A group of friends dine regularly in the Ann Arbor area, and one of us had heard a strong recommendation from a work colleague to try dinner at Mediterrano. It also turns out one couple in our group had been here before, years ago, so...we happily made a dinner reservation for the five of us early last month.
The bill overall was over $500 for five of us, so with that high of an average check, we had reasonable expectations for good service and unique, enjoyable entrees. The food overall was satisfactory, and the members of our party were pleased with their selections.
What was so appalling about the restaurant, and what ensures we would never go back, is the approach of the restaurant in its policies and practices for patrons. As a higher-cost dining establishment, we felt it was petty the way Mediterrano nickles and dimes its patrons who are already spending hundreds of dollars to dine there.
First, there is a charge for bread service: $3.00. I assume the restaurant justifies this by serving the bread with a hummus-like spread. But we wouldn't know as the server never identified it. Charging for bread service at a finer dining establishment where most entrees are $25 to $40 or so dollars just seems petty. And a suggestion might be to just serve bread to the table as is customary at restaurants of this level, and if you think your patrons might be interested in the unidentified spread for the bread, sell that as a separate item on the menu. And of course this is a small issue, but when we got to the end of the meal and were even more appalled by the money-grubbing and anti-customer policies of the establishment, we determined the night was a disappointing regret.
When the bill came for the five of us (two couples and a single), we asked if the check could be split. The reaction the server gave us might have been more appropriate if we had insulted her, but we only asked for a common dining request, one that it appears most restaurant billing software seems highly capable of handling. Once we moved past that unnecessary awkwardness with the server, we decided we could handle going over the bill and telling each couple/person what their share was, roughly.
In doing so, we came across an unknown charge:" S/C SURCHARGE FEE." Once the server was able to stop back at the table and we could inquire about this additional $12.00 on the bill, she informed us that it was for use of a credit card. We had not even shown our hand as to how we were going to pay for the meal, but the restaurant just assumed we would use a credit card? This kind of charge is petty enough at lower-end restaurants, let alone one like Mediterrano. If your food profit margins are that tight, bake that kind of cost into the menu price instead of tacking it on top of already substantial prices. The waitress did kindly offer that the charge would be removed if we were to pay in some other currency besides a credit card. Very helpful.
The final insult with the bill was the forced gratuity of 20%. Again, I know this is not uncommon for a lot of restaurants handling large parties, but I guess I never thought 5 people at one table was a large dining party. We dine out regularly and consider ourselves generous tippers of at least 20% or more when the service is at minimum satisfactory. We both worked in restaurants in our younger years and know how hard it is. So, we are never accused of stingy tips. But this money-grab showing up on the bill threw us over the top. No where on the menu or a sign near the door or the web site did we see a policy about a table of 5 being subjected to an automatic gratuity. Most establishments with class message this to customers with grace and finesse, and usually for parties much larger than 5! I did not see anywhere where Mediterrano explains this policy to its guests in those challenging times when it's serving efforts are troubled with having one more guest at a typical table of four for dinner.
The last insult of the night was just asking if the bill charge could be split between two credit cards. Our single friend chipped in her part in cash, and the two couples were going to split the overall charge on their respective credit cards. In keeping with the restaurant's theme of polices that annoy customers, the waitress inexplicably stated that they can't do that with their charge cards. What??? Most credit card processing units in stores and restaurants allow a manual input of the charge amount. What would have kept her from doing one amount on one card and then another amount on the second card? I guess only her indifference, knowing she already had the 20% tip in her pocket. Just annoying and off-putting to customers who just spent over $500.00 with your establishment.
These issues had us griping all the way home, and clearly drove our determination to never dine here again. It's just disappointing and annoying when a higher-end restaurant chooses to annoy its customers with petty policies like we experienced here. We dine out in finer establishments quite frequently, and higher prices don't always steer us away from making an enjoyable evening out with good food and friends. And we do so full well knowing that the establishment has charged us higher prices that ensure they make a healthy profit. Perhaps Mediterrano can learn a lesson from better restaurants and avoid embarrassing itself and putting off customers with numerous ways to shake money out of patrons who only come willingly to spend money for a nice experience.More