We've all been there, the local restaurant, pub, bistro, cafe or fast food joint, only to end up with bad service that leaves a bitter taste in our mouth more so than food itself. More and more common is the service at these local places, just going downhill. Poor training, poor management or just plain poor work ethics, these are the things that can make a fun experience go south real fast.
Whatever you do when visiting these places, please, do not DO NOTHING.
Speak up and speak your mind. Call a manager/owner over and in a calm and cool way, let them know of your experience. Besides doing nothing, getting angry and upset is the worst thing you can do. Managers tend to brush off the irate customer and blame it on craziness. So staying calm and explaining clearly will go a long way. If the manager won't listen, go to the owner. Write a letter or email. You will know by there response if you are really being heard.
Do not accept freebies, this will make you happy for the moment, but it gives an easy answer to the owner/manager and will not fix the core issues. Granted it is really not your responsibility to fix the restaurants problems, but if it is a place you would like to come back to and enjoy, you have to get involved.
Use your tip as a tool. Servers that receive small tips, claim the patrons are just cheap. Call the manager over and explain the low tip to him/her. We are not trying to get people fired, but if a server sucks, they suck. Everyone thinks it is an easy job and anyone can do it, but in fact, a server job is very difficult to master. Multi-tasking, politeness, professionalism, cleanliness and good hustle make a good server. Restaurants sometimes hire anyone to do the job that fit the uniform, but that doesn't mean your dining experience has to suffer! A top notch waitstaff will go along way in the success of even a mediocre restaurant.
Don't just roll your eyes, complain to friends or walk away. Some restaurants are not aware that they have issues, and may be very thankful that you are willing to help them fix what is going on. Or maybe they don't care, but until we make an effort, we will never know.
Also, try and remember that 15% is for standard service and anything below is for poor service. So, if your server goes a little above and beyond or just does a great job, try and tip more.