Random observations from an American in London: Why is service in restaurants so crappy here?

Here’s another random observation that hit us quite rapidly upon our arrival in London and is reinforced almost every time we decide to dine out:

Why is restaurant service here so crappy?

We’ve been to several restaurants now, and only one of them (ThaiSquare near Trafalgar Square) had reasonably good service by American standards. I have to wonder if it had something to do with the fact that we were out with a former postdoc of mine and her husband, both of whom are natives, her having moved back to London after finishing up in my lab. A second restaurant, Bertorelli on St. Martin’s Lane had adequate, although by no means speedy, service. Oddly enough, both restaurants also had the best food we’ve experienced since our arrival.

At pretty much every other restaurant that we’ve been to, the service has been substandard at best and terrible at worst, and that included and that included the one Indian restaurant in the city that we hit that, contrary to the reputation of Indian restaurants in London, happened to have just so-so food. However, it also had absolutely atrocious service. (Even Boswell‘s wasn’t that hot in terms of service–just adequate.) No one seems ever to check to see if you’d like a refill on drinks or even water. Once they’ve brought you your food, it seems, the wait staff decide that you’re completely taken care of and move on. Then, when it comes time to have the bill brought, on more than one occasion I’ve wished I had a flare gun to send up a distress signal to get the server’s attention. It’s gotten to the point where we actually go to Starbucks now for our breakfast because we don’t want to waste all the time it takes to get a real sit down breakfast, particularly since we’ve been rather bad about getting early starts. For lunch, we now think that hitting a pub where you order food at the bar and pay in advance is becoming the way to go.

Once again, this is a small sampling and anecdotal experience, but from other comments in some of my other brief posts about my visit and after having been here five days, I get the feeling that this is more than just bad luck or a poor sample size.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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