Improving The Level Of Restaurant Service

Master sommeliers Chuck Furuya (above) and Roberto Viernes host Vintage Wine Weekend May 24 at Four Seasons Resort | Jo McGarry photo

Last night during dinner, I got up twice to get our boys water, went in search of bread and butter, and as the stack of empty salad plates and soup bowls started to crowd the table, I stood up and cleared them away, too.

Another typical night at the family dinner table?

No – dinner in a popular chain restaurant, where we paid a high price for the pleasure of bussing our own tables and waiting way too long for dessert.

I mention it really because of a case of irony: Prior to going to dinner, I’d just finished a column on customer complaints in restaurants. I had written at length about the emails I receive on a weekly basis from people disappointed in their dining experiences but unwilling to complain in person. But here I sat, at the end of our subpar dinner, tempted to do what was easiest: Say nothing.

We have an outstanding level of service in some of our restaurants, and we have a huge number of mom-and-pop restaurants where we don’t expect such a high level of service – just good food and friendly smiles.

But if we don’t start to improve the level of service in our larger, full-service restaurants, particularly national chains, our reputation as a dining destination is in trouble.

And what’s increasingly worrying is that many of the people in charge have no idea what good service really is.

Want to help make our restaurants in Hawaii better?


Most restaurant owners are going to thank you for your honesty. It might be painful to send back your steak or ask for the manager, and it’s certainly easier to walk out and say nothing, but unless we let restaurant staff know of our experience, how can they improve?

As someone in the industry told me recently, “Do people think we are mind readers? How can we possibly know they’re not having a good time if they lie when we ask?”

And if you really can’t do it in person, then keep on emailing me. I’m happy to take your experiences to the people who can make things change.

Our restaurant industry is too important to our economy to let the standards slip.

You know summer is just around the corner when food and wine festivals begin. May 24 kicks off the highly anticipated Vintage Wine Weekend at Four Seasons Resort.

Hosted by local master sommeliers Roberto Viernes and Chuck Furuya, the event will showcase wine-makers including Donald Patz (Patz and Hall), Van Williamson (Witching Stick Wines), Steve Clifton (Brewer Clifton) and Gary Burk (Costa de Oro).

The wines will be great, for sure, but the conversation about wines will be even greater.

This weekend features winemakers who are not only the top in their field, but great fun to be around, too.

For more information on tickets, call 874-2201.

Happy eating!