The Importance of Service

Posted by Glenn Gritzner on April 12, 2019

Hello Enthusiasts –

This is a quick post just because I had a minor epiphany the other day, and … I dunno … wanted to share.

Loyal readers of this little vanity project know that I don’t usually write about places that I don’t like. That doesn’t mean that if I haven’t written about a place, then I, by definition, don’t like it … but it does mean that I won’t go out of my way to highlight a place just to tell you that it’s not good, unless it’s super high profile or otherwise deserves it.

But I went to a pretty famous restaurant in Silver Lake the other day
– on “best of” lists and whatnot – and I came out thinking “well, that was disappointing.” And then I thought more about it, and I realized that the *food* wasn’t actually disappointing. In fact, most of it was really good.

So why was it disappointing? The service. Our server was distracted. Minimally helpful managing some food allergies. Dismissive of substitutions. Mind you, she wasn’t “bad”. But she just consistently, well, left a bad taste in our mouths (see what I did there?).

And then I contrasted that with some recent restaurant experiences I’ve had. You recently read my rave about Majordomo, and I also recently somewhat unexpectedly visited Nightshade (which is awesome and will get its own write up) and had a great experience there. And part of the awesomeness of both experiences was definitely the service – my Majordomo writeup actually talked more about the service than it did about the food.

So … I’m walking away from this unnamed restaurant in Silver Lake (ok, it’s Alimento. Whatever.) and I say out loud “you know what? The thing is that bad service will not make up for good food, and yet great service can definitely compensate for mediocre food.”

And that’s when it hit me – it really was an epiphany. Maybe counterintuitively, when it comes to the quality of a restaurant – or, perhaps more accurately, when it comes to our overall experience upon visiting a restaurant – service is actually more important than food.

I’ve written about this before, but you’ll notice that I rarely say much about specific dishes when I write about places I send you to. (my high school English teacher would want me to say “to which I send you.” Sorry, Mrs. Errecart.) I’ll mention particularly good dishes, but I always emphasize design (hence, always posting pictures), vibe, service, and the entire experience way more.

(Side note: this is why I, for the life of me, cannot understand the fetish to post food pics on Instagram. I get that it’s real and that I’m the exception and that restaurants have had to face that reality. But, why do I care if a dish looks pretty on Instagram? That tells me nothing about the restaurant or whether I actually want to go there unless it’s to, like, see that dish live? I’ll have to have my millennial niece or nephew explain it to me. Anyway.)

The point being that this is why I always disagree when people call me a “foodie”. I am not (really) a foodie. I am a … restaurantie, if I am anything. Because it’s the *experience* of a restaurant that draws us there – and certainly is what keeps us coming back. Take it to the extremes – there are certainly places with no design and minimal service that survive on serving great food, especially in a post-Jonathan Gold world. But they are definitely the exception. Yet, you can probably name 5 places off the top of your head where the food is fine – it can’t be “bad” – but you keep coming back because they are comfortable, the service is good, and you have an overall enjoyable experience.

By the way, I’m not sure this holds true for bars, or least for cocktails. I mean, sure, we’ll all go to a fun bar that only serves the basics just because. But the cocktail world is filled with introverts – and/or kinda weirdos – who serve a mean cocktail, and that’s just fine with me. Whereas a super friendly bartender who serves me a bad cocktail won’t really cut it. Not sure why that is – I guess because usually if I’m sitting at a bar and expecting a good cocktail, then that’s why I’m there. To get a good cocktail. Whereas when I sit down at a restaurant for dinner, I’m expecting a larger, curated experience.

Anyway. No pictures this time. No grand pronouncements. Just some thinking that I thought I’d throw your way. Because, why not?

Happy travels.