talitha_kumi (talitha_kumi) wrote in bad_service,

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Bella Italia - poor service but a nice manager

Somehow I never thought I'd have a post for this community myself. On Saturday, my husband and I went to have dinner at Bella Italia before catching a film at 10pm. We arrived at the restarant at 8pm and asked for a table for two. We were told that they were busy, and that there would be a 35 minute wait. We told the server that we had a film to go to at 10pm, and were assured that there would be plenty of time to eat. Not a problem - we settled ourselves down at the bar and ordered a drink each. This wasn't really a proper bar area. More like a set of drinks dispensers at one side of the restaurant. There was no till behind the bar. Instead the single bartender had to go running off across the restaurant to run up a bill for us, then run back to collect payment. This made the service very slow because half his time was spent weaving in and out of tables to get to the till rather than actually serving drinks.

8:35 came and went. Tables in the restaurant started to empty as people finished their meals and left. I began to get a little edgy about still waiting, but my husband said that maybe the empty tables were waiting for people who'd made reservations, wheras we'd simply walked in. 8:45 came and went. Finally, at 9pm, we asked a waitress who'd come behind the bar to fetch clean glasses, whether we'd been forgotten. She looked surprised and said that we could take one of the empty tables, and she'd send the waitress for that section over immediately. We sat down at the table and waited for the waitress. And waited.

It was another ten minutes before anyone came over to our table. The waitress took our drinks order, and then rushed off without waiting to take a food order. It took her ten minutes to produce a bottle of wine and two glasses. We were getting nervous at this point that there wouldn't be enough time to eat before the film. It was, by this time, 9:20 and we hadn't even ordered, let alone eaten anything. We ordered starters and main courses, and resumed watching the clock creeping round.

The kitchen was visible through a hatch into the main restaurant, and we could see the cooks preparing food. There seemed to be a bottleneck of some kind, as there were three or four plates in the hatch under a heat lamp nearly all the time. Maybe they were short on servers. Our waitress had gone behind the bar and was drying cutlery.

At 9:50 our starters arrived. By this point we were both extremely hungry, having waited for two hours to eat. We were also on the verge of drunkenness, as the bottle of wine had been long finished and we'd had nothing to eat. Before the waitress managed to escape again, my husband asked her to talk to the kitchen and cancel our main courses because there would not be time for us to eat them. She looked panic-stricken, and bustled off - but returned less than a minute later to say that the main courses would not be a problem, and that she'd spoken to the manager. We would be charged for the bottle of wine, but the starters were free. This was a nice gesture since we'd not asked for anything to be taken off the bill, but my husband wasn't satisfied. He asked to speak to the manager.

The manager appeared within two minutes, looking nervous. He apologised for the wait we'd had. He said that they were short-staffed, and that we'd apparently been forgotten about. The empty tables we'd been eyeing earlier weren't waiting for reservations - they were genuinely empty, and we'd been waiting for no purpose. He was horrified to learn that this was our first time eating at his restaurant, and begged us to give him another chance. So, in exchange for them waiving all charges for the wine, the starters and the drinks, my husband made us a reservation for Tuesday night.

So I suppose it wasn't bad service in the end, since the manager was very accommodating, and we walked out of the restaurant irritated rather than upset. But the two hour wait for a bottle of wine and some mozzarella and tomato was definately bad service. It also interfered with our enjoyment of the film, as I find it difficult to concentrate after having had alcohol but no food.
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