Monday, August 13, 2012

On Eating Out - A Tale of Two Families

"See, and if there's 6 or more, we'll charge an extra 18%!
It's brilliant!"
Both my family and my wife's family live far away from the San Diego area, so when either set of family comes to visit, my wife and I are on the hook to find exciting things to do and fun places to eat (services that Yelp and I are happy to provide).

For meals especially, my family tends to have positive experiences. For instance, they were in town yesterday, and we ate breakfast at this charming little cafe. The food was delicious, it came in a timely manner, and the waitress even squeezed fresh orange juice for me after I had requested some and been told that they had run out. We also went out to dinner the night before, and we had a similarly excellent meal (in which we were comped a dessert).

However, when I go out to eat with my in-laws, we almost uniformly have a bad time, usually in regards to service.

Now, I know what you're thinking. If one family is always treated well and the other is always treated poorly, it stands to reason that each family is getting back what it's putting out there. I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about just this topic, and, honestly, I think both families are equally as friendly. While my dad is one of the most gregarious people I've ever met, it's not like my in-laws are sullen cranks. I really think both groups are pleasant and polite.

As an example of what happens when I go out with my in-laws, last week (yes, I've eaten out a lot in the last week -- both sets of parents were here on different days for different reasons) my wife and I suggested that we go out with her family to this restaurant that my wife and I had eaten at previously and had had a good experience at.

We went on a night that wasn't busy (I think there were maybe two or three other groups there, not counting the handful of folks at the bar). We called ahead for reservations (it's kind of a swanky place, and we were bringing some aunts and uncles in addition to my wife's parents), and this was our experience.

It took probably forty-five minutes to an hour for our orders to be taken.

The food was good, but it took a long time to come out.

Finally, the waiter refused to split up our bill, even though it was obvious that there were probably 5 groups that wanted to pay separately (the math portion of this comic is so, so right on). I assume this was due to the automatic 18% gratuity due to the size of our party, and if he had split the checks, that might not have come through. This event in itself probably added 30-45 minutes to our evening because we had to go back through the bill, figure out who ordered what, and assign each a percentage of the gratuity and tax.

I don't know, when I write it out, it might not seem so bad, but I was pretty frustrated at the time (first world problems, right?). Even though it was a leisurely-paced meal where the family was mostly concerned with catching up, certainly a three-hour-dinner implies something about bad service, doesn't it? Maybe I'm just being cranky, but when we pay close to $50 per head, I expect to have an easy-going, pleasant experience.

On the other hand, maybe I'm just over-sensitive because I especially want my in-laws to have a good time (you know, so they'll like me).

What do you think? Do any of you ever have consistently bad experiences with one group of people when you go out versus consistently good experiences when you go out with a different group of people? Am I just crazy? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives.

1 comment:

NaturalStarlet said...

That is pretty weird that it's so opposite with the different sides of the family. Even with all that said, I think it's ridiculous the way you all had to split the check up yourselves. I usually give them a heads up before we order and make sure they use different tickets just to make sure we avoid this after the meal. Luckily, you don't have to go thru this very often.