On a recent Monday night, my husband and I took an old friend who was visiting from California to the bar/lounge at 11 Howard Hotel. The decor is great, and it has a nice bar menu, but the service was literally “in the toilet.” There was only one waitress on duty, and she was more interested in chatting with the cute bartenders than serving guests. The bar was not full, with perhaps only 6 occupied tables, meaning that service attendance should have been fine.

We experienced the opposite. When we walked in, the waitress came right over and took our order and everything seemed fine. We asked for water and everything went downhill from there, and forget about trying to get a second round of cocktails and some appetizers. We tried to hail the waitress a few times, but she kept looking away. It wasn’t until I stood up and walked towards her that she came toward me and asked, “How can I help you?” What?! How can you help? I thought you worked here! Naturally, I didn’t say this out loud, but it was rattling around in my head as I tried to order a second round of drinks in the middle of the bar/lounge.

The drinks came pretty quickly, as did the appetizers, and we chatted with our friend until it was time to go. Then, we tried to flag the waitress down for the check, but there was no reaction whatsoever. Yet again, one of us had to stand up and grab her, because she was too busy chatting with the cute bartenders!

We finally managed to pay, and we walked out talking about how f’d up the service was and wondering why the hell it was so difficult to get the check and pay!

The fix: Train your staff to keep an eye on the customers and not look down at their feet, mobile phones, or cute bartenders all the time. Make them walk around the room regularly and ask patrons questions, such as “Are you enjoying your drink/appetizer/food?”
A more aggressive method would be to ask the staff to leave their mobile devices in a locker room or wherever they store personal property during a shift.

My favorite vendor for bags and anything retail-related invited me and my partners and friends to spend a Friday summer afternoon at his absolute favorite drinking hole in NYC.

We sat in the tea room. It was quite posh and proper with rose arrangements that were out of this world (to which my friend remarked that he was having sex with them as he stuck his finger into a rose ball arrangement). The food and drinks were superb and the staff was super kind and attentive for the first 2 hours, but then suddenly something snapped. One of our partners joined us at the 2 hour mark, and ordered a burger and a drink. We all ordered another round, and when the drinks arrived, they got randomly placed on the table so that we had to rearrange the drinks ourselves. Not a big disaster, but I wondered what went wrong, considering the service had been impeccable 30 minutes ago. Then, after trying to get the waiter’s attention to find out what was taking the burger we ordered so long, we found out that it was never put into the “system,” due to a shift change! We didn’t say anything nasty, but we shared a questioning look: did the previous waitress take it home? What happened? Or does no one communicate/report to each other when leaving or coming to work?

The fix: Team effort is key. Management needs to train their staff that communication is the key to flawless service and that it’s important to take pride in what they do. Pushing shit under a rug isn’t going to flush – it stays and starts to stink.