Being an audience member isn’t just a passive process of watching and absorbing. It requires engagement.
Ian Pike 9 a.m., May 4
Since I started reviewing restaurants for the Reader, the only thing I’ve received hate mail over has been my tendency to call out bad servers and poor service. I’ve gone so far as to say that the standards for service across the industry in San Diego are inferior, and that truly good service is a treasured rarity.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” says the average email from an embittered restaurant server.
So I started keeping a list.
I’ve recorded the most egregious offenses against table service that I’ve encountered, some of which outright appalled me.
At URBN Pizza, I once had the audacity to ask for water glasses. My server launched into a snotty, breathless explanation about why there were none. The correct answer was, “yes, sir. Let me get you some.” I could do without the sir...but it never hurts. That same night, I waited ninety minutes for a pizza that never came. I expressed my dissatisfaction to that same waiter. He shrugged, and said, “sorry, bro, it’s busy.”
At the Blind Burro, where I had an OK meal, the busser pillaged my table, clearing plates from which I was still eating.
At Sipz a waitress disdainfully sighed and huffed about having to serve my larger-sized party. She threw my food down before like a grumpy chef from a cartoon. That same night, at DBar, the hostess gave me a “we don’t want you” attitude on arrival. The restaurant was slightly busy and my friend pulled a boneheaded amateur move when she failed to make a reservation, but none of that absolves the staff from being courteous and trying to help. In fact, I’d venture that servers and hosts owe greater courtesy to more difficult parties.
Every time I go to Tiger Tiger, I am flabbergasted by how disorganized and inefficient the staff there is. I have always loved the Blind Lady, and I think Tiger Tiger has the potential to be cool, but it seems like the staff is in a perpetual state of hot mess.
I hate to beat on Hubcap any more than I did in my original review, the way that the server “rallied” from her error of forgetting to card the table and not mentioning that some of the beers were out before my party ordered was almost comical. And then she had the gall to categorically ignore us.
The big problem, for me, is that this kind of thing is more of a norm than an exception. I am ignored and slighted on a weekly basis, as are other diners in San Diego. Some days, I feel like Big Blue from the Sesame Street sketch.
And what do we do about this? Nothing. We diners are so accustomed to maltreatment that we don’t demand better service. Making the change is on us, not them. People need to start standing up for themselves. Say something. Leave a scant tip. Tell the manager. Let your dissatisfaction be known. Just don’t go on Yelp and rant. Trust me on this one. Negative Yelp reviews only drive service downwards as restaurant staffers carry grudges against anonymous, faceless customers. Business owners end up trying to control the damage online rather than IRL. Interacting in the real world is a two-way street and we owe it to ourselves to demand better. If we do, we’ll get it.