What Makes for a Restaurant Service Fail?

What service blunders are you willing to forgive—and when is service at a restaurant so bad that it ruins the entire meal? "There are a few things to me that ruin a meal, regardless of the 'quality' of the restaurant," says CanadaGirl. "Don't let me be thirsty! I drink a lot (of water) and will ask for more to drink, but you have to come near me," she says. Another last straw would be a "completely botched order where one person has not even started while others are finished. Mistakes happen but nobody wants to eat all alone when out to dinner with others."

"What starts to ruin it for me is bad attitudes," says cleobeach. "A very good customer of my husband's company owned a high-end restaurant ($75 and up, per person before booze) that we visited frequently, at least once a month. One night, our server must have lost his mind. He acted like a total jerk the entire night and the final straw was that he threw my dessert at me. Picture tossing a plate like a Frisbee. It would have slid across the table and on to my lap if I hadn't put my hands up at the last minute. Needless to say, the manager comped us."

"I think it all depends on the context—the restaurant, the price level, the location—'dealbreaker' service limits would be considerably higher at a higher-end, white-tablecloth place in a nice location than at a mom-and-pop place in a suburb, for example," says sunshine842. "Also hinges on who my companions are, too—my tolerance for sloppy service would be much higher with friends than with clients, for example. I think there are just too many variables to say 'if x, then y.'"

Discuss: How bad can service be before it ruins the meal?