This is the upscale restaurant at Pala Mesa Resort… and it sells annual social memberships that offer discounts. Even with the discounts this is a fairly expensive restaurant … and for three years we have bought memberships. This year will be our last.
Last week we took friends there for a birthday. We called in advance… made our reservation… mentioned the birthday and … of course figured that would cause the candle in the cup cake… :-) or some other simple treat to be delivered to the birthday girl… at the end of the meal. It wasn’t about getting a free desert… it was about having fun with the event.
When we got there… we mentioned to the receptionist… the birthday. When the cocktail waitress came to the table… we again mentioned the birthday.
I ordered their mixed grill… one of the shrimp was so undercooked I could not get all of it out of the shell… and the meal was mediocre.
Birthday girl ordered a chicken dish that she said was good.
Her husband and Terri ordered “Vanilla Sea Bass”… and the Sea Bass was good… but the rice was so raw you could not even eat it.
Any restaurant can have an off night. But the experience that played out was inexcusable.
The service was really slow… it was not busy. We waited forever to just order a drink. Then we waited forever to order food. We watched for Scott… when we saw him… tried to get his attention… but no eye contact. So we waited.
We wanted to talk to someone about the raw rice… so finally we told a busboy… later while refilling our water glasses … he told us “they are looking into it”… Scott never once came back to the table for feedback… or to address our concerns.
We began discussing how disappointed we were … as this is a favorite with both couples. What none of us had realized was… this year… they decided to include in the bill an automatic 18% gratuity. Why should Scott take care of us… he’s going to get 18% for poor service. The change is in the small print of our agreement this year. :-)
There was never any mention on the restaurants part of it being a birthday. At the end of the meal… we were asked if we would like to see a desert menu… and we ordered a desert. Upon delivery… no such thing as a Happy Birthday was mentioned…. apparently nobody told Scott :-)
Our friends have a social membership too… so our meals total were half price. The “Half Price” meal for four was $162. Of course that included the 18% tip…. which… we did not catch. So Terri was so distraught… that she wrote a lengthy note on the receipt about our disappointing meal and experience… and contrary to what we would have tipped… 18-20% for excellence and a wonderful birthday party… we gave Scott only $20… about 12%… and hoped the low tip… and the note … would improve the service the next time.
Next morning… Terri is putting away receipts and looks closely at the bill… because we were still going on about the disappointing evening…. and she finds the 18%…. so on a half price meal of $137 we gave Scott a $45 tip… a 32.8% tip… with a long note about how unhappy we had been with the meal… and the experience.
The not reviewing the bill before giving him the additional tip is our fault.
The ignoring of the note… the lack of a response… when we are paid members is the kiss of death. I waited a full week before I wrote this review. They have no trouble calling us when it is time to renew. They know from the membership numbers who we are.
We really expected some sort of response from management.
Being an independent contractor ourselves… if we had feedback from a client … the sort that we gave Scott… we would have contacted them. Scott could have easily found out our contact information. I even think he should have called about the tip… I guess that comes under “No Country for old men”… those days are gone.
So what was our favorite place for a special event in Fallbrook is off the list. We will not renew the social membership. We will not recommend them to clients that are new to the area… and we are not just disappointed… we are angry. What are we angry about… unmet expectations of excellence…