When service leaves a bad taste or disconcerted & dissed

We were at a restaurant which, for obvious reasons will remain anonymous, when what was a terrific experience suddenly went somewhat South.

It seemed like a fabulous dinner - the ambience was lovely, the service at first struck as so smooth, polished and professional that we actually began commenting on it to each other, and the food was excellent.

Even afterwards, we felt it was a great time - just somewhat tainted by what happened with our server.

That being said, we wonder if this happens often - a server who apparently becomes attracted to a guest and behaves in subtle but totally inappropriate ways? And if so, does it taint the overall experience to the point that the customer may not return, fearing to some degree and at some level that if seated at that waitperson's table, they will again be placed in an awkward, uncomfortable and unacceptable situation?

A few decades ago, when waitpeople were in the habit of announcing their name and that they'd be your server, there were those who became very familiar in a somewhat intrusive way that could become uncomfortable for the guest.

Our experience went beyond this by leaps and bounds and was on a different level. The server was polite, friendly, agreeable and above all, professional at the start.

We're not sure when it deteriorated into inappropriate behavior toward my guest. Was the server put off by the fact that he was a younger man dining with an older woman? Who knows - and it's beside the point. The server began touching my guest - at first I was not even aware of it but toward the end, it became more obvious and very unsettling. Near the end of the meal, the server actually ran her fingers up my guest's neck.

If sexual harassment is inappropriate for women, it's equally inappropriate for men. Both of us were increasingly unsettled and uncomfortable as it escalated. It left a bad taste in an otherwise delicious dining occasion.

Both of us were uncertain of how to handle the situation as it was so unexpected and seemed to happen out of nowhere.

I ask you - how would you handle this, both as an operator and as a diner? Would you report it to management after the fact? Would you take it up with the server at the time? We did nothing to encourage this behavior, but it leaves a lingering and unpleasant taste. We'd like to know what could be done to prevent other diners from a similar situation - disconcerted and feeling "dissed."

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Tags: dining, harrassment, restaurant, service, sexual

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Comment by susan holaday on February 8, 2010 at 7:30am
No, not impaired in any way and my guest was not giving her any signals either. She was older than he, I'd guess by a dozen years or so. Perhaps she resented a younger man with an older woman and that prompted her behavior - who knows? The point is, management clearly failed to get the message across that touching the guest is not appropriate.
Comment by Michael Biesemeyer on February 7, 2010 at 2:35pm
Did the server seem intoxicated? Sounds to me that either her inhibitions were lowered throughout the course of your meal, your guest was giving off mixed signals, or she was just plain clueless.

In any event, contact the management.
Comment by susan holaday on February 6, 2010 at 6:42am
A friend suggested I stop going out because of these adventures but that won't work for me - I love this industry too much to stop! And it's good to discover what some of the issues are out there - obviously if I'm not the only one to have this issue, there's something wrong in the server training process - in a society that's become as highly sexualized as ours has in the past 50 years, I would think that something has been overlooked in training people who interact with customers about what's appropriate in terms of "personal space" -

Non-Operator
Comment by Natalie on February 6, 2010 at 4:53am
Susan you have the most interesting adventures! ;)

Non-Operator
Comment by David C. Shinney on February 5, 2010 at 2:16pm
I would immediately ask the offending and offensive server to summon the manager, ask both to step aside (out of other guest ear shot, with both dining partners simultaneously and have a factual but brutally frank discussion with the manager about what his/her solution was going to be. Failing to get a reasonable, conclusive response, I would ask for ownership to be present; if the owner was not on premise, I would require the owners's name, telephone and e-mail and follow up until the matter was resolved...
Comment by food HR on February 5, 2010 at 12:05pm
From a human resources perspective, I would inform the server that I would prefer not to be touched, and also let the manager know of the incident. Harassment is a huge liability to the employer and obviously not welcome to these guests. The manager really NEEDS to know to ensure that the behavior ends.

Non-Operator
Comment by Marios on February 5, 2010 at 11:15am
Susan many of us can some what relate to your story about over friendly server, some of us feel uncomfortable in that situation and some of us don't mind it. I can tell that this made you uncomfortable, so I would talk to the server. It sounds like you enjoy the restaurant so go and talk to the server after all communication is everything.
Comment by Piper Restaurant on February 5, 2010 at 10:06am
I agree with Paul in that the manager or proprietor must be informed. If I was the manager, I most definitely would want to know. I mean, feeling up a guest like that should result in at least a written reprimand...if not dismissal.

Non-Operator
Comment by Paul Green on February 5, 2010 at 6:39am
Uninvited touching is called battery, and is a criminal offense.

If I were the proprietor I would most certainly want to know about the situation. Even if one disregards the legal aspects of the situation, the discomfort of the patron(s), and the negative word of mouth that follows is a serious concern.

I'm sure many, if not, most of us have experienced a situation where there has been mutual attraction at the moment of meeting, but the key word is mutual.

Since this was not mutual I can appreciate the discordance you felt.

I wouldn't have mentioned it to the server, but I would most certainly call the proprietor to inform him of a service liability.

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