This is a true story about a restaurant service complaint.
My husband and I owned a full service restaurant for over 30 years. Maybe because my husband was a former teacher, he and I kept careful notes on the hundreds of things that went right – and wrong- in the restaurant business.
This is one of those true stories. This one is about service.
Restaurant service - a science and an art. Not too little, not too much. Timeliness, genuine friendliness, "checking back," observant, plating properly...so much a truly good server and restaurant must address to be successful.
Sometimes it's all about ...understanding.
I was expediting on a very busy Sunday morning at the restaurant. That was my normal station on Sundays between 9AM and 2PM …busy, busy, busy.
“Expediting” in the restaurant business is a very important job when busy. Plates are checked against “tickets” for properly prepared food. Plates are garnished and “staged” with the ticket for the servers to pick up.
When busy, the expeditor is the communications director. All communications between servers and cooks go through the expeditor. This organizational techniques eliminates 6 servers trying to talk to 5 line cooks all at once.
Having an expeditor at busy times reduces errors and really speeds things up.
Then, about 11:30AM a server informed me that the male at one of her “two-tops” was unhappy.
“Is there something wrong with his food?” I asked. “What is the problem?”
“He loves his breakfast and his wife is very happy with her lunch.” (Lunch and breakfast “over-lap” at the restaurant. Something else many ‘full-service’ restaurants do not do.) “He has been a guest 3 or 4 times before. He said he and his wife came in hungry and his order took too long.”
I knew we were starting to “drag” some tickets. By 11:30AM we have done 513 breakfasts and another 71 lunches. Our goal for a breakfast order is 10-12 minutes under normal conditions.
“How long did he wait?”
The server had checked her ticket-in and ticket-out times. 18 minutes had elapsed.
“Yes, Donna, I politely apologized and mentioned we were busier than normal, even though he could see every chair in the place was occupied. He still expressed his unhappiness and said he was a ‘Yelp Reviewer.’”
“Wonderful! I’ll speak to him about his restaurant service complaint. What did he order?”
“Over hard eggs and extra crisp hash browns with fruit. His wife is very happy with her Fettuccine Alfredo. When he ordered I did tell him we were very busy and the crisp hash browns would take us an extra minute or two.”
“What table number is he at?”
I removed my apron and latex gloves and headed for his table to address his restaurant service complaint.
“Hello, my name is Donna. I am the owner of the restaurant and I understand you have a restaurant service complaint...that you expressed some disappointment with the amount of time it took us to complete your order.”
“I know who you are. I have been in before, several times before, and have seen you every time I have been here. First, the good news. The food has always been very good as well as the restaurant service level. But today my wife and I were especially hunger –starving. It simply took a long time to get our food.”
“Yes, I checked. It took us 6-8 minutes longer than normal. We are really very busy today, even busier than a normally busy Sunday, and two “big-top” orders went in just ahead of yours. I apologize for the delay. How can I make it right with you?”
“Oh don’t worry. I am not asking for a reduction in our bill. I wanted you to know I was not pleased with the amount of time our order took. I will simply express my displeasure elsewhere.”
His wife was quietly “scraping” the bottom of the pasta bowl with her garlic toast, saying nothing. She look a little embarrassed.
“Indeed. I am told you like to post reviews on-line. Is that your intent?”
“I am seriously thinking about it.”
“That’s fine. I am a strong believer in the 1st Amendment. In fact, I am a strong advocate for maintaining our Constitution and Bill-of-Rights.
But I have a favor to ask of you. I have something to show you now that you have finished your meal. Can you spare 5 minutes?”
“What is it?”
“Please come with me.” (I noticed he paid his bill in cash but left no tip for the server.)
I took him and his wife into the kitchen area and asked them to stand and watch my 5 line cooks. We were still "mass busy" ...single out orders, big tops, deuces ...a line of "tickets" across the window and more coming in.
My day-time Chef was running the “wheel,” looking and talking to the two line cooks to his left and the two to his right and placing plates in the window as they were completed from the kitchen side. Occasionally the Chef would call to one of the two prep cooks in the back of the kitchen, asking for more prepped product to be brought to the line.
The two restaurant guests could see (and hear) the entire operation, including the servers garnishing the plates and taking them to the dining room. Our guests had watched the action for about 10 minutes when I began putting my apron and latex gloves on again and spoke up, explaining I really needed to resume my expediting to help my wonderful crew. We had many more hungry guests to feed.
“I get your point, Donna. I have never seen a commercial kitchen operation before. They seem to be well-trained and working hard. I will take this into consideration if I write my review. Thank you.”
I could not help myself. I asked the gentleman one more question.
“Sir, you mentioned you’ve been a guest here before today …I believe you said ‘several times.’ I think you also said that you were very pleased with everything until today. Is that right?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Then I must ask. Have you written a review about the restaurant before?”
“No, I haven’t. Honestly, when I find a business that meets or even exceeds my expectations, I rarely write a review. I have certain expectations and a business should meet those without expecting a compliment.”
“Have a nice day.”
His wife rolled her eyeballs as they turned and left, but before doing so I saw her “slip” two $5 bills to the server and whisper something. When the guests had gone, I asked the server what the lady had said. “5 for you. 5 for the kitchen.” I thought she must be a wonderful and patient lady.
This is a true restaurant story, as is all the information on the website. So I leave this story now but will ask the reader: What can be understood from this incident, besides the fact that the restaurant staff is fantastic?
I hope you found this true restaurant story interesting and worth the read. Thanks for visiting!
Did you know? Domino's Pizza had to cancel their "30 minutes or less" guarantee after so many drivers were getting into accidents while delivering pizzas.