Recently, we decided to go to one of our favorite tried and true restaurants for an evening meal. Although, at this time the restaurant did not take reservations, you could call and get your name put on the waiting list, instead of arriving and doing so at that time. We were told that it would be about a 45 minute wait. The two of us decided to head out to arrive a bit earlier, as we knew that we could have a drink at the bar to wait the few more minutes.
That is exactly what we did. The minutes kept ticking way on past the 45 minute wait that we were told, so I started watching the guests coming in. They had not called in advance, gave their names and then within a very short time frame were seated. Hmmm...what is wrong with this picture? We did go over to the hostess and asked where our name was on the list. All I can say is, "Attitude?" All from a simple question that was asked in a quiet, polite tone? She gave us a bunch of excuses and told us that our names would be called shortly. In about ten minutes they were called and we were being seated at a booth where another hostess was also seating some customers. One of these customers threw herself into the booth, as to claim and stake it out, and said that this was their booth. I can assure you that neither my husband nor I would get in an argument over a booth. She already had pretty much on her own made a fool of herself. We did not need to join in.
Our hostess did escort us to another booth and the evening just went on from one disaster to another. Food orders arriving late and cold. Our waiter was new and nervous and seemed to have no mentor to help him. Clueless was the word in neon letters over his head. It was not something that you expect from a restaurant such as this one. We did not raise a stink about the food, the service or the atmosphere. Clearly, there was not a manager in place, or if there was, he or she remained anonymous.
After paying and arriving home, I decided to write to the manager of the restaurant, just to let him know that for as many times as we have been there, never have we witnessed such events that we experienced this night. Clearly, he was not there and he did need to to be made aware. I know that I would hope someone would tell me if it were my restaurant or else I would be closed down if this kept up.
The very next day I received a phone call from the manager apologizing and asking if my husband and I would give the restaurant a chance to earn back their reputation...and that it was on the house. The only stipulation is that he wanted us to come when he was there. Apparently, he wanted to meet us in person and thank us for sharing our experience in such a professional manner. He stated that he never quite knew what to say when he received e-mails that were smeared with four letter words complaining about everything and demanding refunds. There are actually people who do this habitually just to get out of paying for their meals.
To sum this all up, the manager was very special, took time to talk to us, understood that we were not trying to get something for nothing and we made a new friend that we still wave to and say hello when we return to the restaurant. This is how a real manager or owner handles problems that will invariably come up from time to time.
My next example is not quite the same. This restaurant is locally owned with one downtown and now one out in the suburbs. We had been to the one downtown. Lots of fun, great atmosphere and good food and service! The one in the suburbs is less than three miles from our home so we finally decided to try it out. Surprisingly, it was not busy, even though it was lunch time. We were seated immediately, as more than 3/4 of the restaurant was empty. Sometimes, this is a clue. In this case, most definitely it was. We had a great waiter. He took our order and refilled our drinks a few times, apologizing for how long it was taking for our food.
The food finally arrived. Why had taken so long? Not clear on that. Both of us on the first bite, had to tell each other that it was not cooked thoroughly. It was cold. It was not edible. We had waited so much longer than we had imagined and for cold food. At this point, I was truly no longer hungry, more like a bit fed up. We called our waiter over to tell him that the food was cold, we did not want to wait longer for it to be made over again. We asked for our check, thinking that it would be taken into account that we could only eat a couple of things on our plate and had our drinks.
This was not the case. We paid. We left. This time when we arrived home, my husband wrote to the owner personally. It was a letter filled with our experience, no four letter words and no ranting or venting. This owner obviously had given his manager the liberty to take care of his customers' mail. This manager wrote back to us that she was in the restaurant at the time that we were, however, she could not come out because she was so busy cooking due to being short-handed in the kitchen. She apologized for how the waiter treated us. Let's just say that she put the whole problem on the one person who were had contact with and was polite and apologetic. How could he have cooked the inedible food? How could he have taken so long in getting it up on the serving line to be served? We watched the other few tables having the same problems. And it was most definitely not the waiter. He was the only waiter in the place that we ever saw. There were only four tables of patrons to wait on. It was not his fault.
My husband and I are not confrontational people. It was not a high end restaurant. Maybe we are lucky because the times we have chosen to eat at high end restaurants, we have been treated with utmost respect and served high quality food with perfect service.
This experience was not worth causing a scene. It was the second letter ever written to let the manager/owner know of our problems that we encountered. We were not expecting anything more than an apology, certainly not a letter blaming some poor 18 year old waiter, who was left to the wolves by a boss. Will we return? No. And I can tell you that when I drive by this restaurant there are not many cars in the parking lot. My guess is that the restaurant will not be open for very much longer.
In my mind it is not that mistakes can't happen. They do and they will. We are all human. It is what happens next that really matters. It is all in the attitude. Don't be afraid to reach for the stars!