about teenagers (my daughter being one). The waiter was laying knives and forks during our conversation and while my daughter was explaining the intricacies of being a teen the waiter, who until then had not said one word to us, joined in our conversation uninvited and gave us a very long winded opinion of his own! He walked away and the three of us looked at each other in wide eyed wonder and burst out laughing – but he hadn’t finished, he came back with menus and started again. We always chat to our waitstaff anyway but we didn’t expect to be eavesdropped upon. Funny, but it did put us off going back as he was weird

  6. Out to celebrate with colleagues we picked a fairly well known restaurant that specialised in Indian Food. We had been working all day and were really hungry. The waitress seated us, (didn’t ask if we wnated drinks)then went behind the bar with another waitress and began staring at a partially obscured TV – Shortland St i think. They ignored us, and everyone else in the place until the credits rolled.
    we had to get desserts in the ad breaks!

  7. My friend and I were at a well-known Indian restaurant in Auckland and shortly after we were shown to our table the waiter, (very smart) brought us water and a small dish of crudities, and took our order. I thought the waiter looked at me rather strangely when I ordered Tikka Masala and he didn’t take his eyes off me when my friend ordered his Butter Chicken.

    Whilst we were waiting for the main course, the waiter brought us bowls of fresh and dried fruits, popadums, more sliced veg, chutney s – and each time we said, ‘But we didn’t order these,’ he smiled at me and said, ‘on the house Madam.’ Eventually our table was laden with numerous bowls of what really were delicious treats.

    When the main course was served, the waiter almost tipped the Butter Chicken on my friend’s lap because he was so busy staring at me. When he’d gone I said to my companion, ‘Do I have something stuck to my face?’ But no.

    We set about eating and the waiter brought us wine. We hadn’t ordered wine. He said, ‘No problem, compliments of the house.’
    I asked why but he just smiled and shrugged.
    ‘Maybe we’re the millionth customers?’ I suggested.
    ‘Or it’s the owner’s birthday.’ My friend said.

    After a leisurely meal during which our waiter several times almost tripped over a chair because he was so busy staring at me whilst taking orders from other diners, we went to pay.

    The bill was half what we knew it should be. By this time, my friend was a little annoyed and asked what this was all about.

    The waiter leaned across and said confidentially, ‘Two years ago, my beloved grandmother passed away. This dear lady here is her double. I have served you as I would my grandmother.’

  8. A group of us went to a very swanky restaurant for a special dinner. My friend ordered the duck breast, and when she got it found it was so tough she literally couldn’t cut it – the knife just bounced off. You would have needed a power saw to get through it. When she pointed this out, the waiter took the offending duck away – to just behind a partition next to our table, where he and the maitre d’ had a loud debate about it all fully in our earshot. “Well, I suppose it is a bit borderline,” the maitre d’ finally concluded, and the waiter returned to offer my friend another main. By this time the other five of us had completely finished and my friend had to eat her replacement in solitary splendour while the rest of us twiddled our thumbs. Full price was charged. Amazingly, no, we haven’t been back.

  9. My partner and my parents went out for a meal at Easter. We sat down and the first thing the waitress did was complain how incompetent the chef was…(should’ve seen warning bells then)
    We each had an entree, was nice and we all ordered the steak, 2 x “ladies” steak with salad and 2 x “Man” size steak with eggs, tomatoes and onions – We all got out steaks but they were all the same, they had forgotten the guys eggs tomatoes and onions..(and argued about it in front of us)they offered a free dessert for one.
    I was about to start to eat mine when I saw a little green catapillar on my capsicum, they laughed and commented how cute it was…
    My partner got his dessert (passion fruit cheesecake)however in was not passion fruit topping but sweet chilli and onion marmalade..
    Oh and only one drink order was taken.
    And when we came to pay, get this, they charged us full price!!!
    Would I go back…I think not.

  10. About a year ago my partner and I went to a waterfront restaurant in Russell for lunch with my cousin and her new husband. The waitress was so rude and snappy. My partner doesn’t eat cheese, so when ordering the hamburger from the menu, he enquired as to whether it contained cheese. The rude waitress replied “uh, it’s a HAM burger, not a CHEESE burger!” in a really derogatory way. When the meals came out, my partners “hamburger” was covered in cheese! We had to send it back and complained to the manager that she was so rude. The manager apologised, said a few other people had said the same thing and that her waitress was having a bad day, and explained that they have to keep her as it’s really hard finding staff up there because it’s such a small place. The manager offered all four of us a free dessert for our bad experience.

  11. I am amazed by just how completely clueless some waiting staff can be. Many years ago when I was a student I was out for dinner with a friend at a well known, relatively good restaurant in Dunedin.
    We were chatting away when the waitress turned up to take our order – and this completely stunned both of us – sat down at the table with us and asked us what we would like! I think we were too lost for words to even order.
    Later on she came to clear away what she thought was an empty wine bottle, it obviously became apparent that it wasn’t empty yet so she poured the all the remaining contents into my friends glass. It was so quick that my friend didn’t even get a chance to tell her that she had had enough and was driving so we had to swap glasses.
    Needless to say we didn’t go back!

  12. This mothers’ day, we went to a restaurant – it was impromtu. The waiter was at the bar, pouring drinks. We stood there. He poured drinks. Eventually, he asked if we’d booked. We said no, and he told us to find a table.

    Twenty minutes later (after another three parties had entered the restaurant and been seated), my husband went to the bar. The watier was there, pouring drinks. No eye contact. “Excuse me” said my husband, “Can we order some drinks and get some menus”. We got our drinks and menus.

    Another 10 or 15 minutes went by, the parties who arrived after us had had their orders taken and one had got their starters. It was a set menu, three courses, and we didn’t really fancy the options anyway.

    Finished our drinks and husband went to settle up. He went to the bar. The waiter was there, pouring drinks. No eye contact. “Excuse me”, said my husband. “We’re not going to stay for a meal”. “OK” said the waiter.

    We won’t be going back.

  13. We turned up at an empty restaurant in Clyde, bang on opening time with (shock, horror) no prior booking. We were given a table for 2 right by the door. It was a very windy day. At each opening of the door our napkins went flying along with all else of a “light” nature. Furthermore the door didn’t close by itself so we had to keep closing it, or asking people to do so. Half way through this shambles we picked up the table and shifted it to another location. This wasn’t appreciated. Nor, for that matter was my pork with plum sauce (half a teaspoon of it)

  14. We went to a very well known restaurant in Parnell a few years ago and they managed to get my order wrong – 3 times! M-R steak arrived very well done, it was sent back and arrived with a sauce on it not requested and I didn’t like it, 3rd time it changed to a completely different steak and was completely rare. The well known Maitre D was not very interested and just shrugged.
    Afterwards I phoned the owner as I thought he would like to know what happened in his establishment when he wasn’t there and he said “love next time you are in make yourself known to me and I’ll give you a glass of wine!” I was horrified and haven’t been back – although he has changed restaurants now and is in Ponsonby.