Thursday, December 4, 2008

I must answer back

Someone recently sent me a link to a bad review of the restaurant that came from the website, "Trip Advisor". In fact, here is the review so you can read it yourself. At first I didn't want to reply to this, at least not at the website, but as I thought about it, and especially since a couple people have encouraged me, I have decide to reply to this post, but on my blog and not the website. I remember this table. They were a nice looking bunch of younger professionals, high energy, fun loving, the kind of people we want to attract to the restaurant. I believe they were a table of 8, but don't quote me on that as I am not sure. So here is my side of the story. That evening we had a 6 top scheduled at 8:00. The table in question had its reservation at 6:00, and if truth be told, this particular table started out as a 12 top causing us to turn away reservations, and dropped down to the 6 or 8 that came in the end. Two hours is more than enough time for 6 or 8 people to eat dinner. We schedule like this all the time and most tables make it out with no problems and usually with plenty of time to spare. The problem came in when the last couple showed up late. Far be it from me to question the reviewers sense of time but it was not 10 minutes like she said. It was more like 45 minutes. I am a patient person. I do not stomp around the restaurant and I do not make it a policy to chide tables. I can, and often do live with the fact that people show up a few minutes late. I would have never called the 8:00 reservation who was following the 6:00 reservation if they were only 10 minutes late. Do you think this is my first rodeo? Do you really believe I have not dealt with this before? I decided to call when it was all but obvious that they were not going to make it out by 8:00. I know how long it takes a table of 6 or 8 to eat dinner, and 1 hour and 15 minutes is not enough time, thank you very much, unless we rush you, and I am sure there would have a posting on Trip Adviser regarding that issue. But when you are 45 minutes late for your reservation I do begin to get a little upset for a couple reasons. 1st, it is rude to the extreme to your hosts, the people who invited you to join them to dinner in the first place. 2nd, yes, we are a small restaurant, and because of that we need to pack as many paying bodies into our 19 seats as possible to pay our bills, and when you are 45 minutes late starting your reservation it makes it very difficult indeed, thank you for noticing. Regarding the table who "we had to cancel". It was not us who canceled them. I called them as a courtesy to let them know the table would be running late and wanted to let them know because we didn't want them to show up with no where to sit. They got very upset with me and told me to stuff the reservation and then proceeded to lecture me on how rude it is to make them wait for a table when the reservation before them was late. They told me it was unacceptable and they would never dine with us again. So, by this point I have just 6 people for ever to this couple who did not find it necessary to show up on time for the reservation on time. I believe I went over to the table in the first place because one of the guests, who found it proper to show up on time, jokingly apologized for their friends being so late. I mean really. Do you really think I am just going to march over to this table and start railing on them? I'm a pro. I've been in this business for a long time. I've dealt with these situations more times than I can count. I am not going to just go over to a table of paying customers and lay into them. I'm not, that is not how one garners repeat business. They had not just sat down as the reviewer said. I mean think about this, they come in and sit down and the first they get is me, a pissed off chef stomping over to yell at them for being late. Really? They had been here for some time already. What pissed me off was how flippant they were with the whole deal. Joking like it was no big deal. No big deal? Hey buddy, I just lost 6 people who will never come back here again because of your friends, so yes, I was a little rude and a bit pissed off. Now, I do believe I sent out a couple appetizers on the house because I did realize I was out of line and wanted to make nice nice. It's not often I let a customer see how I am feeling. I am usually pretty controlled and accommodating. I did fail Chef Fernande Point who always tells us to not let the customer know there is a problem, but for god's sake man, show up on time and by that I do not mean 45 minutes late.


Anonymous Mid-Michigan Dining said...

You did the right thing. The customer is always right doesn't give them a right to be inconsiderate of others.

I make it a point to show up at least 15 minutes early to a reservation. If a restaurant is busy enough to accept reservations, they usually appreciate it when I show up early.

When I was in New York a couple years ago, I got reservations to one of Bobby Flay's restaurants. We were actually a half hour early because we didn't know how far of a walk it would be. When I checked in with the hostess, I told her I knew I was early, but I just wanted to check in. She asked if we would mind being seated early because they had some big groups coming in an hour (a half hour after our reservation time). They would put us near the kitchen were Bobby was actually working so we'd get to watch him cook, but we'd need to be done in an hour. I said that was fine. An hour was more than enough for me and my brother since we don't really do courses...just bring me an entree and maybe a dessert.

By us taking the table early, it cleared up our table for a walk in. Had we said no or been on time or late, the table we ended up taking would have sat empty for an hour. The restaurant was grateful and comped dessert and drinks.

I never go in to any place thinking that the establishment's time is less important than my own. You lost a couple hundred bucks plus repeat business. Both tables sounded out of line to me and you did what you had to do. It just sucks that most people who do reviews for Tripadvisor and such sites only do reviews when they have a bad experience...

12/16/2008 1:54 PM  

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