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A server who refused to serve

CarinosMy family and I decided to try Carino’s Italian restaurant for the first time tonight. When we entered the restaurant, we were “greeted” by the hostess with the predictable, “How many?” before being seated. Our server approached our table within a minute or two, delivering interactive menus and crayons to the kids and menus to me and my wife.

Our server demonstrated the hospitality basics well. She smiled, made eye contact, and added a bit of enthusiasm to her voice. And she did not seem put off by my six-year-old’s tendency to vacillate during his beverage, entrée, and dessert orders.

Even so, there were several events that marred the experience:

  • Our server repeated left the table empty-handed while paper wrappers, used paper napkins, plates, and glasses accumulated. One of the reasons we enjoy dining out is that we don’t have to look at the mess that a family of six produces during meals. Eventually, I stacked everything I could reach and asked that it be removed.
  • Midway through our meal at around 7:00pm, another server completed what appeared to be her closing sidework (e.g., consolidating salt and pepper shakers, filling sugar packet caddies, etc.) at the table next to us—in full view of the guests dining around her. Instinctively, I checked my watch to see if it was later than I thought. That’s not the reaction you want your guests to have during their meals.
  • Later, after our children had ordered dessert, the sundaes came out with no spoons. Remarkably, it took about four minutes for the spoons to arrive (that’s an hour and a half in kid time). By then, without the use of utensils, they had consumed nearly every bit of their whipped cream—and what little remained was on their noses…

As uninspiring as this service was, the low point of the evening came when our server delivered the family style pasta plate that my wife and I planned to split. Carino’s family style entrées are intended to serve 2-3 adults and, knowing that we were sharing this entrée, our server brought a plate for each of us.

She handed me the large plate of pasta and set the two entrée plates on the table in front of me. I asked her if she could serve my wife—as she was seated at the opposite end of the table and we had four kids between us.

Her response floored me: “You do that.”

Now, I realize that Carino’s Italian is a fast-casual concept but it’s not a cafeteria. There were no buffets visible. That makes it a full service restaurant. Our server, in denying my simple request, missed an opportunity to serve her guests and moved what had been a neutral experience to a negative one.

So, even though I felt like there was value for the price paid (our bill came to $56.00 for a family of six—including entrées, salads, drinks, desserts, and a double espresso), I likely will not return to Carino’s Italian restaurant.

There are plenty of other restaurants out there with higher standards for table service whose servers are also willing to serve.

Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.
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