Is Good Food Worth Bad Service?

A few weeks ago, Ben and I decided to have a late lunch at the new restaurant and bar that had opened across the road, to coincide with a football game he was very keen on watching. Strategically positioned in order to watch the game from the best angle in the venue, we ordered our food just as the game kicked off.


The food was delicious! Ben had fish and chips, and I had a Sunday roast beef which had a slight hint of cumin in the gravy which made it absolutely divine. In fact, everything we ate was incredibly delicious, with large portions. Even better: it was very reasonably priced.

However, although the food was very enjoyable, the service itself left a bad taste in our mouths. Despite the venue being less than half full, and plenty of staff being on the floor, they were slow to react, part of our order was forgotten, and there was a certain level of bad attitude that is never appropriate when working in a customer service environment (yes, I have worked in customer service before, I know the rules).

We actually had a similar scenario is Edinburgh a while ago before we headed off to the rugby. In this scenario, our table was essentially forgotten about and even our bill took fifteen minutes to arrive after we requested it, and only arrived because we flagged down the manager looking very annoyed. Our meals had been enjoyable albeit slow to arrive, slow to be cleaned away, we were constantly being overlooked, and frustration that was growing due to this; we even tried waving down someone for service, which I absolutely loathe doing, which was unsuccessful. Of course this meant we were unlikely to ever visit again.

These situations have led me to ask the question: Is good food worth bad service?


Where do we draw the line as customers when it comes to bad service, and how much is tolerable and acceptable? Are we paying for the food, the service, or a precarious balance between the two? The more we pay should we expect better service, and likewise if the food is cheap does that make bad service more acceptable?

Just like any person, a bar, café or restaurant can have an off day – staff may have called in sick, something somewhere may have broken, and so on and so forth. And when this happens, it’s understandable that the service provided will be a little bit less than standard, and as customers we should try to be understanding of these things.

Yet at the same time, if the venue is quiet, there is staff watching a football match on TV, and I have been waiting 15 minutes for a glass of wine? That’s a problem. That is bad service. If you ask for a table to be wiped down and it isn’t? That is bad service. If you ask for the bill and fifteen minutes later you need to contact the manager just so you can pay? That is bad service.

As a customer we are paying not just for the food but for the service – it’s all part and parcel of the experience; their wages are included in the prices of that burger, that pint, that steak, and if the staff is bad then it leaves you feeling just as unhappy as an over-cooked filet minion. It is not unreasonable to expect good service, no matter where you go. Yes, sometimes things go wrong, but there’s always a manager around and these things need to be managed. No matter how good the food, at the end of the day if customers are ignored, forgotten, and treated rudely, the food won’t matter anymore because there’s always somewhere better, cheaper, newer.

So no, good food isn’t worth bad service. However, in this case I think I might give the bar/diner another chance, but only because the food was so. damned. good.

And because they play the sports on a very large TV and just as Ben loves his sports, I love him so how can I say no?



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