This was originally posted in July 2016 in the BLOG section. This is its new home.
Once we nailed down our anniversary trip destination to Tampa, I went on the hunt for the perfect place to dine and celebrate 10 years.
I probably asked a dozen friends for a restaurant recommendation in Tampa. Every single one enthusiastically shouted Bern's! Every. Single. One.
So, I looked into it. I talked it over with Stu. He and I LOVE A good steak joint. He called and made a reservation for the night of our actual 10th wedding anniversary. The only hitch was that the reservation was for 10:30pm. That's about an hour after our usual bedtime (I know, we are wicked cool.).
We accepted the 10:30pm dinnertime and planned our day accordingly.
Quite a few people suggested we head to the restaurant early and see if they had any cancellations or openings.
We left our hotel around 9:30pm. I think we arrived at Bern's around 9:45pm. The valet was very busy with what looked like a mass-exodus. But the lobby was refreshingly empty. There was (maybe) one other couple milling around waiting for their table. We introduced ourselves to the hostess. We said we knew our reservation was for 10:30, but we were wondering if there was any chance of sitting earlier.
I worked in the food industry for a few years. Stu worked in restaurants as well. We are always kind to the staff. Always. They (typically) are working hard, even if you don't see it.
Stu was dressed up - he wore a full suit for the occasion. I was in a lovely designer dress. I like to get all dolled up. Stu, not so much. But this was our big anniversary. Our big night. A night we had been planning and dreaming about for a while.
So it was a little disconcerting to have the hostess blank stare us when we kindly laid out our request. Then she coldly told us to go to the bar and wait. The bar was busy - and we aren't drinkers. So that held no appeal for us. We decided to sit in the lobby.
I watched this hostess. We could hear everything she and the seaters were talking about.
We heard them make fun of some of the patrons waiting for the valet to bring around their cars.
We heard the hostess blow off a young couple who appeared to be lost - this couple was looking fro the dessert room, they were dealt with so harshly by the cold hostess that the guy told her she was rude and they walked out. She rolled her eyes in response.
While we waited, there was never more than 2 other tables waiting to be seated. So, I would not say they were "slammed." I've been to plenty of restaurants where I have had to wait with 10 other tables to be seated. I also had a clear shot of one of the rooms. It was not even half full. There were multiple servers for this one room... and one of those servers came out and asked if there were going to be more customers.
We listened as the hostess complained to one of the seaters about how she can't stand people who think they can just come whenever they want. She schedules their reservations for a specific time and people think they can just come. Well, she doesn't have to do anything about it. (Really? I am sitting right here. I can hear you!)
We stood there as one couple came in 45 minutes AFTER their reservation (10 minutes prior to ours) and said "Oh sorry, we missed our time. I was told on the phone to just show up." The hostess cocked her head to the side and argued with this couple for a minute or two. Then sat them immediately. (For real?)
She exercised her power over us. And we were not seated until 10:32pm. The dining room we were seated in? --- the same one I had been watching. The same one the server asked about earlier. This dining room has about 20 tables in it, and it only 5 had people. Two servers, 5 tables.
The hostess could have ruined our evening. She was THAT terrible.
So, to the hostess at Bern's Steak House on the night of June 24, 2016...
Listen, I know, every day is not awesome. We don't always feel like being nice... but you are the point person at a very expensive, very amazing restaurant. Most people there, are there to celebrate something. This is not (for most) an every Friday night kind of place. It's a destination. It's a blow-the-bank, live-like-a-rock-star dinner. It was a BIG deal to my husband and me. It was a big deal to the two other anniversary couples in our dining room.
Maybe you were having an off night. Maybe you are always like that. who knows. The thing I do know though, is you have to learn to fake it.
Next time, my review of the restaurant and food.
We live where you vacation. Here, you'll find some things we locals enjoy.