Which has worse service: chain restaurants or independent eateries?

I think it’s pretty much everyone’s (including me) go-to position, at least at first blush, that one can expect to find much better service at your local, independent mom ‘n’ pop eatery than at, say, the local Chili’s.

But lately I’ve been questioning that notion a bit.

For example, the wife and I frequent (and I do mean frequent) various area “authentic” (read: native-owned-and-operated) Mexican places, and to a restaurant, the service is inconsistent at best, ridiculously bad at worst (we’re talking getting seated and waiting upwards of 20 minutes for us to be acknowledged when the place is practically dead). Also, I can think of a few diner and carry-out pizza locations where the service can only be described as rude from the get-go.

Now, of course, one can (and I have) experience poor service at a chain restaurant (especially if that restaurant begins with the word “steak” and ends with the word “shake”), but it seems to me that, obnoxious practices such as kneeling down to the customer’s level/sitting down with the customer or referring to the customer as “you guys” aside, chain restaurants, by and large, feature more consistent service than do indies.

So tell me about your own experiences.

To the extent that I’ve ever had bad service in a restaurant (rare), it’s always been at local ‘mom and pop’ places.

I really get the feeling, sometimes, that local places consider ‘local’ to be a virtue in itself, and feel no need to keep their product, service, or treatment of their employees up to a minimum standard.

And, yes, chains are CONSISTENT - it’s part of the nature of chains to at least attempt to keep everything consistent between branches, and from visit to visit. Which tends to make everything somewhat mediocre, but at least keeps everything to a minimum level of quality, barring someone having a bad day, or being not long for the job.

Chains are usually just mediocre. But the local places can either be very, very good, or very, very bad. Consider my town: two locally-owned and operated establishments, with a couple of locations each. Las Fuentes has great food and impeccable service. Casa Trejo has comparable food, but the service stinks on ice. I’ll never willingly give them a dime of my money.

Highs and lows for the locals. Seldom any middle.

I’ve had good service at chains and good service at local places. And bad service at both. Can’t see any consistent pattern, other than the fact that the really high-end places that provide exemplary service are always independent. But there are few chains of that level.

QFT, which is why I answered “other.”

Around here the service at independent eateries ranges from excellent to comically atrocious.

Chains are generally okay. Not great, not terrible. Once in awhile they will impress you with service or really badly screw up, but it’s usually predictably average. The only chain with predictably bad service is Pizza Hut, where the service is invariably atrocious, but that’s not exactly a restaurant in the sense I think the OP was asking about.

At most chains, unless I’m a regular, I find that the service tends to be slightly better than mediocre. That is, while the server will usually be fairly prompt, I won’t get exceptional service. Well, I have to say that the local Denny’s are usually pretty bad, we have to wait a while to get noticed, let alone seated, and then we have to wait for menus, and then wait for someone to remember to take our orders…

At the independents, usually the service is very, very good indeed, or the service is horrid. Mostly it’s very good (because they depend on their regular customers) but occasionally it’s absolutely terrible. So I checked “Other” for the poll.

Where I live now, the only places you can get halfway decent service are hotel restaurants, resorts and national chains.

All the mom and pop places here are truly atrocious. We have walked out of several and now don’t even bother to seek them out any more. It’s limiting, but there aren’t that many great places to eat here anyway.

In the real world, my experience varied a bit. A lot of mom and pop places try harder, but some chains have a standard of service they expect from all employees, so unless you get someone who just sucks at their job you should get fairly decent service even if the food is mediocre.

If you come in for breakfast at the independent I worked for and you’re not a regular, the old biddies couldn’t care less about you.

Other than that, service around here is solidly average no matter where you go, unless McDonald’s is training a new batch of teenagers.

I’ve had bad service at chains, but usually when the place is busy. But the only times I’ve had terrible service in a non-busy restaurant were at independent restaurants.

The poll results may be skewed by the fact that the thread title asks who is worse, and the poll title asks who is better.

Yeah, I got confused. I was trying to vote that chains are better and ended up voting mom & pops are better.

I voted for “other”.

Service at chains is usually pretty decent and consistent, but there’s more small irritants like suggestive selling and the constant checkups - “Is everything okay?” Fast food chains are pretty bad when it comes to botching simple orders, and workers at Subway for some reason really, really like to push cheese on you even after you’ve said “no” one or more times.

At locals, it’s all over the map. Most of the times I’ve had horrible service, or treated like a nobody (terrible seat when the place is nearly empty, having my order taken after others that were seated after me, etc0 it’s been from an independent.

It’s been my experience that chain restaurants tend to have a similar level of service regardless of which branch you’re in. I’ve found that most of the time (even in different cities), Boston Pizza has had slow service. I suppose there could be a top-down reason for this, but it may just be a fluke.