This is a tale of two restaurant experiences, both of them bad. But the distinction is in how the management decided to handle them.
A few weeks ago, I was in a restaurant of some prominence, having consistently received accolades for their food. But we didn't experience anything like what printed reviews said - the bread was literally burnt, and when we ordered the listed specialty of the house, what we received was so terrible, we debated if it was cold dog food. When the waiter inquired, as is the custom, what we thought of the meal - we answered truthfully.
That it was awful.
A more senior waiter replaced our server, comped out the (largely uneaten) meals, provided us with complimentary desserts, and begged us to give them another try. I haven't been back since, but I withhold the name of the restaurant out of respect for the exemplary service. The food may have been a failure, but the service has earned them at least another chance.
In contrast, I was with a very large group of friends this past weekend on a late night visit to Yard House, the Houston outpost of "upscale casual" restaurants proud of their obscure beer and ale selection (side note: when I inquired about the selection of root beers - I was hoping for a good St. Arnold's - I was condescendingly told that they only deal with "real" beer. This did not endear the service to me.). As the servers went around taking orders, they checked IDs as well (no one in this group was even remotely close to underage). Unfortunately for one of my friends, the waiter pronounced his ID a fake, and refused to take his order. Incredulous, he spotted a policeman outside, and went to ask the cop to validate his ID. And he did so. When presented with the evidence, the house manager simply pronounced that it was her right to deny service to anyone.
Not wishing to inconvenience the 25-odd group, my friend bottled his rage, and quietly left. I believe the whole group would have left in solidarity had we known this was going on at the time. Adding injury to insult, of course, was the automatic addition of 18% gratuity to the bills (I refused to pay it).
Could this have been handled better? Absolutely. My friend would've been an excellent patron; he drinks out regularly, and pays and tips well. But forcing him out, even with undeniable expert testimony, just to save face, is downright insulting. Bars are largely about social gatherings, and this treatment smacked of the dehumanizing exclusion apparent in yellow carding and other discriminatory acts.
I didn't write about the food on purpose (what I had was forgettable), because I think this is a time where front of the house represented the bulk of the experience. And failed miserably.