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Thu, Dec 14 2006

Her hair in the soup just left a bad taste in my mouth

I just now had a chance to look over an article from the Restaurant Hospitality web site that talks about how to deal with dissatisfied dining guests. Their suggestions were probably perfect for many situations, but I would add one more idea to the mix, particularly for restaurants in the mid-to-upper-scale range in terms of price, food and service. If you have to deal with a dissatisfied customer, do it with as little disruption of service to other customers as is reasonably possible.

Several weeks ago we dined out at a favorite local restaurant in a lovely setting. We've been there countless times and have never had bad service or bad food. On this last occasion we were privy to a bit of upset at the table closest to us when one female diner complained about a salad. She wasn't loud or disruptive, but she was insistent that the restaurant had prepared the dish in a way that she was not used to and that it had affected her digestive system. We watched several people go to the table in an attempt to make things right. They comped her meal and also offered dessert, which she refused. Since we were seated so closely to her, it was impossible not to notice the attention and extra people running to and from her table while we waited for service at one point. When our server approached us and apologized for the wait, after the dissatisfied diner had gone, we asked whether everything was all right. We didn't scold her for passing us by as she (and the day manager and two other servers) strained to make things pleasant for the unhappy diner near us, but I realized that the whole thing had definitely affected our own dining experience.

The situation I'm speaking of was a bit extreme. I say that because even the female customer's dining companion grumbled at her at one point over her continued soft whining. I don't fault the restaurant staff at all for trying to appease the woman. But I would suggest that this sort of situation also be treated by staff as part of every other customers' dining experience. There comes a point where so much attention may be given to an unhappy customer that other, previously happy, customers notice they are being neglected in favor of staff fawning over a complainer. If this had been our first visit to that particular restaurant I think it might have negatively affected a decision to return there. There's something to be said for giving more attention to happy customers now and then, rather than sending in the troops to grease the squeaky wheel all the time. It's a good idea to have the manager stop by the non-complaining tables now and then, just to be sure everything is going well and that happy customers stay happy.

posted at: 08:31 | category: /Food | link to this entry

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