Ask the readers: What's a restaurant screw-up worth?

On Saturday I went to a new restaurant -- one that has been receiving good word of mouth -- to enjoy the beautiful weather, sip a cocktail on the patio, and eat brunch. The meal started out well: The gentleman who seated us (maybe a manager) suggested a few cocktails we might like, and also mentioned the bacon, which sounded like a perfect appetizer. So when our waiter arrived, we ordered both cocktails and bacon.

When the cocktails came, my friend asked for lemons, which the waiter promised to get. About ten minutes later, when he brought the bacon, we ordered the rest of our meal (two entrees and two side dishes) and again asked for the lemon. The waiter said the kitchen was still slicing it. Seriously? Ten minutes to slice a lemon? But as it turned out, that wait was nothing.

We ordered our meal at about 11:40, then focused on the bacon, our delightful cocktails (the lemon finally appeared), chatting with diners at neighboring tables. The wait went fast. Still, at about 12:15, after seeing a table that had been seated at the same time we were get its food, I asked the waiter when our meal would be up. "Should be any minute," he said.

At about 12:30, the waiter delivered food to a group that had sat down after we'd ordered. And then he came up to our table, pulled up a chair, sat down and said: "I've got some bad news. The kitchen lost your ticket."

Seriously? Even if the kitchen had lost it, he should have checked on the status of our meal when we'd asked about it at 12:15 -- which would mean our food would certainly be ready fifteen minutes later. The place wasn't busy, and we were only talking eggs. But rather than mention this, I just asked when we'd finally get our food. The waiter said he'd just resubmitted the ticket and that we would get our meal shortly.

We did, and the check soon followed: $47, less a $6.70 discount. "So, what's with the $6.70?" I asked. "We took 20 percent off the bill," the waiter said.

I'm no statistician, but I know that $6.70 isn't 20 percent of $47 -- and it wasn't even the price of one entree. So I looked at the waiter in disbelief, and suggested that given our wait, maybe both entrees should be taken off the bill.

Was that off-base? I would have been fine with a 20 percent discount. In fact, all I really wanted was for the nice man who'd seated us to come over and say he was sorry that we'd had such a rough first experience at the place, and that he hoped we would come back.

At brunch the next day (at a different restaurant -- I eat out a lot), this experience was the source of plenty of discussion -- but no agreement. So I'm throwing it to you: What's the correct response when a restaurant screws up a meal so badly? Pick up the entire tab? The entrees? A drink?

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