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Valet parking woes

AJC Staff

AJC Staff

It was interesting to read the comments following the post about the closing of Aquaknox, the glitzy seafood restaurant in the Terminus building in Buckhead.

Some past patrons liked the food and service. Others didn’t. But nearly everyone had complaints about the valet parking situation.

I had never been to Aquaknox before it closed, but I’ve made several visits to its neighbor, MF Buckhead, and can share in the valet parking frustration.

If you choose to valet part, the cost is quite high ($6, if I remember correctly) and there’s always a long wait for your car at the end of the evening. I recall it taking nearly 15 minutes on one freezing evening. My wife eventually went back into the restaurant, and I stood outside, hopping to keep warm.

You can also self park, but the parking spots aren’t particularly close to the restaurants and the set up is strange. I actually got lost in the parking garage once. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I could get lost in my own driveway.)

Still, I’m glad the Terminus gives you the choice. Some restaurants don’t, which tops my list of valet parking pet peeves:

  1. The only choice is paid valet parking.
  2. Tipping after paying for valet parking (which I always do, but resent).
  3. Going through the silly ritual of giving my keys to the valet to watch him park it three feet away.
  4. Having to drive to the back row of a vast, empty lot for self parking because the closer rows are reserved for the valet.
  5. Having my tip grabbed from my hand like a relay baton as the valet sprints to pick up his next car.

What are your valet parking pet peeves? Also, what do you consider the appropriate tip? I usually tip $2.

45 comments Add your comment


January 28th, 2010
3:42 pm

Bocado looks empty/closed during the week cause they valet and park the cars next door so the parking lot is completely empty in front of the restaurant … seems like they would fix this. A lot of people have assumed the place was either closed or not that good cause the parking lot in front is always empty.

Andisheh Nouraee

January 28th, 2010
3:48 pm

I drive an old car that cannot be easily valet parked because the ignition system is convoluted. Instead of turning the key and starting, you turn the key, pull an unmarked knob halfway for 20 seconds to warm the glow plugs, turn another unmarked throttle knob, then pull the first knob out all the way to activate the starter.

If that sounds confusing, it kinda is, and its kind of a pain in the ascot to try to explain this at a valet station.

Valets are in a hurry, and therefore aren’t always the most receptive people to hearing a) the instructions or b) me saying, ‘how bout you just let me park myself.’

A bit early in the day for this much white whine, eh?

Randy Johnson

January 28th, 2010
4:04 pm

Valey Parking Woes?
Where did the AJC.COM headline writer go to J School?


January 28th, 2010
4:06 pm

Here’s one I experienced a few months ago: I called in a take-out order at Varasano’s — a place that, perhaps out of my own ignorance, I wouldn’t have suspected of having a valet on a slow Tuesday evening — and the staff member on the phone didn’t warn me that valet parking was the only option when picking up orders. I told the valet I was picking up a take-out order but he didn’t offer me any option for a quick park (he was a nice guy, though). I was back at the valet stand, purchased food in hand, before the driver had returned from parking my car.

It was really more of a funny, only slightly inconvenient situation than a peeve for me, but also a learning experience.


January 28th, 2010
4:07 pm

I will not eat at any restaurant that requires you to valet park, or even pay to park. I hate ANYONE driving my car, especially a valet. It feels like such an invasion of privacy to me. I don’t trust them. The few times I’ve eaten at places with valet parking, I’ve felt like Ma & Pa Kettle go to town, just not my style. Too pretentious.

Jennifer Brett

January 28th, 2010
4:10 pm

Six bucks is pretty reasonable for valet service. It’s $8 for the first two hours and then $15 at the W downtown, and at the InterContinental across the street from AquaKnox, it’s around $8 only if you self park I believe. It’s very typical at Atlanta hotels for guests to spend $10 or $20 when attending special events (not eating dinner or staying overnight, but attending a gala or luncheon). Sometimes a valet is necessary but often it seems superfluous. My main valet gripe is it’s stupid and time consuming for a guy to park your car five feet away. I spend half my life in the valet line, and more often than not I’m standing there looking at my car while the guy searches for the keys. It’s an annoying waste of time. However I never mind tipping. Handing over a buck or two to a guy who runs around in the rain or sun fetching cars all day, no matter how idiotic it was to park them in the first place, doesn’t seem out of line.


January 28th, 2010
4:14 pm

I hate it!!!! I REALLY hate when the valet is literally parking my car in a parking spot 10 feet from the restaurant.

Elliot Garcia

January 28th, 2010
4:33 pm

Don’t worry Kelly, valets hate driving your Kia too!


January 28th, 2010
4:36 pm

Valey Parking Woes?
Where did the AJC.COM headline writer go to J School?
UGA probably…The AJC.COM people obviously don’t care about proofing their stories. About 80% of what I read has a typo, a missing letter, a missing word or something else that makes you stop and go “can I believe what I’m reading if they can’t even write it correctly”?

Regarding valet….I hate it and avoid it at all costs! It’s a rip-off and an accident waiting to happen (to my car).


January 28th, 2010
4:38 pm

The valet parking situation in Atlanta has become ridicolous – it’s like the restaurants think “we must have valet parking to make it” This drives me crazy for multiple reasons, the number one of which is listed multiple times above – the parking lots are small and I watch them park my car less than 10 yards away, also noone likes anyone else driving their car, it takes more time than parking yourself (which really sucks in the winter when it is so cold) and it is an added expense to a night out. The number one call out I have is Genki Sushi in Buckhead – the lot is small, the valets are RUDE, the price is ridicolous, and they are slow…I wish there was a way we could revolt against this trend in Atlanta…

Needabailout, too!

January 28th, 2010
4:40 pm

I share these comments, especially Kelly’s and Kristen’s. If a restuarant insists on valet parking, I will go out of my way and find another place to park. I will then make a mental note about how my evening at this establishment is thus far negatively affected. I have absolutely no use for a pimple-faced kid inside my car, having easy access to my personal possessions, only to deny any responsibility when a problem arises. Unless a passenger of mine is on crutches or a walker, valet parking in Atlanta is ridiculously pompous and unneccessary, and a complete waste of having yet another ’service’ to have to tip for. I can park my own car, with piece of mind that my belongings will be there when I return.


January 28th, 2010
4:42 pm

Lindsey — i had a similar issue at Two… came back and the valet had thrown my door open so hard that it broke a piece of the door jam and it was h3ll to close from then on… they refused to fix it.

I don’t have an issue with valet parking, as long as it reasonable or free. To go orders should be an exception. I am a big fan of Chow Baby, and go to to the one at the Galleria, and they have free valet, but the parking is so close it’s pretty crazy to valet park. Nice option to have on a busy or rainy night though. I do think that the price of the valet should reflect the price of the establishments, and/or the area. I would not pay $8 to valet at Chow Baby, but some where nice down town, it seems acceptable.

I do have an issue with the way they spelled “valet” on the front page of though. “Valey”??? Seriously?

John Kessler

January 28th, 2010
4:45 pm

Randy – Thanks for the catch! I sent a note to the home page to fix it.

Former Valet Guy

January 28th, 2010
4:51 pm

1 – Often times the one of the reasons for valet parking is because parking is limited. Valet’s can park cars closer together, double park cars, and fit more cars in a parking lot because each parking lot is strategically designed to maximize the amount of cars that can be parked in a particular lot. Valets seldom use the parking lines in the parking lot to park the cars. They can typically fit 25% more cars in a parking lot. In turn, that means more patrons in the eating establishment.

Also, another reason for only having valet is to limit liability. If you mix valet parking and self parking with each other, and your car is damaged, you have no way of knowing whether or not is was another patron or the valet.

2- Parking companies have to pay a lease for some of the lots that they operate. Often times when there is a pay lot it is because there is a lease and that money goes to pay the lease. The Valet never see’s a dime of that money. Think about when you go to a braves game and pay $12 to park (unless you drive a lexus :-) do you think that any of that money goes to the ticket taker or the guy waving the flag?

3- This goes back to number one. Often times valets do not use the lines and park cars closer together. This limits the parking companies liability if someone’s car ends up damaged, you know the only person parking the cars was the valet and their fore was his/her fault.

4- This again goes back to number one. It’s because valet parkers do not use lines and parking lots are strategically designed. It also limits the parking companies liability if something were to happen to a car.

5- That is bad customer service.

John Kessler

January 28th, 2010
5:00 pm

All right, now I’m feeling like Scrooge McFoodie for begrudging someone a tip on top of the paid valet parking….

Andisheh Nouraee

January 28th, 2010
5:56 pm

You misspelled valet and you deprive hardworking people of their livelihoods.

You are a very bad man, John Kessler.

Elliot Garcia

January 28th, 2010
6:16 pm

If you don’t like valet, then maybe you should stick to Applebees…..just a thought….


January 28th, 2010
6:52 pm

Several years ago I got my car back with the bumper and taillight damaged. The valet pointed it out to me and then got the manager of the restaurant. The manager said to keep him updated as to any issues I may have. For those of you that had issues at 2 Urban Licks, I hope you did the same thing. If the restaurant knows, things will likely go better. 2 is owned by a company (Concentrics) that owns many restaurants. The valet company wants to keep their business. Mine happened at Atlanta Fish Market. Same situation – big company (Buckhead Life).


January 28th, 2010
8:10 pm

Most obnoxious for me is Spondivits in Cumming. Yeah, I’m gonna valet park there. NOT!


January 28th, 2010
8:11 pm

Aria is one of our favorite restaurants in Atlanta, and our “anniversary spot” every year, but the valet situation there is pretty silly. There is not single space in that lot that is more than fifty feet from the front door.

I remember going to Two Urban Licks a month or so after it had opened, and the valet service there was horrible… there were perhaps 20-25 couples squeezed into a small area waiting for 2 or 3 valets to get their cars. It became almost laughble, it was so bad. Sorry to here it hasn’t improved, but I wouldn’t know personally, because that situation was so bad I never wanted to go through it again.


January 28th, 2010
8:14 pm

Correction: “Hear”…not “here.” I hate it when I do that.


January 28th, 2010
8:32 pm

valet parking is yet another reason americans are facing an increasing obesity rate … it also is a sign of how our sense of “importance” has gotten out of wack..someone else parking our car is supposed to make us feel more important?

I enjoy lots of nice restaurants and I have noticed the best in the city (Bacchanalia for example) do not put on pretenses by off-putting their customers with an annoying valet to greet you and see you off after you have shelled out big money to eat their food. I personally will tip only $1 because I do not feel it’s the right of the valet to be able to drive my fact I think they should pay ME to drive my car…after all I’m the one making the payments …


January 28th, 2010
9:15 pm

i also avoid restaurants where valet parking is the only option for two reasons: one i drive a VW which does not self-lock for some ridiculous reason only VW finds logical. So on those few occasions where i had no choice but valet park, yes i find my car parked, sometimes on a street, doors unlocked. Second, at some of these places around atlanta, who are these ‘valet’ people really? Anyone can put on a red vest and insist on parking your car. It makes me wonder how wise it is to hand them money and car keys and expect to see my car again.


January 28th, 2010
9:23 pm

Yes, I drive a horrible car and I have a bad taste in food because I don’t want anyone but me parking my car. My car is driven by me, and me alone. And I agree about Genki like Peachy said. I went there once, parked down the street so they wouldn’t touch my car after I watched one valet back someone’s Mercedes right into Roswell Road in front of oncoming traffic.

Ga Peach

January 28th, 2010
9:49 pm

Enter me into the “I hate Mandatory Valet” group. Especially since many times, there’s a big empty lot, and I’m required to hand over my cars and it’s contents to a stranger. No.


January 29th, 2010
2:47 am

I’m probably one of the only few who absolutely love valet parking. To me, it’s a convenience and safety issue. I would rather pay than walk late at night and be mugged. I also tip $5 and nothing less — these parkers are out in the cold or heat busting their chops so giving them a little extra cash isn’t all that bad.

The last time I was at Woodfire Grill, it took them 15 minutes to “locate” my car. They finally found it except it was in the wrong color, make, and model. Worse, it was a clunker whose cost could not even pay for my one tire.

The best valet parkers are at Rathbun’s Steak and Fogo. Those guys remember who drives which car without having to ask for your stub (and no, I’m not a frequent diner). And they have your car ready as soon as you step out. Amazing.


January 29th, 2010
7:37 am

Peachy…you said that you wondered what we can do in ATL to end the valet parking nightmare? Well we could all NOT go to a restaurant that requires valet parking. We can just visit restaurants that does not require it. I do not like anyone else driving my car either. It’s like another blogger said…they will speed over speed bumps, mistreat your vehicle and charge you too much $ to park your car. Where as you can visit another restaurant that do not have valet parking and use the $6+ toward the tip you leave the waiter/ress. Trust and believe when I say that if patrons stop going to these restaurants that the owner will have to take notice and get rid of valet parking attendants. Their revenue will drop..ESPECIALLY if they are rude!!! Don’t patronize them….I don’t!

Brown Likker

January 29th, 2010
8:26 am

I live in the suburbs so I do not have to deal w/ valet parking ofter. Recently went to Fago de Chao though and the valet parking was a great experience. Friendly, quick, and reasonably priced.

drunk dawg

January 29th, 2010
8:27 am

The Valet situation at The Nook on Piedmont is ridiculous!!!! The valets are real rude , the parking lot is a disaster and they park the car 5 feet away and charge you 3$ to park there. As a former valet myself, this lot might be the worst in Atlanta!


January 29th, 2010
8:36 am

Despise it. I try to avoid valet but as we all know, too many restaurants offer no other solution. I’ve managed to park a vehicle just fine for nearly 40 years and don’t need the help of a young man with 3 years driving experience. Don’t mind walking or dealing with the weather certainly if it means avoiding a damaged car, stolen items or time wasted. But try eating at Hal’s or any number of places without dealing with the valet issue. The wife and I are making effort to eat out less not because of the economy but because of my grief regarding valet. With many restaurants closing or losing business, you’d think they’d consider my absence a little more.


January 29th, 2010
8:36 am

Agree! I can’t stand valet parking either. This exact situation happened to me this week when going to lunch at Blue Ridge Grill. No other options besides valet. So I give him my car and all seems fine. Until I finish lunch and here comes my car being driven like it is the Indy 500 coming around the corner. It would be nice if these drivers treated your car with more respect. And the worst part of it was the fact that I had to fumigate my car to get rid of the smell of the guy’s HORRIBLE ABERCROMBIE & FITCH COLOGNE! Made me sick the whole way home!


January 29th, 2010
8:37 am

And what about the absurdity of valet parking at Lenox and Phipps Malls? What a complete SCAM! No wonder there are so many overweight people that you can’t park your own car at a mall.


January 29th, 2010
9:03 am

I have to agree with the comments about the valet at Aquaknox – too slow, too rude, too expensive. However, those comments that ‘hate’ valet’s and will go out of their way to avoid them? Come on, these are nice restaurants in a major metropolitan area, not a strip mall parking lot where you drive up to the front door (my pet peeve – sitting facing a parking lot of cars for an entire meal). Valet’s are necessary and they aren’t designed to be pretentious, they are designed to accommodate more cars in smaller lots, ie, so each restaurant doesn’t have to have a Wal-Mart sized parking lot which is only used 4 hours a day at peak flow. And they do it quicker than a parking lot full of 300 do yourself driver’s ever could. FYI – most every city parking codes allow for an increase in parking density when you have a valet. Plus, when the weather is bad (rain, cold, etc) they are a godsend. I just don’t like being forced to pay $6, regardless of the circumstance – and I’ve been to a lot of events at the St. Regis, Intercontinental, Ritz, etc.- I’d prefer if they worked it into the price of the ticket or meal. However, Jennifer is right, this is very normal and Atlanta is cheap compared to most major cities.
On another note, luckily, I have had a car damaged by a valet, and they were pretty responsive on the phone and in paying for it.


January 29th, 2010
9:06 am

$5.00, John. This is Atlanta. Yes, valet parking has become a ridiculous option in some places (plenty have been mentioned on this page), but there is something civilized about valet parking, just as there is in eating in a fine restaurant or drinking in a grand hotel bar. And we all know that behind the scenes, the car hops do not take the best of care. Take that with a grain of salt. The best of care is not always taken in the kitchens, store-rooms or any other places either, where the public’s eye is blind.


January 29th, 2010
9:09 am

I know one place that offers it on the weekends solely to make sure their lot is not filled up by cars being parked by people walking to nearby establishments that charge $10 to valet. They want to make sure their lot is available for customers only so they offer it for free. They even tell you you don’t have to tip the guys, but I always at least give them a few bucks.


January 29th, 2010
9:20 am

I’m with you, WL — there’s something unappealing to me about trying to have a nice dinner in a restaurant that’s in a strip mall with a view of nothing but a parking lot outside the front window. I’m willing to valet (as long as the price is reasonable) or walk from a neighboring garage to avoid that.

Ramona Clef

January 29th, 2010
10:19 am

Valet parking? It’s a great way for your kid to learn to drive a stick. Plus all that unreported income from tips.


January 29th, 2010
11:22 am

I used to not like valet parking and could not understand why I was forced to valet park at certain restaurants when the parking lot was open. I then learned that it has to do with the fact that valet companies have liability in their parking lot and if a self parking person damages a vehicle it can become a liability issue. Also, the parking lot will become full as the lunch/dinner progresses and the valet can fit more cars in the lot as more people arrive, helping to accommodate more people to get in and out of the restaurant. A quality valet company should be responsive, have great customer service, and return your vehicle unharmed and in a timely manner. Regarding paying, most metro cities charge for valet parking. Also, a low tip is $1. A regular tip is $2-$3, A great tip is $5+


January 29th, 2010
11:39 am

I hate valet parking with a passion; I will say, though, if it is a high-end restaurant, it should have it, but even then, it should be optional. Really, are these jobs needed? I drove to your restaurant — I think I can park my car. And if you “have” to have valet parking, because you don’t have enough? That’s your problem, not mine — you should’ve figured that out when you were building the restaurant.


January 29th, 2010
12:08 pm

Can’t stand valet parking. I’ll park four blocks away on the street to avoid it if I can. Seems that people in Atlanta have a real problem with parallel parking on the street a block away from the restaurant and walking. The only place around town I’ve used valet is Buckhead, where street parking is almost non-existent.


January 29th, 2010
8:23 pm

So valet’s are supposed to park the cars extra close? I thought they just did that to make it easier to bang the doors of the cars against the cars next door. Seriously, some of the excuses for valet parking on here are ridiculous. I prefer to walk to restaurants but if most of your patrons drive you should provide ample parking. Offering valet parking is fine but the valets park in the hinterlands and run back and forth. The decent spaces near the restaurant should go to the customers that want to park their own car.

As for the “liability issue” what a crock. The valet ticket says they don’t accept liability and if I’m driving my car and have an accident I’m liable and I am required to have insurance. If someone hits me, they are liable and they are required to have insurance. The only uninsured risk in a parking lot is the valet. To say they have to park your car for liability reasons is ridiculous. I’m going to start self parking again and when they use that excuse I’ll demand to see their proof of insurance.


January 30th, 2010
11:12 am

Uh, I don’t want your kid learning to drive a stick on my car, thanks.

I hate valet ever since the mid-90s when I owned a terrific new car that had an anti-theft feature on the key ring that required you to press a button to be able to start the car. Every single valet that ever parked it would inform me that my battery was dead and that they had to roll start the car and pop the clutch. Idiots. It’s a brand new car. Why wouldn’t you even think to find out what that button was for? Especially after I told you what it was when you took the car from me in the first place?


January 31st, 2010
5:02 pm

ESA, you must be a miserable person. Let me give you a senario. If you go into the restaraunt, have a few drinks, and sideswipe one of the valet’s cars he is responsible for the car you just ran into. I can already tell you are not the type of person who would fess up to it. Especially, since you had been drinking. Is this liability enough? If not, then the valet has to pay the deductible for your drunken foolishness. There is only one way to ensure this will not happen. Not have morons parking in the lot!!!!!!! Oh, and if they say something to you, I can almost guarantee you would be the first person to run in and try to get that kid fired.


February 3rd, 2010
5:32 pm

Each of you are of course entitled to your opinion, but I have to stand up for the valets here. A valet companies are like other businesses…they have expenses to cover. The liability insurance alone is expensive as you can imagine, and there are also restaurants that charge the valet company to use their lot. That’s no excuse for your property being mishandled, but the fact is, the people parking your car are responsible for contributing their tips to cover the lot fees and insurance. In addition most are not paid an hourly wage, and rely purely on your tips as their source of income. Valets work hard, in bad weather, and have to deal with customers (much like some of you)that could find something to complain about anywhere. So walk, take a cab, or don’t go to those particular restaurants if you hate it so much, but be generous, be nice, and my guess is that your customer service experiences will improve.


September 18th, 2010
11:25 am

I do not tip if the restaurant/bar charges for valet. I have worked at Buckhead bars and know of some that split the $6 fee with the house. So the business is making money charging their customers for parking in their own lot. I rather take a cab and tip the driver.