At a very lovely memorial service/dinner, I got in the line for the pot-luck dinner items. Pots of stew, lidded dishes of creamed corn, that sort of thing. I opened one canister and asked the person behind me, what’s this? “The deceased”, she replied. The urn was placed at the center of the table, something I did not realize. I lost my appetite for six months. I am not sure if the restaurant you are referring to actually adds an 18% service charge to the bill along with the tax or if it is figured into the price of each item. In Europe and in France in particular [where I have lived and spent a great deal of time] the service is actually included into the price of each item along with any tax that may also be due so the final total of the bill does not indicate an actual gratuity or a sales tax that has been added so it is pretty much next to impossible to avoid paying the gratuity. I have always believed as my late mother said…”You will get more with honey than vinegar” so I try to be kind and patient with servers as I understand their plight. However, if the service was an absolute abomination and I was in a highly regarded establishment where my guests were insulted and our dinner totally ruined because of poor service then I would probably speak to the management and ask that the bill be adjusted. I would not however make a scene in front of my guests or other diners and would ask to speak to a manager privately. If the total of the bill was less than forty dollars I would probably pay the bill because my time is too valuable to argue over such a paltry amount and then write a letter to the management and include a copy of the bill. I would also never return to the restaurant and discourage friends and associates from dining there also if they ever suggested the place or mentioned it in conversation. Sometimes poor service is confused with a disaster in the kitchen so every situation has to be evaluated separately.
It goes kinda like this. My standard is that a drink is ordered and reaches the table within 2–5 minutes (some drinks are quite complicated). The bartender is behind and the nature of the restaurant is that I am not allowed to help behind the bar. I approach the manager to aid the bartender. Strike three is the main course being late, not to their liking (for any reason) or prepared incorectly. This is when I approach my manager. As a strong server, I explain the situation and what I recommend (from my experience and reading the guest) we give to the guest as an apology. I am lucky in that I’ve been serving and managing long enough that I have a professional idea about what is necessary and my management team are happy to help. The guests will usually leave with part or all of their meal taken care of, and/or a gift certificate for another experience ($50–100). So what I’m trying to say is, if the server’s performance was perfect, and I felt taken care of, I would usually assume that this server was also smart enough to have spoken to the manager, but the manager said no. You take a seat. Now you see two or three sound men with boom mikes walking around, lighting men setting up strong lights, two or more cameramen wandering around, some London producers asking you to act like nothing is happening and you might get on TV if you act right, and you might even get a decent catered meal since the one you’re ordering in the pub is probably not going to come out if all goes right, not because the pub food sucks, but because the who requires it.