Ask Adam: It Seems Like My Server Is Ignoring My Table. What Should I Do?

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When service is bad, it really stinks. There is nothing like trying to order a second bottle of wine, place an initial order, or give feedback regarding a dish or drink, only to be ignored by the server. In these situations, it can often feel like even if you do backflips, nothing will bring your server back to the table. While it may not necessarily be the server’s fault — the restaurant could be understaffed, or they could be dealing with a couple of particularly “high-maintenance” tables — being ignored, or feeling like you are being ignored, can often sour an otherwise terrific dining experience.

If this situation does happen to you, there are a few things you shouldn’t do. The first no-no should be obvious, unless you live your life by what you see in the movies: Do not snap your fingers in the air and shout “Garçon!” You also shouldn’t get up and walk out without paying, or immediately demand to speak to the manager — speaking politely to the manager should be reserved only as a last resort.

Instead, first try to stop any server who passes by your table and tell them what’s going on: You’ve been wanting to order another wine, you need to order your food, or you are looking for the check. This might be all the restaurant needs to realize you’re being neglected and immediately rectify the situation. If this doesn’t seem to help, get up to go to the bathroom and mention the situation again to either your server, or another server on the floor.

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If the service still seems to be nearly non-existent, you can finally ask to speak to the manager. Even at this point, be as polite as possible. As I mentioned, there could be several things going on that night that you are unaware of that are impacting service. Being an asshole, while perhaps allowing you to take out some of your frustration, will not get you anywhere. Explain the situation, and a good restaurant will make it right. If they don’t, don’t return.