When Things Go Wrong... How to Deal With It

A recent bad experience at a local Seattle “gastropub” prompts this missive. As a result of a sincere and satisfactory response, the pub shall remain unnamed.

In a small, half-full, well-staffed short order house, a hamburger should not take 40 minutes from order to serving. Nor should two identical burgers on the same order arrive 10 minutes apart. Nor should they be cold on arrival. Nor, in that 40-minute span, should the server merely take the order and serve it, spending the intervening 38 minutes openly touch-flirting with a bar patron.

To his credit, the young manager (after being invited to confirm the coldness and check the POS record) did all the right things. He listened, and looked me in the eye. He did not dispute the indisputable. He agreed that the service Wahine and I received was unacceptable. He asked if he might be allowed to replace our orders on condition that he personally supervise their immediate firing. We accepted. And then he comped us our entire check.

Before the manager’s intercession, I was extremely angry, mostly because this was one of those slow-motion trainwrecks. Seated where I was, the line cooks, service counter, flirter and flirtee, and the status of other tables were in my unimpeded view. I saw what turned out to be our Refrigiburgers sitting there like marooned schoolkids who’d missed their bus. By the 40th minute, I was seething, loaded for bear.

But after the manager’s gracefulness, I was OK. In reflecting on it afterward, I concluded that many such situations can easily be defused and made right. Validating the patron, taking ownership of mistakes, sincerely apologizing and offering to make it right is such a simple skillset, yet I find it rare in even trained hospitality professionals. Sadly, it seems de rigeur that servers and managers remain defensive, even passive-agressive, and feel entitled to show (via eye-rolling, stomping off, etc.) exactly how wrong the patron is. When apologies are made, typically they come off as insincere. Whenever this happens, I complain. And having complained, I never return. In egregious cases, I spread the word.

In this case, all’s well that ends well. This should happen more often than it does.

Aloha,
Kaleo

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Great read! :clap:

Luckily I haven’t had any serious restaurant WTFs in a while now. The worst is when there is something wrong with the food and the manager/chef insists it’s fine. I was at a restaurant a while back and ordered the short rib. When it came out it was steaming like it had just come out of a volcano. The meat was destoyed, like a loose beef jerky. Called the manager over and he insisted that it’s how they make their short rib. Alrighty then.

Since the management handled the problem so graciously and thoroughly, I think you SHOULD name the place, and also let the owner know how professionally the manager acted.

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So my question then is this; Where was the manager during the 40 mins you sat waiting for your food? While the manager smoothed the situation by handling it correctly-AND- picking up the check, they were also co-negligent in letting the situation take place and not catching it in advance. Would you agree? If the manager was on the floor, observing service they would have caught you sitting there excessively and perhaps salvaged the situation prior to it getting to the point it did.

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Good question, one to which I don’t know the answer. I did not see the manager, but perhaps that was part of the problem.

However, by this logic, the general manager and owner may also be co-negligent, no?

Not really because you have no idea if they were working or even on the property at that time. All you know for sure is that this manager “had the floor”.

It’s one thing if my service is slow as you described and you seemed to have been aware and observed the environment rather well. The thing that would have me seething is going through what you did, knowing (you don’t mention if you saw the manager during your wait) there is a manager on the floor, yet he/she is too oblivious to realize I’m sitting 40min without my food.

My first words for the manager would have been; “Where the hell were you?” (Perhaps in different language but hey you said you were seething) the failures you describe include the manager too since ultimately they should have been aware of your prolonged wait and addresssed the problem further upstream.

Management rant over!!!

(FYI anyone can have a bad day, as the saying goes “shit happens” but I would give them another shot they did the 100% right thing)

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How were the re-fired burgers? Acceptable enough that you will give the restaurant another chance?

Hi, Parsnipity:

Yes, they were fine, and the fries were a piping hot testament to the manager breathing down everyone’s neck. I am planning to return.

Aloha,
Kaleo

I’ve my own story along those lines:

Ended up at a Cuban Bakery about 20 minutes from our house. Placed a large order for a bunch of goodies (desserts for a gathering that night). Watched everything get boxed up, we paid, grabbed the bag and headed to the next stop (for the rest of dinner).

Got home, unpacked the bags from the bakery and discovered…two boxes were missing! As in, we had no dessert for that evening - and it was about 1/2 hour before the place was to close and there was no way one of us could make it over and back before our guests were due.

I called the bakery and explained the situation; asked if I could get a chargeback on the credit card for the goods we were missing. The woman who answered put me on hold and then the manager picked up. He was incredibly apologetic…I repeated that I just wanted a chargeback, wasn’t upset, and that I knew things happen.

The manager asked me where I lived - I explained I was too far away to make it there before they closed and couldn’t get back in time to meet our guests. He clarified: he wanted my address so he could bring me the food!

Twenty-five minutes later he was walking down the driveway with the missing pastries - and a cash refund!

The pastries were somewhat disappointing; the customer service was exceptional. So a five star Yelp review, letter to the editor of a newspaper for that town, and another letter to the business owner, all praising the manager’s actions. (I did not include my feelings about the pastries in those missives.)

We’ll go back because of the service (but will order differently).

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Wow! That is really the definition of “above and beyond”… That kind of experience would absolutely have made a loyal client out of me as well

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold