Restaurant Service Standards?

Aug 8th, 2006, 12:59 PM
Original Poster
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Restaurant Service Standards?

Just returned from a trip with stays in both Quebec City and Montreal. In both cities, the quality of restaurant service typically received was much lower than I am used to (mainly inattentive & unobservant servers). I am from the US, but have visited restaurants in Europe (not France - closest thing to the Quebec area) and Western Canada without issue. The restaurants in the recent vacation varied from casual chains to upscale restaurants. Does anyone know if the service I received was just a string of bad luck of a possible set of different service standards.
Wiggum is offline  
Aug 8th, 2006, 04:59 PM
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Bad luck.
cmcfong is offline  
Aug 8th, 2006, 05:36 PM
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Would be interested to know where you ate and what kind of situations. It is upsetting to have a great meal ruined by poor service.
irecommend is offline  
Aug 10th, 2006, 03:06 AM
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Yes, definitely just bad luck or timing. Or a different way of viewing service.

Servers are not as chatty in Montreal as what I've encountered in the states, where they seem to be trained to be specially friendly and chatty such as "Hi, I'm Cathy and I'll be your server tonight, how are you all doing " you don't get that type of greeting in Montreal, but there is not reason they should not be attentive to your needs in a discreet and polite way.

My criteria for good service is based more on how they respond to my requests, in a prompt and efficient manner; I was in Cafe Cherrier last night and I had to get the server's attention twice; he responded quickly but it was busy and full on the terrace so I did not expect him to be attentive, just responsive.

Never am I asked mid meal, how's your food, etc.. that is not something you'll encounter often;
as opposed to the states.

One thing I find here is that there is often a long gap after the main meal; they assume you want to keep nursing your wine and I often have to take out my credit card and lay it in plain view to signal that I want my check. I agree that this is inattentive; I encounter this often, in canada and in europe also; I think it's considered impolite to pressure you to finish up and pay the bill.

So I would tend to agree with you in a very general manner; I do frequent upscale restaurants where the service is top notch but mid scale places are often lacking in attention and under staffed so the service becomes too laid back.

mitchdesj is offline  
Aug 10th, 2006, 05:46 AM
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I agree that the service in many Canadian restaurants is poor - waiting table is seen as a job you do till you get something better.

And, as a woman, I find that women servers, especially young women, pretty well ignore a table of females or even one female until you practically jump up and down wave your hand in front of their faces, then they look surprised to see you. "Oh", you can see them thinking, "I guess I'm going to have to drag myself over to the table of old bags". I/we have started leaving if we're not served in a reasonable time taking into account how busy the place is - and I/we tell someone in authority why as I/we exit.

Women servers expect better tips from men and it shows. But maybe they get crappy tips from women because the women see them fawning over a table of males or women and men while tables of women sit and wait.

When I'm with my husband or sons, there is no waiting but still the service is often indifferent.

I hope you complained or tipped accordingly or not at all and told them why when you got bad or indifferent service. We should all do that.

Oh, and I can't stand the "Hi, I'm Gwennie, and I'll be your server" introduction. Whose stupid idea was that anyway??
SallyCanuck is offline  
Aug 10th, 2006, 08:18 AM
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A number of years ago my colleagues and I (about half a dozen women)decided to have lunch together at a pub that had recently opened nearby. It became obvious that the tables that got all of the female servers' attention were full of nicely-dressed men having lots of beer, which wasn't what we planned to do with our lunch hour. After various polite attempts to catch our server's eye, one of my colleagues decided to get drastic. In her very proper British accent, she stood up and inquired rather loudly "Excuse me, but do you have to have a [correct anatomical term for part of the male anatomy] to get served around here?" We got attended to pretty quickly after that, but I think they just wanted to get rid of us. They were successful. We never went back.
Meesthare is offline  
Aug 10th, 2006, 08:25 AM
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My husband and I were in Washington State last month and the one difference we noticed was the superior service in almost all restaurants and stores to what we usually encounter here in BC. The food was also generally better. I think Canadians could use a bit of shaping up!
April is offline  
Aug 11th, 2006, 06:03 AM
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I think that what you have percieved as poor service is simply a different approach.

Waiters in Quebec tend to leave you alone and expect you to call them if you need anything. For instance, it is considered very rude & impolite to bring the bill before the customer actually asks for it. It also considered very impolite to take away empty dishes until everybody at the table appears to have finished eating.
LouisP is offline  
Aug 11th, 2006, 06:17 AM
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Sounds like bad luck to me. We live in Montreal and go to restaurants fairly often and rarely experience what you did. It's true that servers are more distant than in the States (I too hate the chipper "Hi, I'm X and I"ll be serving you today!" schpiel). What's important to me is that they know the menu and wine list, can answer any questions we have (even if it means asking the chef) and keep the whole meal flowing with good timing to clear plates and bring the next course.

Recently we went to a fairly new restaurant in town, and after being shown our table, we waited about 15 minutes before someone served us. The waitress apologized and said there was confusion over the table assignments. From that point on, service was attentive, courteous and she even gave us each a glass of sweet Italian wine on the house after the meal.

Your experience could also be due to the server's mood that day, whether it was busy at the restaurant, and a whole bunch of other factors.
pavfec is offline  
Aug 11th, 2006, 09:37 AM
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I think there is a really wide range in what different people consider good service.

And, I'm sure, some cross-cultural differences between Quebec province, the US of A, the rest of Canada, and different parts of Europe.

And, within a city, a huge difference between career waiters and waitresses, and temporary waiters and waitresses.

Plus, of course, price level and its relationshoip to expectations.

In an earlier life I ate a lot of fancy meals, and was used to my water glass staying full, and my wine glass never getting past the half-way mark.

But a lot of those meals were in hotel main dining rooms, where there were long-time staff, well-trained.

In fact, the other day I dropped into the number two dining room at the Four Seasons in Toronto, where I have not eaten for a couple of years but used to eat at least once a month, and two waiters came over to say hello.

But now, hotel dining rooms are not the trendy places, and the "star" restaurants hare hiring staff for what they looklike, not their fifteen years experience serving food to discerning diners.

In Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto, most servers are not thinking they are in a profession for life. Can't say for Quebec City.

Overall, training is usally bad for servers. Assuming there's any training at all.

BAK is offline  
Aug 13th, 2006, 08:08 AM
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Personally I can't stand the smarmy in-your-face-US American excuse for service.

I was recently asked 3 times "How ya doin''? in WA state before I rec'd anything to eat-in my mind one polite enquiry would have sufficed.The food was anything but memorable.

It's true that few Canadians would think of serving tables as a career-it's a dead end in more ways than one.
Sam_Salmon is offline  
Aug 13th, 2006, 09:45 AM
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I also dislike the constant "badgering" of customers in US restaurants (I am a United Statesian). I am constantly having to interrupt a conversation, swallow a mouthful of unchewed food, etc. because the server comes at an inconvenient moment.

I've never had a problem with Canadian servers - I've found them pleasant and helpful, but not obsessive or intrusive.
toedtoes is offline  
Aug 14th, 2006, 01:15 PM
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Maybe I should be more specific. I was traveling with my wife and toddler. In most cases, our servers were also with other tables that I could see getting better service. There are a few things that could mark us as a table to ignore (by a poor server): We had a toddler with us (always a red flag), we spoke nothing but the most basic French to get by (French-speaking customers definitely got faster service) and we did not drink (my wife is pregnant). Unfortunately, I think the servers who provided the poor service didn't see us as a source of a decent tip - or didn't care to try. Also, about the service I received... I am not an exceptionally picky customer - although after 10+ years as a server, I have a decent idea of which is poor service and which is a server who is just too busy (and no, I was never one of those saccharine-filled-ask-100-questions servers). I'm talking about water never re-filled, leaving to get a booster seat and not returning for 20 minutes, forgetting parts of meals until asked or waiting to order (with menus obviously down) for 10 or 15 minutes while our server chats, at length, with the group of beer drinking guys. We ended up saving a good amount of money on tipping through those parts of the trip. I am guessing what we experienced was just a string of bad luck. We did have some positive dining experiences as well. They just happened to be overshadowed by the number of negative ones.
Wiggum is offline  
Aug 14th, 2006, 06:01 PM
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Maybe some would disagree but I always believe the tip is a gift that is totally dependent on the service. I will leave 15-20 for average to above average service but will leave much less when treated unfairlly or that the server is truly indifferent.
irecommend is offline  
Aug 15th, 2006, 04:36 AM
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Could it be your own self-consciousness about having a toddler and your concern that you didn't speak enough French played a role in your service? I sometimes think when people are looking for bad things to happen, they will.
MikeT is offline  
Aug 15th, 2006, 07:28 AM
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Waiting 15 to 20 minutes to order while the server chats with patrons at another table and another 20 for a booster seat and Mike T claims it was the patron's self-consciousness! Puleese - that's blaming the customer! It was just plain rotten service - Wiggum should have left and told them why in good English.
SallyCanuck is offline  

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