What is the worst experience you’ve had in a restaurant, and how did they make amends? Also, if they didn’t do enough, what did you want them to do? These questions come to mind sometimes while watching my Twitter timeline. Every so often, someone fumes publicly about the worst ___ ever and how they’re never going back (read: you should never go there either). I’m not wagging my finger at them, cuz I’d have to stand in front of a mirror when I did. But, it begs the question: Are we trying to get a message to the business, or to our larger community, or both? And what could have been done to prevent the hullabaloo?
One time, I went out for dinner with Karen at one of Richmond’s most respected restaurants. Let’s call it “I’ll Race Ya!” It was a wine-dinner prix fixe, well above the amount we usually spend when we go out. For us, it was a special occasion/celebration type thing. The place was packed. Servers and wine pourers were weaving in and out of crowded dinning room. Our three courses seemed to fly by, but not nearly as fast as we finished our tiny pours of the trio of wines that were paired with our meal. Underwhelming doesn’t quite describe the shortcomings. We tried to talk to someone about the wine, or about a major problem we had with one of our entrees, but our concerns fell on deaf ears, and we never saw the same staff person twice to actually get any follow-up to happen.
The walk home was sullen and depressed, instead of celebratory. We both wished we could have that time and money back. And then, one of us kinda cried a little, which made the other REALLY FUCKING MAD at I’ll Race Ya, I tell ya. I generally accept that I’m gonna get hoodwinked half the time I leave the house, but make my wife cry and I’m preparing for battle like Rambo, strapping on the artillery, streaking my face with grease paint, and tying a red kerchief around my head.
When I got home, I wrote an email and fired it off to the owners about the impersonal system they put in place that in turn produced our unhappy meal. Talking to my mother on the phone in the subsequent days, she told me that some of her favorite businesses are ones where she’s had to complain. And when the problem was resolved, she returned, becoming an even more loyal customer.
A couple days went by without hearing back from the restaurant owners. Great, aloof types. I found their fax number and sent the letter that way. Not long after, I got a response via email (they’d gone on vacation and just returned). My receipt was pulled and our meal was comped. They hoped we’d return, and we did. Many times, actually. Not for the wine dinners, but whatever. The place is on top because they please their customers, usually without angry emails and faxes involved, but even then, there’s a way.
So, what’s your story?