It’s rare that I encounter such bad customer service at a restaurant, I feel like blogging about it.
And while I’ve been tempting to outline everything that happened to me at a particular establishment recently, I decided not to. And here’s why.
It wasn’t the wait staff or food was bad. In fact, I didn’t even sit down at a table. I got poor customer service right at the front door — and that prompted me to never book a reservation there in the several months the restaurant was open.
Oh, I wanted to blog about it. I’m a big believer in sharing accurate information, even bad experiences, because people should know what to expect.
But in this case, I didn’t. I felt it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else who worked there, particularly the chefs and owners, to let this one person influence my view of a restaurant at which I had never dined. It wouldn’t be right.
So I bit my tongue as I browsed photos of crab cakes and short ribs on Instagram, hoping my experience wasn’t shared by others — and cursing the fact that the food looked so ridiculously good.
And then I broke down.
I called one afternoon and booked a table for that evening. When I walked through the door, there was no sign of the worker who had left such a bad taste in my mouth about the place. And the restaurant, as anticipated, lived up to expectations, churning out well-crafted dishes from start to dessert.
It’s interesting how influential bad customer service can be. As someone who writes about food for a living, I’m supposed to try new restaurants, yet this one experience with a front-of-house staffer caused me to put it off for months.
I was reading a blog by New York Post restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo who bemoaned the poor service he received at several new restaurants in the city. And these restaurants knew who he was!
“That I encounter at least as much amateurish, clueless or downright hostile service as I did in my ‘anonymous’ days speaks to the current state of restaurant staffing. It makes it easier to write funny reviews, but it’s nothing to laugh about when regular customers are treated worse.
Service can make or break your business, restaurant or not. I eat at certain restaurants almost exclusively because the people who work there are nice and attentive. The food can hover above mediocre.
And poor service can start from the front door.
But what I’ve come to realize, though, is this: you can’t always judge a restaurant — or any business — by one person who might be having a bad day. Yes, I agree workers shouldn’t bring their personal issues to work. But we’re all human, too, and it happens.
That said, repeated bad service or a business that doesn’t care about the poor treatment you received — well, I’d close that door and never come back.
It may have taken awhile to finally book a table at this restaurant, but I’m glad I did. The food was stellar, the ambiance was perfect and, yeah, the service was up to par, too.
CAT: I too have encountered bad service from wait staff, hotels, fast food places, etc., in fact, any place that caters to the public. I used to think that it was the individual person making contact or lack thereof. In my studies and experiences, it is really the management that is at fault. Management is responsible for training of employees. When management fails then the employees fail. Generally, employees do not want to do a bad job and get fired for it. If they are left to their own devices, there is no consistency in the the standard of service provided by the organization. Therefore, it is the fault of management. After all, management hired them. If there was no potential, then fault management for doing a poor job of assessment. On the flip side, I have encountered many customers who are jerks. Some think of you as subservient in brains and aptitude and treat you with disrespect. Because you are doing a service does not mean you are a slave. That is how some customers look at you. I found that those that are truly wealthy (not necessarily in terms of money but in compassion) tend to treat everyone with respect. The wannabes are usually those with an attitude.
As you know, I am old, fat, and poor!
Service starts from the first person that greets you at the door.
So what’s the name of this place so I can check it out too.
Hey Cat … I’ve had similar experiences … in terms of poor service, it always came down to an individual and not the organization … and I won’t stop going to a restaurant or business because of one bad experience … and most times, the repeat service was much better … sometimes even by the same offending employee …
… it’s easy to dump the blame on management or the owner … but employees must also take responsibility for their actions at work …
… and really … should employees have to be trained to be prompt, courteous and polite to customers??? …
… training in company procedures and protocol? … yes … the rest is on the employee …
Hi, Cat! My hubby & I usually give businesses 3 chances to earn our loyal patronage, precisely for the reasons you pointed out. The exception to our rule is when we find something ethically wrong in the businesses’ practices or treatment of consumers and/or staff.
Let’s face it – we all work diligently for the income we earn, so we choose to spend it at businesses where our patronage is welcomed and appreciated.
I’m climbing off my soap box now…
You know what? There is another kind of bad service — when the workers in a restaurant treat each other poorly. And that can spill over to the customers real fast. Way back in the mid-1970s I worked in a nice place in Kona. Loved the spot along Alii Drive. I enjoyed working with a lot of nice people. But some, especially some of the wait staff, they could be selfish and patronizing.
On a bad night, working with some of them was no fun. Hustle or no hustle — same snarky, better-than-you criticism. So why hustle?
If they didn’t get a generous tip, it was my fault. I was just a college boy busing tables for the summer, and they took every chance to remind me that my little 15% was thanks entirely to them. In fact, they rarely shared a full 15%. Wasn’t hard to know that.
This was back when waiters needed to add up the tickets. One waitress miscalculated probably four bills in a row one night. I know because the diners called me over. Her errors always seemed to make the price higher. Maybe she was too hurried or bad at math. Carried too many 1’s, yeah?
That night, some of the tables left no tip at all. She confronted me: Where are my tips? Are you pocketing my money? Are you carelessly rolling up my tips and dumping them in the trash?
I sort of wish I had, now. But no. I wasn’t that shrewd. Or stupid. Just trying to clean tables and fill the waters. Trying to help. She earned those zeroes. Maybe I should have thanked her for my 15% of zero.
Cat, the writer in me is glad to point out that kind of bad service. It can be poisonous. No matter how many years later, it shouldn’t go unnoticed. For sure, customers notice.
The absolute worst experience was back in the 80’s in SF. My girlfriend and I (both Japanese-Americans) went to dinner. We were dressed appropriately (coat and tie, nice dress) talk about discrimination, three groups came after us were provided their menus and service. We both grew up in SoCal and that was worst experience of being discriminated. I decided we shouldn’t pay to be treated that way and left. You seem more tolerant and perhaps that a good thing.
Hi Cat! I agree with you. Bad service leaves a bitter taste for future attempts. I too will them a second chance to prove me wrong. Have a great day!
I’ll usually give a bad people experience a second try, especially if the food is good. What causes me to leave and often never return is if, on my first visit to a restaurant, and especially if I have a reservation, if there’s a long wait. That’s good for them, and I’m happy for them, but it also means that I’ll go someplace else. I won’t wait more than 15 minutes for a table. There are plenty of other places to eat.
As Yogi Berra once said of a restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”