It was lunchtime, and the restaurant is a popular one. We were seated, asked for our drink order (we both only wanted water) and then waited 10 minutes (I am not kidding) for the water to come. The server who delivered the water said she would be right back to take our order, and then disappeared.
Meanwhile, a table of four people were seated next to us.
Another five minutes go by, and then a different server comes and begins to take the order of the table of four who had arrived nearly 15 minutes after we did. My lunch partner says they probably forgot about us, and gets up to go tell someone. The server overhears her and says, “I will be with you when I am done with these people” in a voice that indicates anything but glee at the suggestion.
Eventually he comes over and asks for our order, and leaves.
No apology for our wait.
No asking for our story of what happened.
No explanation that someone didn’t come in.
No attempt to connect, or recognize that we entered the restaurant with certain reasonable expectations, and none of those were being met.
Just give us your order.
It made the whole lunch tense, as we were now fighting the clock to eat and get out in time, instead of the leisurely lunch we had planned.
And it all could have been avoided by the server, who knew we were unhappy, had merely said, “I am really sorry you had to wait. I don’t know what happened, but let me get your order started for you.”
If he had simply seen us. If we had been heard. If he had cared.
We didn’t want an apology. We wanted to be heard. What matters more than your apology is your empathy.