Customer Service

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I have worked in restaurants since I was twelve, working various jobs and have learned what is important to customers when they enter a restaurant – the feeling that they are being taken care of and are important to that establishment.

This shouldn’t be a great revelation. I’m certainly not parting any wisdom upon anyone who also has worked in any aspect of the restaurant – from the cooks to the dishwashers to the barback to the waiters to the bartenders – the customer is what comes first, and –within reason- should be always attended properly. I’ve worked in greasy spoon diners, chain-restaurants, and family owned establishments. The mantra has always been the same.

I also think that by working in such a profession, it also gives me a different attitude when I am the customer. I rarely get upset with wait staff, especially if they are very busy. I usually don’t send back food to the kitchen, I will speak to the manager afterwards about it. I will always tip 20%, unless I got unsatisfactory service and will tip 15% (I don’t agree with 0% tip, everyone can have a bad night), and then speak to the manager or owner about it after my meal.

Some employees don’t care. They are just there, making the shift pay and expect their tip – instead of working for it. Some make honest to goodness mistakes, and they need to respond appropriately to correct the error.

Case in point is a local restaurant a few blocks my condo. I’m not going to call it out on my blog, but lets just say it is a Hoboken-owned business, with about 3-4 wait staff and about 20 tables inside and outside. They get very busy, especially for brunch, and often have people waiting outside for tables very often on the weekends.

I have been there for brunch about twelve times in the last four months. The wait staff are in their early 20’s and nice enough. The owner is a nice guy, I’ve chatted with him a few times. The food they have isn’t terribly expensive, it’s close to my home and I like what they serve.

The only problem I have had lately is that the service has been spotty. Most days I get there, I don’t have a major problem. But here’s what happened last week.

I got to the restaurant, and it was 80% full. No one was outside, and one of the waiters handed me a menu and told me I could sit anywhere. So I grabbed a paper, sat down, mulled over the menu for a moment, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

No one approached me. I watched other people get served. I watched the same waiter to told me to sit, talk to the table next to me for a good five minutes. I read my paper while this was going on, and thinking, “Surely someone will come up to me soon.”

No one did....read what happens next...

Perplexed, I thought about waving down a waiter or waitress. But I didn’t want to. It was already ten minutes, and I wasn’t upset, I was really in more of an “amused upset” state. So I decided just to see how long it would take them to notice me.

I sat some more, and finished my paper. Looked out the window a bit. Then the table next to me, a middle aged man and woman (older than me, HAH!), the people that the waiter had been talking to earlier, I asked, “How long have I been sitting here?”

The woman replied, “About 10...15 minutes I think.”, while the man nodded in agreement.

I shrugged back and said, “And they still haven’t even acknowledged that I’m here.”

The man’s mouth dropped open a bit, his eyebrows raised, with a slight look of shock, “What?”, he quietly said, “No, wait, we know the waiter...” and he started to get up.

I stopped him.

“Don’t worry about it. Lets have some fun with it. Lets see how long I can sit here until they notice me...”

I was fully prepared to sit at my table until the waiter noticed me.

Like I wrote, I could understand if the restaurant was extremely busy that I got overlooked. The restaurant wasn’t full. Also, for the record...

This wasn’t the first time this happened to me at this restaurant.

This was the THIRD time I have sat down and had to wave someone down in order for them to notice that I wanted to order. So it wasn’t just a one-time thing where, ok, the people there forgot about me. This was the third time in a few weeks where the same thing has happened.

After talking to the couple a bit, the man finally got up, even when I told him not to, and got the waiters attention. The waiter, a tall kid who looks like he is a 23 year old surfer, with scruffy sideburns and a mop of unkempt hair walked up to me.

“Hey man, sorry about that...”, he said reflexively.

“What happened?”, I jokingly chided, “I get no love here...?”

“Yea, no love.”, he mumbled, “Ready to order?”

Now, I just wasn’t “feelin’ it” at this moment.

Like I said, I was sitting there a good 15 minutes and I didn’t even get him to approach, the guy from the table did. I wasn’t really upset, just miffed. But his lack of any level of sorrow is what immediately turned my attitude from miffed to annoyed. Now *I* felt like the asshole.

I looked at the menu for a moment and then stood up, saying “Ya know what, forget it.”

He looked back an me with an expression of amused shock, “Really?!”, he said.

“Yep. I’m not hungry now.”, I replied back and walked out of the restaurant.

I didn’t make a major scene, except maybe for the couple who were next to me watching all this. I felt like I wanted to make a point. I didn’t want his half-assed “Oh, sorry...”, I sort of wanted that “Hey, I’m really sorry, I just completely forgot and it won’t happen again” kind of attitude. I’m not asking for an ass kissing. Just a bit of sincerity. He didn’t provide that, so why should I give the restaurant my business?

Now, normally, I’d just not go back to the restaurant with such service. But, sadly, the food is good, cheap and convenient for where I live.

I’m planning to speak to the owner about it, but haven’t done so yet. What my main issue will be is that they need to come up with a better system to make sure the waiters are communicating with each other. I can’t be the only guy this has happened to. It’s a shame because I really like everything about the restaurant except their attention to servicing the customer.

Do you think I was out of line or should have reacted differently?

4 Comments

Actually, the only part of this that surprised me is that you plan to go back to this restaurant. I'm sure you can find a place you like as well, somewhere near you in Hoboken. Do you really think you are going to change this place?

There is a restaurant in Fairhope that my friends love, but I only go there with groups. Just don't like the attitude, and I don't think the food is worth it. It's one of those snooty places that think they're the only choice in town, and, even though the waitstaff is usually well-meaning, I just get the feeling that they think they're doing you a favor to serve you at all. So I don't go there. Unless I have to.

After all, going out to eat should be a treat on some level.

All you did was go to the place expecting to enjoy a meal. They failed. Been a restaurant manager forever and you were not out of line. Always have guests who are being irate over nothing, but you had a legitimate complaint. I have this talk with my staff all the time. People go out with a certain expectation and its our job to meet or exceed it. I would absolutely want to hear from someone if they were not happy, especially if are in there that much. Regulars are what a restaurant needs to survive.

I'm guessing this is the restaurant that is directly across from where I used to live. That said, that place sucks on service. See the 411 reviews on it.

Not the least bit out of line. I would have been pretty upset if he reacted that way. Asking for sincerity should not be a problem.

Not being noticed is one of the most frustrating issues at a restaurant. Years ago I went to a Chevy's with a co-worker. They seated us and gave us chips. We talked for awhile, picked out dishes and even finished the plate in front of us. After a few more minutes we realized just how long we were sitting there waiting and just walked out. They were good chips, though!

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on August 28, 2007 12:29 AM.

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