In response to the long comment on the Carreta Cubana II post, the Casual Restaurant Critic thinks it may be pertinent to answer this in ‘post’ form.
Service in Merida’s restaurants is alright; it’s just not professional in the gran mayoria de los casos and often a result of no one training anyone – there is no waiter’s training program anywhere that the Critic is aware of. Too often personnel is hired with only minimum requirements: that they live close by, that they have a white shirt or something similar. Niggling details like not sticking your arm and the inevitable armpit in front of a restaurant patron while serving a plate (with the inevitable whiff of BO – really a horrible thing to have happen to you – or their Mennen Speed Stick – equally disagreeable) are rarely passed on to service personnel.
How do locals handle it? Well, in many cases people are not particularly concerned and have become accustomed to lackluster service. Merida is not Barcelona or Manhattan, so the dining options as well as the patrons do not have that level of sophistication or neuroses. Go with the flow is definitely the way to go.
To the Casual Restaurant Critic it is part of the charm of living in the Yucatan. You don’t expect professional Smith and Wollensky service for the most part. (You do however expect professional service at Joe’s Stone Crab and when they treat you like crap you let ’em have it and they try to make nice). Here waiters try, and usually do, a passable job. What is most upsetting to the admittedly neurotic foreigner is when hundreds of thousand of real dollars are invested in lighting, landscaping, architecture, menu printing, table linens, glassware, cutlery, kitchen equipment and advertising; and the owner hires a mediocre manager who hires even more mediocre service staff, some apparently culled from the garden staff, who have absolutely NO knowledge of gastronomy, what a Caesar salad might be, the difference between a salad and a dinner fork, white and red wine glasses, etc etc. And they don’t train them either! That is unforgivable, in those particular cases.
As a foreigner thinking of moving to Mexico, one should definitely go with the flow, reduce expectations and learn to relax. It’s not that important in the general scheme of things. And certainly not worth getting one’s panties in a bunch.