Discussion: Bad Restaurant Experiences
I’d like to start a discussion with the fine readers of GrubGrade. I went to Uno Chicago Grill earlier this year and met some family for dinner. Since I wasn’t first to arrive, drinks had already been ordered and were being delivered to the table as I was about to settle in. I sit down and the waitress drops an entire glass of Sprite onto the table. My jeans were able to absorb the damage heading for the floor. Seeing that I wasn’t about to spend the next hour with soda all over myself, I just got up and left. Luckily I lived only 5 minutes away and was able to change and return to dinner. There were apologies upon my return from the waitress. I felt bad for her because it obviously wasn’t intentional and if I had spilled an entire drink on someone, I’d feel terrible and apologetic as well. What do you do in a situation like that?
I reassured the waitress that “it’s ok”… “no big deal”… etc. You know, even though I’m sort of steaming inside, it’s not the end of the world and accidents happen. There is a huge array of responses to something like a spilled drink. The hot-tempered could explode on the wait staff and demand to speak with the manager immediately. The even-tempered could brush it off as no big deal. Depending on the reaction of the customer, is there a certain protocol that is to be followed by the restaurant? Discussing this topic with some friends brought out a bunch of similar resolutions from restaurant management. Most common response: free appetizer. Manager approaches table, “I’m so sorry sir, let me bring you an appetizer on the house.” A bad experience at a restaurant can vary of course and there are many reasons why one persons experience can be terrible.
Let’s list some examples of how a meal can be ruined:
- Food undercooked, spilled drinks, hair in my food, bug in my food, wrong order, forgotten order, rude wait staff
So what is your bad experience worth? How should the restaurant react? Someone who will remain nameless had steak sauce spilled all over her shirt at Outback Steakhouse. An apology was given and that’s where the damage-control ended. There was nothing comped on the bill, nothing free was offered, there was no visit to the table by the manager on duty. An article of clothing was stained and a lasting impression was made. The victim of the steak sauce assault didn’t raise a big stink and got nothing out of it but a stained shirt. If the victim of the steak sauce assault would have had a harsh reaction, would something free come their way? Is there a standard “start at free appetizer and work your way up depending on how pissed the customer is” rule? I reached out to Outback via Twitter just to see if I’d get a response. I wrote, “Hey @Outback … When your waiter spills steak sauce on a customer and stains their clothes… what do you do for the customer?”
I was hoping for some sort of public relations intervention and canned company response just so I’d have some extra fodder for this post. Outback did not respond to me, yet they’ve been active on Twitter throughout the day. I know whoever is running the Outback Twitter account might not have any practice in handling a customer complaint, but isn’t Twitter a social network tool? Some companies do it better than others. I once did a “test complaint” via Twitter for another unnamed company and got a response within ten minutes. There’s a right way to do customer service and a wrong way. Some places are amazing at making sure the customer is happy while others don’t seem to care all that much. You’re always going to find a hierarchy of good and bad. I’m not one of these “impossible to please” types, but I know some of you out there might be yet afraid to admit it. So readers… I’d like to hear some of your stories related to bad restaurant experiences. Even if the restaurant did a nice thing and comped your meal, I’d like to know the details. If you work in the industry, please chime in.