In an earlier review, I wrote about my first visit to Tamarillo, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Kaiserslautern. I would give my initial visit a lackluster score. The salad I had wasn't good and the service was so-so.
I visited Tamarillo again in July with a group and my score will remain at lackluster, but for different reasons this time. Our group kept growing, so we were moved to a different table. A few more people trickled in and one went to grab a chair from an empty table. Some people at our table teasingly warned him that the waiter was going to get cranky at him because apparently another person from our group was told he should have asked for a chair.
I can understand needing to maintain a table set up, but the chair didn't come from a reserved table and the waiters had done the typical thing we see here often: they had disappeared so there was no one to ask. If we had waited for them to come back, our group members would have been standing for 15 minutes. So, I don't feel that guilty that our group took some chairs from an empty table because it's hard to get service. The Germans in our group also thought that the waiter's reaction was not called for.
Dinner this time was much tastier: I ordered two actual tapas, since that is what the restaurant is known for. I ordered the Spanish tortilla, which is nothing like what North Americans think of as a "tortilla." It's more like an egg and potato quiche, minus the crust; the portion is like a small piece of pie. It was tasty. The other dish was Albondigas de spinaca en salsa de queso -- spinach balls in a bleu cheese sauce. That was good, as well. Some other diners had some wonderful dates wrapped in bacon. Everyone thought what they had ordered was quite decent.
We suffered from non-responsive service throughout the meal, though. Our waiters would disappear for quite some time. It wasn't that busy so I'm not sure where the waiters kept disappearing. I asked for the bill when our waiter finally swung through again. I had to actually call out "entschuldigung" and try to stop him in his tracks to even get his attention because he wasn't really acknowledging any diners, including our group. I politely asked for the bill and he disappeared for a while. When he came back, I thought he might have it. Instead, he went and rolled some silverware in napkins and finally meandered back to the table so we could pay.
You know, after lackluster service the first time, and the bill taking about 15 minutes (in addition to the other 10 minutes I had to wait to even see the waiter to ask him for it), I will say that I'm not going to bother with Tamarillo again. The tapas were decent but grumpy waiters who disappear and take almost half an hour (in total) to bring a bill have deterred me.
The sad thing is that while such a situation isn't guaranteed for service in German restaurants, it's very, very common. I understand that eating out in a German restaurant takes more time, but I don't think that's an excuse for bad service, either. Our waiter could have rolled the silverware in the napkins after bringing the bill, for example. I feel as if sometimes customers are treated as an imposition. I'm definitely trying to shelve my American experiences and expectations with customer service, as it can be taken too far in the US, and everywhere is different. It's difficult to adjust to going for long stretches without seeing any waiter available in the periphery, especially when there is a group of people dining. Wouldn't the restaurant want to generate more sales by selling an additional beverage to a thirsty diner who's already had one small, overpriced drink? What about checking on the diners at the other table who have just arrived? Or, how about letting a group that has finished pay the bill so another group can have their table?