Thursday, May 16, 2013

When Restaurants Don't Deliver

*Yesterday I wrote a barely disguised ode to Olive Garden here. Though, in reality, the post was a reflection on what I expect when dining out. To be up to speed, you may want to hop over there and read that post first.

We, the Barefoot Hippies, have our favorite restaurants. OG tops the list but, we have other favorites.
Breakfast: Wolfgangs
Burgers: Wealthy Station
Eggs Benedict: Cherie Inn
Pizza: Franco's
Donuts: Sandy's
Traveling: AppleBees
Mediterranean: Mr. Gyros or Pita House
Chinese: First Wok
High Class Chinese: PF Changs
Mexican: up for grabs... (my favorite closed in bankruptcy last month)

These restaurants are dependable for good service, food, atmosphere, and everything else I look for when I go out to eat.

But, sometimes service at your favorite (or not) restaurant sucks. Sometimes the food is not good. Sometimes restaurants don't meet your expectations. What should you do?

I think when the service or experience does not meet your expectations you have a few options in front of you. You can give the restaurant another chance. You can complain. You can chose to never darken that restaurant's doors again.

Here are a couple questions to ask yourself before you decide on your plan of action.

Was it a fluke? If the food, service and atmosphere are generally good, maybe this is a one time fluke.

-If it is the food, what was objectionable? the quality or the taste?

Quality? I'd give them a one time pass. Unless you ended up with food poisoning. But your steak not perfect, let it pass. Once.

Taste? Make a complaint to your server.
Now, when I say complain, I don't mean rip the wait staff and cook a blue streak. I mean, simply and graciously tell your waiter that you don't like the dish and maybe tell them why. Think of it more as a critique than a complaint. Couch your critique in positives.

The key is to bring your dissatisfaction with the item to your waiter's attention before you have consumed 90% of it. The perfect time to make this complaint would be when your server comes around again a few minutes after serving the entrees. They usually will ask, "how is everything?" Give an honest and polite answer-good or bad. That is why they are asking. Most restaurants are all about making sure you enjoy what you ordered. They will happily swap out your dish with something else.

Sometimes I feel because I chose the dish, it is not the restaurant's responsibility to replace it with something else. Kind of a made your bed, lie in it thing. And, actually, I have never insisted that someone replace my entree with something else. But, especially for chain restaurants that are continually adding new dishes to their menu, it is very helpful to know when people are not liking a certain item. Or when they are loving it.

-If it was a service issue at a normally exemplary venue, I'd complain-sometimes.
If it is a matter of rudeness, I will complain. If it is a matter of blatant inattention, I will complain. Both can be rectified with proper training.

If it is simply a matter of particularly slow service one day, I let it rest. If it is always slow, it is in my ball park to go again or not.

Ask yourself, is it worth it to complain? If several of your dining expectations were not met, once or multiple times, maybe it is not the restaurant for you. Just move on.

If it is a restaurant that you have come to expect a lot from, then leave a complaint.

The first level of complaining is face to face-with your server or the manager. Give them the opportunity to make the situation right-then and there.

The second level would be via phone or the restaurant website. From experience, this works well. Keep your tone still gracious. Give facts not feelings. Tell them when you visited, who your server was, and if you have a receipt number, it is always helpful to include that too.

Without naming restaurants, I will say that I have complained via phone or website 3 times. All three restaurants got back with me promptly, were apologetic, sent gift cards, and greatly improved on the area of complaint by the next visit. You could tell they took to heart the feedback.

The third level would be to make an instantly viral YouTube video dissing the company. I'd only recommend the third level in extreme dissatisfaction circumstances. When the other two approaches haven't worked. Something along the lines of 3rd degree mouth burns that you had to pay a hospital stay for, or something....=)
my handy-dandy flow chart, for all your restaurant needs...=)

Do you ever make complaints to restaurants? Are you a chronic complainer? What do you consider a deal breaker when you go to a restaurant? Is it possible to complain well and reflect Christ?