When you go to a restaurant, you expect a good meal and great service. The optimal restaurant experience has both, and a terrible experience has neither. These diners are members of the unlucky group, and their restaurant experience sent them packing moments after arrival. Yikes! Hopefully, they weren’t too hungry. Content has been edited for clarity.
Red Lobster Redemption
“The summer before my senior year of high school, two friends and I drove to Duluth, Minnesota. We took the trip to check out Lake Superior, hike, and just hang out. We planned to pool our cash and get a cheap hotel room, but the front desk staff wouldn’t allow it. Everyone in the group was eighteen years old, and apparently, you had to be twenty-one or older to book. We had no idea, and the hotel kicked us to the curb without remorse. Long story short, the three of us agreed to sleep in the car and spend our hotel money on a nice dinner somewhere.
After the day’s adventures, we went to a restaurant one of my friends suggested and we were seated right away. The restaurant had lakeside views, white tablecloths, fancy-looking silverware, and ornate woodwork decorations. I immediately got the feeling we might have been in over our heads.
The waitress who was dressed ten times better than we were, dutifully fetched our menus and filled our water glasses. At one glance at the menu, we immediately knew we had messed up. Dinner at the restaurant would have cost significantly more than our entire weekend hotel budget. Eating there simply wasn’t an option. Even staying for an appetizer would have been fiscally disastrous.
We felt bad for leaving, but the waitress understood and was nothing but polite and helpful about it. Looking back, she was probably relieved to be rid of us and our grungy attire. There wasn’t a doubt we were violating the dress code for the place, albeit an unenforced one. We looked like we couldn’t afford a single thing there, which was true.
We ended up going to Red Lobster, itself a very rare treat for us, but a fraction of the cost of the other place. I had wood fire grilled trout freshly caught from Lake Superior. I remember it like yesterday, as it was the first time I’d ever ordered grilled fish instead of fried. The restaurant debacle made for a hilarious, unforgettable trip.”
“We Were Constantly Being Overlooked”
“A few years back, I was extremely sick. At the time, I didn’t exactly understand why. I was trapped in a wheelchair and had lost the ability to control my legs. They would spasm and kick out, and I was left completely powerless in stopping it. As a consequence, I couldn’t cook very often, couldn’t drive, and rarely left my home. On the rare occasion, I did leave, it was both a treat and a painfully embarrassing situation. I had always been the type of person to handle my affairs, but I couldn’t anymore.
I hated when other people had to help me. I hated being trapped in a rolling prison of a wheelchair. All of which are massively relevant.
One day, my mother decided to take my daughters and me to lunch. We went to a restaurant that prided itself on being ‘old fashioned,’ despite having to navigate the overpriced, over-filled gift shop in the front. At first, I was patient and I didn’t mind waiting for a table.
As time went by, I quickly realized my family and another group were consistently being overlooked. Funnily enough, a person in the other group and I had something in common. We were both in wheelchairs. I was convinced it wasn’t a coincidence we were both being looked over. The other group had even been there before us, and we both were waiting for over thirty minutes at this point.
I looked over to the waitress and asked, ‘Why are we still waiting? There are two wheelchair-accessible tables over there, and only two other groups waiting to be seated.’
The waitress, who looked to be in her sixties or seventies, simply rolled her eyes and did not explain.
She only repeated, ‘It’ll likely be another twenty minutes before your party is seated.’
Before I could react, the man in a wheelchair started wheeling himself to one of the openly accessible tables in the front. His wife was hesitant about causing a scene, and she tried to talk him down. But the waitress? She grabbed his chair and yanked him back!
The waitress yelled, ‘You do not seat yourself! You are being so disrespectful!’
I reported the assault to the manager, but they ignored it. If you can’t grab an able-bodied person by the arm to yank them back, you certainly can’t do the same to someone in a wheelchair.
My family and I left immediately afterward. When I arrived home, I promptly filed a complaint with corporate. They later sent a gift card and a written apology. The waitress wasn’t fired or even reprimanded. Believe me, I checked into it. I will never go back to the restaurant since apparently, assaulting customers is somehow acceptable.”
Single Diner Struggles
“I had been known to walk out on a restaurant before.
When I had walked out prior, it was usually because of the treatment I had received as a single diner. When I dined out, I was usually by myself. Unfortunately, many times I have experienced single diners not being treated as well as couples or groups of four. From what I have seen, servers usually seated single diners at the worst tables. Single diners typically were seated next to the waitress station, by the restrooms, next to the entrance to the kitchen, near a smelly bus cart, or at some tiny table out of the way.
I have learned to deal with this by not allowing myself to be seated at a table I do not like. If servers tried to put me at a lousy table, I would point to a different table, one I liked.
I would tell the server, ‘How about this table here, instead?’
Most times the servers obliged and I would end up sitting there. A few times, I’ve gotten some attitude in return.
In this case, I would just say, ‘Thank you,’ and left the restaurant.
If I got past the first hurdle of not being seated at a lousy table, the next hurdle was being neglected.
Many times, I’ve been seated and waited for a long time for a server to take my drink order. I have watched a different group of people walk into the restaurant, only to be served immediately. I would watch them from afar while I sat at my table completely parched. I have found the only way to fix this is to make some noise, and hope you have caught a staff member’s attention.
A couple of years ago, a popular restaurant chain had expanded around the Midwest and into Florida. It was a higher-end steakhouse, and their gimmick was the steak being served on a flat, sizzling-hot stone. There were a lot of smaller dishes they served you while eating at this place, and the plates took up a lot of room on the table. Because of this, the tables and seating situation became difficult to maneuver. If you were a single diner, they tried to put you at a very dinky table where you barely had any room, to begin with.
One time, I decided to go to the restaurant and try their food. The place wasn’t busy, and I was seated at my table fairly quickly. I managed to get some water and silverware, but that was it. My server walked back and forth around the restaurant and avoided making any eye contact with me.
Another group came in shortly after, and they were seated and serviced right away. They had gotten their drinks, and the server took their order before taking mine. I was still being ignored! I finally had enough, so I decided to get up and leave the restaurant. As I was walking to the exit, I noticed a group of four servers standing around and goofing off with the hostess.
After this incident, I never felt a morsel of guilt about walking out of a restaurant again.”
“Nobody Knew What To Do”
“My family and I walked out of three restaurants in a single night. But we weren’t alone, everyone else walked out, too!
My husband, daughter and I were in Santa Barbara just before Christmas. We’d driven up from Los Angeles, and we were all excited to be on the trip. We arrived at the hotel, checked in, and settled into our room. After relaxing for a bit, we decided to go find a place to eat.
On this day, it was extremely windy outside. Santa Barbara can get some surprisingly strong wind gusts when the Santa Ana condition is on. There were sustained winds of twenty miles per hour, with some gusts reaching forty to fifty miles per hour.
After looking around for a while, my family found a Ruby’s Diner. We walked in, waited a short time, and then we were seated. We were all glad to get out of the strong winds outside. It was whistling and howling, and the branches on the trees were swaying and tossing.
The waitress took our orders and walked back to the kitchen. Just as she walked into the kitchen doors, the lights in the entire restaurant went out.
Everyone in the restaurant went silent for a moment and looked at each other. Nobody knew what to do next.
After about ten minutes, the restaurant manager announced, ‘It seems like there is an area-wide power outage due to the wind. A couple of powerlines are down, and it might take a while to be fixed. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but the restaurant has to close and everyone needs to leave.’
People who had been served their food already had boxed up to take home, at no charge. People like us, who’d ordered but hadn’t been served, just went back outside.
The wind outside at this point was insane. We were all starving, but luckily, we found another restaurant. We walked in and waited to be seated once more. As we were waiting, the power went out at this restaurant, too!
My family decided to venture back to our hotel. The hotel had a restaurant inside, and we figured the food couldn’t be too bad.
We walked into the hotel restaurant, and we were seated almost immediately. Only seconds later, the power went out again! My husband, daughter and I just looked at each other in disbelief. Funnily enough, we recognized a family in the hotel restaurant who had been in the Ruby’s Diner, too. We laughed about it.
My family ended up dining on some crackers and snacks from the hotel’s little shop. We went to bed early, and the power was still out.
Thankfully, the power was on the next morning. The rest of our stay was uneventful, but at least there was electricity. We had a good time, and the night we walked out of three restaurants is now a classic family story.”
“Your Service Stinks”
“One night, my husband and I wanted to grab a quick bite at a local pizza restaurant. The service at the restaurant was inconsistent, and the food was a little bit more expensive than usual. We were okay with paying extra for a tasty meal, but we had our limit with poor service and servers with bad attitudes.
This particular evening, we arrived at the pizza restaurant and it was nearly empty. Even though there wasn’t anyone there, we had to wait to be seated. There wasn’t any explanation given, and eye contact wasn’t made with us. The server who told us there was a wait proceeded to make her way back to the kitchen. There seemed to be a lot of laughing at some joke going on back in the kitchen. My husband and I patiently ‘waited’ for almost ten minutes, and finally, a different server motioned us to follow them back to a table.
The unfriendly server walked us to a back table wedged right next to the fridge with soda cans and the server’s station.
My husband politely said, ‘We’d like to sit at the front. Those tables are all open, and it’s kind of uncomfortable back here.’
The server began arguing, protesting, and objecting that moving tables wasn’t possible. There was no event planned at the tables in the front, so there was absolutely no reason why we couldn’t be seated at a different table.
My husband asked, ‘Is there a specific reason why it is a problem for us to move tables?’
The server stuttered over her words and couldn’t come up with any response.
Another staff member motioned the server back to the kitchen.
She told us, ‘Hold on, I’ll be right back,’ and left my husband and me back in the cramped corner.
I told my husband, ‘We’re not paying a small fortune to be rudely talked down to and seated at the worst table in an empty restaurant.’
We walked out as she was headed back over, and my husband told her, ‘Your service stinks! We’re not spending our time or money here ever again.’
We had a great meal at a different restaurant instead. And no, we didn’t ever return to the pizza restaurant again.”
The Breakfast Bust
“A couple of years ago, my then-girlfriend and I had gone out for breakfast at a restaurant in Eugene, Oregon.
Thankfully, my girlfriend was just as keen on the apathetic vibe our server was exuding as I was. We had already ordered our food, and now we were just waiting. I had been burned by the customer service in the college town a multitude of times before. This had hardly been the first general offense committed by a twenty-year-old working in a restaurant. In their eyes, their future was so bright they could barely stand what they’re having to do in the meantime to get there.
I didn’t want to have a lousy breakfast experience. We were hungry, our blood sugar was low, and we were a tad more sensitive to snide service. So, after we placed our orders in these conditions, the food took forever to arrive.
This was not some hole-in-the-wall diner, it was supposed to be a nicer restaurant. However, the food had been sitting on the counter waiting to be delivered to us for so long, that it had gotten cold. It wasn’t an ideal situation.
The server failed to acknowledge any of this on her own. Rather, she dumped the plates off at our table without making any eye contact and disappeared. Poof! Gone in an instant. She and the other wait staff were suddenly missing in action. This restaurant being Eugene, we figured they all went to the walk-in cooler to get loaded.
My girlfriend and I were shocked by the sudden abandonment.
We both looked at each other and said, ‘We are getting the heck out of here right now.’
My girlfriend and I got up from our booth and marched out of the restaurant. We left two full breakfast plates of eggs, home fries, and side salads sitting on the table. And even though we were food-deprived savages, we could not have felt nobler, juster, or more vindicated.
Our McDonald’s sausage biscuits never tasted so good.”
“It Was Pretty Clear The Service Was Lackluster”
“Last year, my husband and I went to Outback Steakhouse. It was a Wednesday night, and the restaurant was almost empty. The hostess seated us fairly quickly, but the server never came to our table. While looking for a server, we could see a man sitting at the beverage counter watching a football game. Another couple was then seated a few tables away from us and given drinks and complimentary rolls. We spotted our server and frantically flagged her down.
She asked, ‘Are you guys ready to order?’
My husband and I responded, ‘No. We haven’t even seen the menu yet, and we would like some water first.’
The server replied, ‘We no longer have paper menus anymore. You can access the menu on our website on your phone though.’
I, slightly annoyed, said, ‘It’s fine, thank you. Whenever you get a chance, we need a couple of waters though.’
We continued to wait.
By this time, the couple sitting at the table next to us had already received their food. It smelled amazing.
We kept trying to look at the menu on our phones, but their website kept freezing up. The server brought water and a couple of rolls to our table, but she forgot the butter.
I stopped the waitress and explained, ‘It seems like the website isn’t working very well. I can’t look at the menu because the page keeps freezing.’
The server trudged away and grabbed my husband and me a couple of blurry photocopied menus. There weren’t any side or beverage options on the menu, so we still had no idea what we were going to order.
When the server finally came back to our table, we asked to speak to a manager. She walked over to the man at the beverage counter watching the football game, and they both turned and looked at us. At this point, my husband and I had been at the restaurant for half an hour. We decided to get up and leave.
I still have a gift certificate to eat at the restaurant and it hasn’t been used. We were planning on eating a nice meal that would cost over one hundred bucks between the two of us. Part of the dining experience is good service, and it was pretty clear the service was lackluster. Outback, listen up!”
“The Wait Wasn’t Worth It”
“One morning, my wife and I had tickets to a show. At the time, she was heavily pregnant with our first child. We figured this might be our last outing for a while since she was due for delivery soon. We decided to make a date for the morning show and treat ourselves to breakfast afterward.
Well, most of the other people attending the show had the same idea. My wife and I got in line at one of the few places already open. It took a while, but eventually, we were seated. Waiter after waiter passed by our table and completely ignored us.
I stopped a staff member and asked, ‘Do you know who will be serving us today?’
They sheepishly replied, ‘I’m not sure, but somebody will be out with you shortly.’
After the time it would have normally taken us to eat, we hadn’t even ordered our drinks yet. We decided the wait wasn’t worth it, so we got up and left.
As we were walking out, the manager looked at us and pointed at the door.
She exclaimed, ‘I bet you’re happy you have already eaten. Look how long the line is now!’
She wasn’t aware of the fact we hadn’t been served. I didn’t reply, and I just smiled on our way out.
At this point, my wife and I needed a different plan. We were staving, but everything open was in the same state of chaos. We arrived at a Nando restaurant, but they were still closed and preparing for opening.
I could see the staff inside, so I knocked on the door and asked, ‘Hello, what time does the restaurant open today?’
A staff member replied, ‘It’s going to be another eleven minutes or so.’
They saw my wife was pregnant, and they allowed us into the restaurant early. We were seated at a table promptly to get my wife off of her feet.
A server walked up to our table and explained, ‘We aren’t ready for opening yet, but I can go ahead and take your order now. This way, your food will be the first order to come out.’
It was a nice experience, and I still remember it vividly six years later.”
“I Was Dumbfounded”
“I once left a restaurant shortly after being seated. It was surprising, as I am usually not picky when it comes to restaurant service.
This happened a few years back when I went out with my girlfriend to a hard rock-themed pub. I was reluctant due to some earlier experiences with the place, but they had recently moved and renovated. I thought it might be a good idea to check out the new space and give it another try.
The pub was mainly geared at metalheads so they mostly sold cheap drinks, but they also had quite good food too. We entered the pub and had intentions of having a decent meal there. A waiter directed us to a small cafe-style table right next to the bathrooms.
This table may have been good for having a drink or two, but it looked like it would hardly fit two plates of food on it. My girlfriend and I dealt with it for a bit and grabbed a couple of drinks. Shortly after, we noticed a full-sized table had opened up, so we moved there.
A very nice waitress cleaned up the table for us and took our orders.
While waiting for our food, the first waiter returned and said, ‘You guys aren’t allowed to sit at this table. The table is supposed to be for four people, and you are only a party of two. I can find you a table for two instead.’
I was dumbfounded because the restaurant was nearly empty. The waiter then shoved us back to the small cafe table by the bathrooms. As soon as the waiter turned his back, we left the restaurant and never returned.”
“I Decided Enough Was Enough”
“One time, my wife and I went to an Italian restaurant in Paramus, New Jersey. The restaurant was a nicer place, and we thought it would be a perfect place to have our anniversary dinner. A coworker of mine who happened to be Italian recommended my wife and I eat at the restaurant.
We went to the restaurant, and we waited thirty minutes with not so much as a server even taking our drink orders. I decided enough was enough and signaled to my wife to start walking out.
I told my coworker what happened, and it turned out he was part of the family who owned the restaurant. He had taken it very personally that my wife and I were treated so poorly by the staff.
A day or two later, I was sitting at work and my phone rang. I answered, and it was the owner of the restaurant apologizing profusely. It was at this point, that I remembered my coworker told me to drop his name when I went to the restaurant.
My wife and I were invited back for a ‘chef’s choice’ meal at the restaurant’s expense. The food was wonderful, but it was way more than I could eat. There were eight courses, and a lot of drinks were included. It was quite the meal.
When we went back to the restaurant going forward, we were always treated with great deference and got great service.”