Bad service is a poor investment

Just last week I wrote about how important customer service is when running a restaurant. Little did I know how soon I would have a great real-life example to demonstrate its importance.

It is not to the point where I want the entire world to know about this business, so I will leave out specific information.

Let’s just say this place is known as a steakhouse in Reno, NV. My wife and I love steak.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so dinner was one of the more important dinners of the year with my wife (Yes, we do celebrate Valentine’s Day). This was our second time at this establishment. The first time was great. Great food, great service. It justified their higher than average prices. It was the reason we came back for this occasion.

My wife and I arrived at our reserved time and were seated promptly. So far so good. Then we sat there. For a while. We saw employees moving around, but we weren’t sure which server was ours. We had more than enough time to figure out what we wanted for our appetizer and our main course. Finally our server came and immediately asked us, “You want to start out with a cocktail?”

For some reason the manner in which she said it felt cold and emotionless. I admit, the way I interpreted her words and tone is very subjective and based on my own biases. Now that I reflect back on this, I realized she never introduced herself to us. Something as ordinary as a server introducing themselves to us Рwhich we normally take for granted Рwhen missing actually had a negative impact on our mood and made it impersonal.

She then took our appetizer order, stone-faced and serious, and before I could even mutter the words that we also wanted to place our main course orders as well she said “ok,” turned around, and zipped away.

It seemed as if she did not want to be there, and the feeling transferred to us.

My wife tried to rationalize – maybe Valentine’s Day is not a good day for our server. Ok, fair enough. I am a generally patient person and I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Eventually we got the rest of our order in after she brought us our appetizers.

Fast forward to when we got our main course. By this time my wife and I were involuntarily paying extra close attention to everything our server was doing. As if it was our destiny, she brought my wife the correct order, but me the wrong order. Fine, just bring me the correct order asap. After my short exchange with our server, my wife and I both noticed that there was never any apology of any kind for mixing up the order. Just the excuse that they really thought I ordered something else. It really felt as if I was being blamed for the order mix up, as if I was lying (again, admittedly a subjective feeling).

I sat there for what seemed like an eternity looking across the table at my wife who had her steak, while I could only fantasize about Chef Gordon Ramsay chewing out people in the back for mixing up an order and calling them donkeys.

Our drinks were getting low (we only ordered water) – not one refill the entire time.

Finally got my order and ate a little. I asked for a box and our check before I was even full. We just wanted to get out of there. Our server said she didn’t charge us for our appetizer for messing up our order. By that point is was too late. The issue was not money. If money would be an issue we wouldn’t have gone there. Customer service was the issue.

I still gave the full 20% tip. I’m not about to punish the rest of the employees for the mishaps of one. The food was also good.

As my wife and I left, I decided to wait at the front and talk to a manager. Lo and behold our server WAS the manager.

I looked her straight in the eyes, and in as calm a voice as I could I told her everything fairly bluntly. We genuinely felt unwelcome during our dinner. She tried to implore us to give the restaurant one more chance.

I said I would have to think about it. Then again, with so many other places I could go, why should I?

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2 Responses to “Bad service is a poor investment”
  1. Jessica says:

    Such a bummer that your Valentine’s dinner had horrible service. Many restaurants are going out of business in today’s economy so you would think that the ones still open would treat their customers with respect, especially on such a busy night. I agree that I would not go back to that place for dinner. There are many steak houses in Reno so no need to go back to one that gave you lousy service. I can’t believe that your server was also the manager. That is horrible and she really did nothing to fix the problem. I don’t think I would have left the full tip.

    • Gian Sorreta says:

      I was torn on leaving the tip… I used to work in a job that relied heavily on tips when I was in high school so I had some biased empathy for the other workers (assuming they share tips, as I pictured it in my mind that night).

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