There’s a lot to be said for a great dinner out at a favorite restaurant.

When the food is cooked and seasoned just right, the atmosphere is pleasant and the wait staff friendly and attentive, dining out can be a sublime experience.

My wife and I were fortunate to enjoy a dinner like that recently.

Unfortunately, a few days later, we suffered through a disappointing evening at another restaurant where the meal was decidedly subpar.

But what really had me and my wife miffed about the second meal was that no one on the restaurant staff seemed to care.

The whole evening started out badly, when we asked to sit in the restaurant’s bar area and were told there was no wait staff on duty there. So we had to sit within a few feet of a large group of screaming and yelling children.

We ordered our meals, and it was at least 40 minutes before we got our food.

When it finally arrived, not only was it cold, but some of it was missing. My wife’s plate had just a piece of fish on a tiny bed of rice, some poorly cooked broccoli and half a bowl of corn (which should have been on my plate). My plate had only the entree.

The server made some comment about the kitchen running out of food, apologized half-heartedly and walked away. When she returned, we told her we weren’t paying for half a meal, and that we should each get to select another side order.

As we waited, we started in on our entrees, which were barely warm. We didn’t dare send them back, since it took so long to get them to our table in the first place.

Our new sides eventually came — after we had mostly finished our entrees — and the flustered server muttered another apology.

Here’s what I don’t understand.

If the restaurant runs out of the food you order, it’s the kitchen’s job to inform the server as soon as the order is placed — not to plate the meal with items missing and send it on its merry way.

Since we waited so long for our meals and only got part of them, our server should have offered to comp one of our entrees, or at least the beverages. Why not offer a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert?

But we got nothing for our troubles, except a bad taste in our mouths — literally.

Years ago, my wife and I had a Valentine’s Day dinner planned at a restaurant in the Killeen Mall. Our reservation was for 7:30, and when we got there a few minutes early, at least 30 people were waiting to be seated.

We ended up waiting more than two hours and never did get seated. The poor hostess was getting flustered as people grew more and more irritable. Meanwhile, large parties walked in without reservations and were quickly seated.

I was on an extended lunch hour, and I had to get back to the office. My Valentine’s dinner ended up being a chicken sandwich from the Wendy’s drive-through.

After she dropped me off at work, my wife went back and talked to the restaurant manager, who was back in her office counting the night’s receipts. She was disdainful of my wife and said we should have expected to wait since it was a big holiday.

My wife told her that you don’t treat your customers like that and said she was going to tell our friends about the bad experience. She told the manager the restaurant wouldn’t be there next year.

It closed six months later.

Eating out should be a great experience. My wife and I love to go where the wait staffs are friendly and the management is responsive. Your meal is not always going to be perfect, but good servers and managers can make things right.

It’s all about respect between the servers and the customers — and that respect should always go both ways.

Just some food for thought.

Dave Miller is deputy managing editor for opinion for the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Harker Heights Herald. Contact him at dmiller@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7543.

dmiller@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7543

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