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RESTAURANT and DINING HORROR STORIES

Authored By: Jim O'Donnell

Most people, at one time or another, have had an unpleasant dining experience. They may have been treated badly by the host/hostess, wait staff, or even the restaurant manager or they may have had difficulty with their reservation, table location, or inferior food preparation. When something like this happens, the customer may never complain, but they will silently resolve never to patronize that restaurant again. More importantly, they will probably tell many of their friends and relatives about their negative experience.

Described on the next several pages are a number of "Restaurant and Dining Horror Stories". These situations have actually happened and reflect the operational failings of many restaurants. These unpleasant experiences happen in many restaurants, of all sizes, individually owned or franchise owned, upscale, take-out, or deli style and in many towns and cities all over the world. Fortunately, there are many lessons that Restaurant Owner's can learn through the mistakes of other restaurateurs as described in the following vignettes. Read them carefully and learn the lessons contained therein.

A chilling night! After reading a raving review for a new restaurant in Concord, NH, I made reservations for 5 people approximately two weeks prior to our visit. We arrived promptly and were told we had to wait to be seated. About 15-20 minutes later we were seated in front of the entrance where the door opened directly onto the street, and it was a cold night. I requested better seating and was abruptly told there was nothing else available. We decided to try to make the best of it and stayed (after all, the food was supposed to be fantastic!).

Our waitress waited for us to be seated and quickly asked for our drink order. One member of the party asked for iced tea and was informed she'd have to brew the tea and bring a glass of ice. The rest of us asked for a minute to review the wine list. Water was poured and off she went. We did not see our waitress again for more than 30 minutes. After being in the restaurant for about an hour, we had only water on the table. At this point we decided that the restaurant was not going to come close to the reviews that I had read and requested our coats to leave. My friend commented to the hostess (who is the owner) that they needed to work out some of the kinks and they must be just having a bad night. The hostess very rudely said that we must be the ones having a bad night. But to top it all off, she turned to us and told us she'd get the check for the iced tea!!! I guess she was right about our having a bad night because we did not enjoy her rudeness or her restaurant. And we DID NOT PAY FOR THE ICED TEA!!!
Lesson: I think the biggest lesson is that no matter what is going on in your restaurant you need to make your diners feel welcome and happy. If she had only said I'm sorry for the long wait...how about a drink on the house? I bet we would have stayed and spent our money and come away with positive feelings instead of telling everyone we know that we would not enter the restaurant again!
S. Bouchard, Pembroke, NH

WOW! This stuff is potent! I ordered a salad with the house dressing, which turned out to be honey mustard. Not long after starting to eat the salad, I began to wheeze and cough. Apparently, there was a bit too much mustard in the dressing, a fact that I brought to the server's attention as soon as he deigned to re-appear. I drank all the water in my glass to ease the wheezing and coughing. The wheezing finally stopped, but the coughing continued. The server asked if I wanted more water, I nodded yes, and he turned and left. When he came back to refill my water glass, I was still coughing, but not as much as earlier. The server remained silent and unaware. Once again, he turned and left. The coughing finally abated, but the server's careless manner was disappointing. I felt that at least he should have offered to bring another salad with a less toxic dressing.
Lesson: Managers need to train their wait staff to be more observant and attentive in addition to giving the staff the authority to provide compensatory services or replacement servings for diners who may be dissatisfied with some aspect of their dining experience. The wait staff also needs to be aware of potential safety problems with choking or coughing. Indifference and lack of attention will not encourage a diner to return.
W. Evans, Natick, MA

Third time never fails . . . or, does it? We had three very poor experiences at a new upscale restaurant in Portsmouth, NH. When it first opened, we tried it on a popular night and discovered they were having a private function. While we found this strange, we found it stranger to have one of the employees practically snarl at us that they were having a private function and we were not allowed in, instead of "Sorry, this is a private function, however, we would love to have you come back on another night". Second experience; we were greeted with apathy, made to wait in the middle of the floor, surrounded by diners (not even invited to the bar) and seated by a very rude hostess (different one than the night of the private function). The wait staff was indifferent and while we were able to enjoy each others company, there was no ambiance whatsoever. Third time; we went with some friends and were seated with a little more flair for customer care. However, we found the food to be mediocre and very much over-priced.
Lesson: They could easily have posted a sign on the entrance door to announce the private function or they could have invited us back another night. They could also train their staff to be friendlier and more attentive.
L. Altman, North Hampton, NH

Editor's Note: This story is personally disturbing to me as I helped the owner develop his business plan and secure financing to start the restaurant. Likewise, I also frequented this restaurant and found the food to be both overpriced and scarce. The primary focus seems to be on "presentation" and not substance.

The mystery of the Tardy Server: A group of us were working late in Boston one evening, and decided to go out for our evening meal at around 9:00 PM. The restaurant was less than half full, and after a twelve-minute wait, our server finally seated us. Two in our group ordered appetizers. The first appetizer arrived precisely thirty-four minutes later. I mentioned this to the server, who replied in a cheerful tone, "Has it been that long?" We were too hungry to argue. In approximately ten minutes, the rest of the orders arrived, but we all agreed the wait was far too long. Since the restaurant is part of a well-known national chain, I went to their web site and found the name and contact information of the district manager. I wrote a letter explaining what happened and gave all the details I could remember. Three days later, the district manager called to apologize and ask a few questions. He could not offer a reason for the delay, but he did apologize and also sent fifty dollars worth of coupons.
Lesson: The wait staff needs to be more attentive and offer an immediate apology when things go wrong, even if it is beyond their control. If the customer still appears to be dissatisfied, then summon a manger to make things right for the diner face-to-face. The District Manager acted in the best interests of the restaurant by giving us coupons as an incentive to try the restaurant again, hopefully resulting in a better dining experience the next time.
W. Evans, Natick, MA

Editor's Note: I find that it always pays to bring poor service or an indifferent attitude on the part of a server to the attention of a manager. Usually the problem is resolved satisfactorily. If you don't express your concerns, the owner/manager can only assume their patrons are satisfied and they will never have the opportunity to improve their operations or the quality of their service.


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251 is NOT the winning number this time! We went for dinner one night at a popular, moderately expensive restaurant in Saugus, MA before going dancing. We told the hostess we were only interested in a light dinner. She informed us that the lounge served light fare and promptly seated us there. We ordered cocktails, a few small dishes to share, and estimated the amount of food we ordered equaled a full meal. Our waitress came over and asked us what we would like for dinner and we explained that we were not going to be ordering any more food. She then had what I can only describe as a temper tantrum. She asked us if we were sure that we were not going to be ordering dinner. We assured her that we were not. She then went to another server and was screaming (almost shrieking) that we were not ordering dinner. She came to our table again a few minutes later and asked us a third time if we were sure that we did not want to order dinner. When we said that we had not changed our mind, she literally stomped off. Our bill was delivered by another server. It is the only time that we have ever left less than a 15% tip. We sat at our table for no longer than an hour, which we feel is a reasonable amount of time for our $60 bill. Needless to say, we have not been back to that restaurant since and have not forgotten that she was server 251.
Lesson: The wait staff should never display anger or displeasure. Patrons should be never be made to feel as though they haven't purchased enough food or have wasted the server's time, especially when the proper expectations were established at the beginning of the experience. Additionally, staff members who witness inappropriate behavior on the part of a fellow staff member, should intervene and apologize, or, alternatively, notify the shift manager.
J. Bartlett, Lynn, MA

It would have been better if we hadn't found a parking spot! A friend and I stopped at a popular national chain restaurant one afternoon. We had a lot of difficulty finding a parking spot as the parking lot was shared with several other businesses. We finally entered the lobby and found it empty. We could hear employees in the back joking and gossiping, but nobody was working the front desk. We stood there for quite a while and one employee even walked by and completely ignored us. We then started looking for ways to get attention. There wasn't a bell to ring for service so we began to raise our voices. No luck. My friend took out his keys and began banging them on a metal pipe hoping that the clanging noise would attract someone. No response. I knocked on the wooden entrance desk, and, still, no luck.

Eventually an employee came near by, looked at us, and then continued to clean a table, but did not acknowledge that we were there. I walked over to her and asked if we could be seated. She apologized, said it was her first day, that it wasn't her job, but she would try and help us. She took us over to a messy table with half eaten plates of food and we hovered over her as she cleaned it. We then sat down and were given menus... she admitted that she didn't know the days specials, but would find out for us. We already knew what we wanted because we had seen the specials on a board as we were waiting in the front entrance. Upon returning, she began to recite specials that were entirely different from those posted on the board. I ordered the special burger dinner that was advertised on a big sign out front. My friend said he would have the same thing and he ordered a beer. The waitress then looked back at me and said, "What will you be having for a main course"? What? I had just ordered the special dinner. She said sorry and bolted off before I could even order a drink or an appetizer. From that point on things were fine, the food was good, I eventually got my drink, and the waitress checked on us several times.

As we were getting ready to go the manager came to our table and asked us how the waitress was doing on her first day. He was a big guy, was leaning over the table, and was a little intimidating. With the intimidating manager hunched over our table, both of us smiled, said she was fine and walked out the door. Even though she didn't know what she was doing at least she was trying to work while all the other employees were busy joking around. We won't go back there.
Lesson: Eliminate the "It's not my job" attitude. Every employee can be trained that the "Customer is No. 1". All employees can acknowledge a customer, thank them for patronizing the restaurant, and tell the customer they will immediately find someone to help them, even if it isn't their primary job task. If a manager is truly interested in feedback regarding an employee, their demeanor should be inviting and encouraging, not intimidating. Additionally, this manager should not have allowed his employees to be joking and gossiping in the back room, customers should never overhear this. Someone should always be present at the front desk.
D. O'Donnell, Portsmouth, NH

Don't "Waite" on me! A few years back I was meeting clients for Sunday brunch in an upscale restaurant on Boston's famed Newbury Street. I inquired at the hostess desk as to how long it would take for a party of four to be seated. The gum-smacking young woman replied, "About 30 minutes... your name?" I responded with my last name "Waite." She looked at me with obvious annoyance and said "About 30 minutes...Name?" I said "Waite" again. With increased ire in her voice she said "Look lady, you keep this up and it's going to be 45 minutes."
Lesson: Keep your sense of humor.
P. Waite, Cambridge, MA

The invisible woman! In any given week, I eat anywhere from 5 to 15 meals in restaurants -- occasionally more. I would love to see the quality of service go up -- especially for the "old lady eating alone" crowd. I frequently find going into a restaurant by myself makes me all but invisible. I could be a spy for the FBI! There are times I feel lucky to have my order taken, lucky to get my food, lucky to get the "is everything OK" check and lucky to get the check itself on a timely basis. Perhaps this is also true for other variations on the lone diner -- but my only disguise is that of an old lady, so I would not know. I have noticed that service is generally better when I am eating with someone else.
Lesson: This is a common problem for diners eating alone, especially business travelers. Perhaps wait staff could ask if you are in a hurry or would like to dine leisurely, and then serve you as requested.
J. Grubb, Boston, MA

Editors Note: When I am dining alone, I generally bring a book to read and also inform both the hostess and the wait staff I would like to be served ASAP. A friend suggested the interesting idea of having the host/hostess ask the lone diner if they would like the company of another lone diner. This creates an opportunity for networking and to meet some new people.

Patience is the Word-of-the-day! My husband and I walked into a new (country) restaurant. Not having been there before, we couldn't tell if it was a cafeteria /stand in line style, a deli style, or a waiter service. There was an employee standing at the register who stood there and watched us scratch our heads in confusion without saying a word ... not even "good morning". It quickly became clear I would have to initiate conversation ... so I asked "how does it work here ... do we tell you what we want from the chalk board menu, or do we sit down and get a menu"? This person could not answer because his mouth was too full of morning muffins to speak. After he went through the numerous entertaining gyrations to indicate he couldn't speak because he was eating, I had to say "that's OK, could you nod to my questions"? He agreed to nod with a nod, and we learned it was OK to sit down.

We sat down, and after SEVERAL long minutes, the person finished his muffin (and a cup of coffee) and delivered our menu without mentioning the several listings on the colorful chalk board behind the register. I got up, and asked him if we could choose from the menu behind the register, and he nodded. We selected an option. The waiter returned, we placed our breakfast order, and asked for coffee, water, and because he already proved slow on the uptake ... we also asked for silverware.

The breakfast entrée was soon served, the waiter turned away so quickly we had to get up (again) to ask for something to drink, and, you guessed it ... silverware. Since breakfast was quickly getting cold, we dug in. Still, no coffee or water! Now, my husband got up begging for something to drink. We were served coffee and water after our breakfast. OK...I can go with the flow...but I really wanted one of the muffins they were known for. I stood at the bakery window long enough to celebrate Christmas, and eventually had to ask if I could please have a muffin...and would he just hand me the coffee pot so I could pour a hot cup of coffee to have with my longed for muffin. He didn't give me the pot...so I didn't get the second cup.

We waited so long for the check we literally double stacked our dirty dishes, pushed them aside, and sat with our coats on for several minutes before our credit card was even picked up. Do I really need to tell you how long it took to get the check? We left quietly with no good-bye...which made sense because we were still waiting for a hello. This place is close to home, the food great, and the atmosphere beautiful...we will not go back.
Lesson: Wait staff should have their breakfast before reporting to work. If providing food is part of an employee's benefit package, have the employee eat where they can't be seen by customers and have an alternative server or host during the eating period.
R. Comstock, Manchester, NH

Not a "peak" dining experience! My friend and I had just finished climbing The Grand, a 13,700 foot mountain peak in Teton National Park. We were overjoyed to have reached the summit and wanted to celebrate our efforts. We chose to dine at a well known restaurant with spectacular views overlooking the entire Teton mountain range. I ordered some fruit which was presented to me in a small glass bowl over ice. The first mouthful went down smoothly but the second left me with something harder than ice, but breakable in my mouth. Upon inspection of the offending object, I realized that it was a substantial piece of glass. Sorting through the ice at the bottom of my fruit dish revealed even more pieces of broken glass. What glass had I swallowed thinking it was ice? I excused myself to the restroom to assess the damage as my friend called the waitperson over to our table. Fortunately, my mouth was not cut but I was quite concerned that any glass I swallowed may perforate something while on the digestive highway.

Now, I'm not one to panic or over exaggerate the possibilities of something, after all...I had just completed this two day, grueling, roped climb, where death was a reasonable possibility if you made a bad decision and fell off one of the cliffs... but now here I was faced with the thought that I would have some sort of complication that could result in injury or remotely, death, from eating glass from a fruit cup! Who would think that dining could be considered an extreme sport?

My friend and I expected the restaurant manager to come rushing over with apologies and concern. We expected I would be required to see a doctor and optimistically we looked forward to the thought that our meal was probably going to be on the house at least. No one came to our table other than our waitperson who apologized and offered the excuse that "sometimes they break glasses when loading and unloading the dishwasher". In an act of unbelievable generosity, I was not charged for the fruit cup. Despite the fact that we were staying at the resort that owned the restaurant, we never received a follow up call to see how I was doing. However, they did ask me to sign a waiver of liability on checkout which only added insult to injury. I promptly declined. Luckily, whatever glass I swallowed didn't cause any problems but I was offended by the lack of acknowledgement and concern by the restaurant management. For the remainder of the trip I made a point to tell people I met about the neglectful treatment I received. Word of mouth can have quite an impact on reputation in a service business.
Lesson: Acknowledge safety issues immediately to ensure the safety of your patrons. Secondarily, to avoid possible law suits, and, thirdly, to minimize "word-of-mouth" damage to the restaurant's reputation.
L. Bryant, Hebron, ME

Happy Birthday! It was my birthday celebration, my choice of restaurant, and my girl friend footing the bill at a well-known restaurant in Portsmouth, NH. I have been to this restaurant many times as have a lot of our friends and NEVER has anyone had a bad meal. We arrive about 6:30 PM, are seated almost immediately, and order a cocktail. So far, so good! She ordered swordfish and a salad, and I ordered salmon and a clam chowder. Still good so far with the soup and salad! The main course arrives after a very long wait. My salmon and side dish are just fine and taste great as expected. My friend's swordfish ... it is still RAW! Or, at best semi cooked on the outside, but definitely raw on the inside.

I gained the attention of the waitress who asked what we needed and I said "a cooked meal". She said without feeling "Oh, I'll take it back and the cook can "nuke" it a little! And is the spinach to your liking (noticing that the spinach had been pushed off to the side.)?" "No", my friend said. "I am not a big one for green vegetables." The waitress said she would send it back and replace the spinach with something else. Twenty minutes pass ... I have stopped eating my salmon thinking my friend's swordfish would be back shortly. Now my salmon is cold and dry! The swordfish came back after being "nuked" with a serving of ASPARAGUS ... the last time I checked, asparagus was also a GREEN vegetable! Okay, I ate some of the asparagus ... it was good. The swordfish was now cooked for the most part, but tough as shoe leather. We explained to the waitress that it was still not right. She offered to have another meal from the menu prepared but we had enough as it was now almost 9:00 PM. "Well then would you like to see the dessert menu?!" Twice, no apology for the bad meal ... just on with the show! I told the waitress no thanks and asked for the check.

About 10-15 minutes later ... who is counting at this point ... it came, and the swordfish ... was still there on the bill. No attempt to say they would not charge for the meal or deduct the drinks or give us a coupon for another meal some other night ... just the bill for over a hundred dollars! I was astonished to say the least. I asked my girlfriend if she wanted me to say something ... I would have automatically if I was paying the bill ... but it was her option to say no, which she did and added ... "I will just pay the bill and never come back ... and further I will tell this story of poor service to anyone who mentions going to this restaurant to eat!" So she paid the bill, gave a minimal tip ... I probably would not have been so kind ... and we left! End of story. I have never been back ... but a lot of people have heard this story ... and my recommendation that Mickey D's might be a better choice! At least McDonald's will replace your meal if you are not satisfied.
Lesson: Always make it right for the customer before they leave the premises, and offer a "big" incentive for them to come back again for a better experience. Most diners understand that something can go wrong and they will be quite forgiving if there is an acknowledgement, an apology, or an incentive. Once they leave it is too late, and your restaurant will start developing a poor reputation. Managers should encourage wait staff to immediately bring any inconvenience, suggestion, or complaint to their attention in order to have an instant positive outcome for the customer.
M. Furness, Stratham, NH

Sail off into the sunset ... completely oblivious! This restaurant in Gloucester, MA, named after a type of sailing vessel, was one of my favorite restaurants. It had a cozy atmosphere, reasonable prices, good food and excellent service. Recently, a new owner assumed operations. Shortly after the management change, we made our reservations and were promptly seated in a booth (across from the hostess station). We sat there for more than 45 minutes while the staff ran around totally disorganized. Not one person came to our table to offer us a drink, apologize for the slow service, or just to say hi. We left, never to return!
Lesson: The new owner should have engaged in "management by wandering" to ensure the dining area was functioning smoothly - - this is especially critical during the early stages of new ownership. The staff needed training and should have been directly supervised until proven competent. Had the new owner been visible, this would have been obvious.
G. Johnson, Gloucester, MA


Restaurant Self-Assessment Checklist: Restaurant owners and managers can now conduct a thorough "Self-Assessment" of where their operations stand today, and then, based upon the results of this analysis, implement sound business strategies for accelerating growth, reducing unnecessary waste, and improving their profitability. This unique management tool features 1,329 tactics, strategies and action items for evaluating thirty different operational categories ranging from store image to customer service to operations management; all designed to bring your restaurant to the next level of growth and profitability. To see a more detailed description and sample pages of the checklist, then go to: Restaurant Checklist
Retail Price: $69.95


I wouldn't go there again even if it was free! There is a restaurant that we go to all the time -- let's call it restaurant A. We've been going there for 12 years and know the owner, the staff, the busboys, chef and dishwasher all by name. Our picture is hanging on the wall. You get it...

The owner's family has been in the restaurant business for generations. His sister and brother-in-law own a restaurant very close to where we live -- let's call that restaurant B. We decided to try restaurant B just for a little change. With my (soon-to-be) mother-in-law in tow, we went to B figuring it would be quite a memorable experience, especially given our relationship with A.

We made a reservation (something we never have to do at restaurant A) and showed up on time. One of our friends from restaurant A was working at B and saw us. He came over and chatted for a while, as we waited for our table... and waited ... and waited. About 25 minutes after our reservation time we were seated at our table. We figured that someone would be by soon and ask us for our drink order. So we waited... and waited... and waited... until I saw my friend walk by and flagged him down. He came by and we mentioned that we still hadn't ordered drinks. He apologized and got a waiter for us.

The waiter came by and asked us about water: flat or sparkling. We picked one and asked for the Wine List. Our friend remembered that we are particular about our wines and suggested we talk to the head waiter/wine steward. He came by and we chatted about our likes/dislikes and price range. We discussed our tastes and he said he'd bring us something special.

We finally ordered dinner and the wine came. The food was overcooked and disappointing. The wine was not special. It was even more disappointing than the food. Then the bill came. The "special wine" was $150. We were dumbfounded. But since this was the family of our friend, we paid without complaint and left vowing never to come back.

Sometime later, they sent us a VIP card that provides a 30% discount for any subsequent dining. Needless to say, we don't carry that card. It's probably in the Santa Monica landfill?
Epilogue: A few weeks later I was at restaurant A for lunch and was chatting with the owner. I "fessed up" to him that we had visited restaurant B and were disappointed. He said "no surprise there". As a matter of fact, he mentioned that he used to work at B years ago, and didn't agree with how they ran the place... which is why he started restaurant A. ... and that's why we go to restaurant A at least twice a week (without a discount card!!) and also why we will never again go to restaurant B (even if it was free!).
Lesson: Management policies and styles differ from restaurant to restaurant, which makes every dining experience unique. However, when service is poor or the price-value relationship is not in balance, not even a discount card would encourage us to return.
A. Alters, Santa Monica, CA

A picture is worth a thousand words ... even if it is deceptive! A long awaited vacation to the Cayman Islands finally happened. We checked into a five star hotel and hopped on the elevator to head for our room. And, there it was . . . the most beautiful picture of a Special Lobster and Shrimp Dinner that would absolutely make your mouth water. In living color, magnified 10 times, deliciously appealing, giant lobster tail, bountiful large shrimp, all you can eat, and all for only $39.95. It was an inviting, compelling advertisement that even a seafood-loving New Englander couldn't possibly resist. We were "hooked" and made our reservation.

The big evening finally arrived. Seaside dining, open air restaurant, beautiful sunset, perfect evening temperature, and soft glowing candles. Having had only a very light lunch in anticipation of "the feast", expectations were high (perhaps a little too high, especially for a hotel restaurant). After placing our order, we began to notice that not too many people had taken advantage of this fabulous offer. The second thing we noticed was that the background music was a little loud and irritating, but tolerable given the current atmosphere. Another couple sat a few tables away from us, and also placed their order. This couple was seated near a speaker and they asked the waitress if the music could be turned down a little. Over a 20 minute period this couple asked three times to have the music turned down to no avail. Finally, they requested a seating change which was accommodated. Please make note that this couple was seated for 20 minutes, handled their eating utensils, moved their plates around, were served drinks, and had used their napkins.

Dinner was finally served, and it became quickly apparent why so few diners were seated that evening. Obviously, they already knew what we were about to learn. The lobster was the skinniest, smallest, over-cooked, and driest piece of lobster I've ever seen and the shrimp were tiny, tasteless and scarce ... not even remotely close to resembling the picture in the elevator. It didn't take very long to eat the offering on our plate, so we decided to ask for a refill hoping the second serving would be better than the first, at least it couldn't be any worse. We were informed that "all you can eat" referred only to the shrimp and not the lobster. So much for "truth in advertising"! After a short wait, the second serving of shrimp arrived in an exceptionally small cup that housed only a few of the tiny shrimp. This clever strategy implemented by the restaurant owners was clearly designed to discourage diners from asking for additional refills. Needless to say we were quite annoyed with this experience, but after being angry, we just laughed at the circumstances vowing not to eat there again.

As we were about to leave, we noticed the waitress re-arranging the plates, eating utensils, and napkins at the same table where the couple who changed their seats had been seated. After rearranging this table, the waitress seated another couple there. We were disgusted with the lack of attention to hygiene. After a little more grumbling about our experience, we decided to make the best of a poor evening by joking about it.

The next day in the elevator I was abruptly confronted by the picture of "the feast", and instantly became annoyed that we were "ripped off" the night before. I wondered how many other visitors had been cheated by this deceitful and deceptive advertisement. Becoming even more annoyed, I decided I wouldn't let it end there and expressed my displeasure by writing a quick note to the hotel's general manager describing both the hygiene and truth-in-advertising issues. I didn't ask for any compensation of any sort, only for them to "appropriately address the problems". Upon returning from dinner that evening at a restaurant not on the hotel's property, we found that a bottle of wine, a fruit plate, cheese and crackers, and a note of apology had been delivered to our room. Additionally, we received a voice mail from the restaurant manager apologizing for the negative experience and inviting us to the Buccaneer's Feast on another night at no cost. He sounded genuine regarding the hygiene issue and stated it was unacceptable for this to have had happened. Additionally, he promised to change the Special Lobster and Shrimp Dinner to another product. We accepted the offer of another dining experience, not because we expected the food to be any better, but only because we were curious to see what would happen this time. The food and service were good that evening, but we never felt comfortable eating another meal at this hotel during our 8 day stay.
Epilogue: As I am writing this story now three months later my curiosity has gotten the best of me. I just called this hotel to inquire about the Special Lobster and Shrimp Dinner, and would you believe . . . they are still offering it! Apparently the management of this hotel is more interested in continuing to deceive unsuspecting tourists rather than offering real value. They are obviously disingenuous. I will now write a letter to this hotel's corporate office as well as make some internet postings. I am more annoyed today than I was the night of the meal!
Lesson: Truth in advertising is important. Over exaggeration only leaves the customer dissatisfied if the price-value relationship is not in balance. We spent a lot of money at other restaurants during our visit to the island; however, this restaurant could have earned more of our money by being truthful. More importantly, there is never any excuse for not removing plates, eating utensils, and napkins from any table where someone has been seated and replacing them with a clean setting. Additionally, if as a manager you tell someone that you believe the product you are offering is not up to par, then fix the product.
J. O'Donnell, Kingston, NH

A fish tale unlike any other: Same trip as described above to Grand Cayman Island. A co-worker had spent her honeymoon on the island and encouraged us to eat at a, not to be missed, beautiful and romantic outdoor oceanfront restaurant. She went so far as to sort through old souvenirs to find a matchbook with the restaurant's name on it to be sure we went to the right place. The only caveat she gave us was to be sure not "to sit by the bell". Evidently, at 9:00 PM every evening, a member of the restaurant staff would ring a ship's bell which is mounted on the side of the restaurant directly over the water and multitudes of Tarpon (fairly large fish) would appear to be fed the scraps from the kitchen. If you were unlucky enough to be sitting by the bell, your table would be in direct line of the feeding frenzy and you would have all the diners in the restaurant crowded around and leaning over your table to watch the show. We were forewarned.

When we arrived on Grand Cayman, we saw a lot of advertising for this restaurant, billing it as the most romantic restaurant on the island. Pictures showed a restaurant directly over the water, tables with white linen tablecloths, candles, torches on the railings, the sun setting over the ocean, and a harpist playing. We made our reservations. I saved my new sundress for this special dinner.

When we arrived we found the setting exactly as advertised, incredibly beautiful, the sun was setting, the candles were lit, the weather perfect. We were shown to our table and wouldn't you know it, the only ocean side table available was directly in front of the bell. Oh well, we knew what to expect, we would enjoy our dinner and be ready to leave around the time they rang the bell. We ordered a shrimp appetizer and began to eat. Meanwhile, a waiter came by and turned on a large floodlight very close to the bell and shining down into the water. He said, "Watch this! They come for the light!", and soon the water was teeming with tarpon just a few feet from our table. The show had started an hour early!

The Tarpon were interesting for all of five minutes until every other diner in the restaurant discovered them and hurried over to watch. For a very expensive restaurant billed as romantic, and at 8:00 PM in the evening there were an incredible number of families with small children having dinner, all of whom wanted to feed the fish. Within minutes, we were surrounded by children shrieking and throwing pieces of bread in the water, parents rushing over to save their children from falling into the water and admonishing them not to get too close to the edge, and calling over to others at their tables to get more bread. It soon became apparent that Tarpon are not fond of bread as there were now massive amounts of soggy bread floating in the water, yet bread continued to be thrown. The waiter arrived with our dinners and beamed at us as if this was the most wonderful thing in the world and then instead of taking away our plates containing appetizer scraps, he threw the scraps into the water and told us to do the same. Clearly, other diners were given the same instructions as shrimp tails, shells, and other table scraps came sailing through the air and into the water. Now the Tarpon were really worked up, leaping, splashing, thrashing, and fighting for the food. The crowd swelled. In the midst of all this chaos, the harpist arrived and to accommodate the children began playing "It's a small world" repeatedly. We hoped that things would die down and people would return to their tables, however as some people left, new diners arrived and we realized this would go on all night. We gobbled down our very mediocre food, paid our exorbitant bill and could not get out of there fast enough.
Lesson: Expensive restaurants billed as romantic are not for children in the evening hours and management should have set either an age or time limit. If feeding the Tarpon is a tourist event, it should be done at another part of the restaurant reserved for viewing the feeding, rather than having people crowd around diner's tables. Additionally, if an event is advertised for a specific time, then start it as advertised, not an hour early.
M. O'Donnell, Kingston, NH

FINAL THOUGHTS

From the stories above, one can easily see that poor service or indifference on the part of either the wait staff or the restaurant's manager is the primary reason for dissatisfaction. It is incumbent upon managers to properly train their staff that the "Customer is King" and when events happen that are beyond their control, they should immediately notify a manager to remedy the situation. Most consumers are quite reasonable, generally tolerant, and usually understand that not every dining experience will be exceptional. However, when mistakes are made and they are not acknowledged by either the wait staff or a manager, the consumer feels cheated, and not only will they never return to your restaurant again, they will tell everyone they know about their negative experience.


Restaurant Self-Assessment Checklist: Restaurant owners and managers can now conduct a thorough "Self-Assessment" of where their operations stand today, and then, based upon the results of this analysis, implement sound business strategies for accelerating growth, reducing unnecessary waste, and improving their profitability. This unique management tool features 1,329 tactics, strategies and action items for evaluating thirty different operational categories ranging from store image to customer service to operations management; all designed to bring your restaurant to the next level of growth and profitability. To see a more detailed description and sample pages of the checklist, then go to: Restaurant Checklist
Retail Price: $69.95


On a less serious note...

Famous (and not so famous) Quotes about Food and Dining!

(More food for thought and entertainment)

A Hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz.
Humphrey Bogart

Old people shouldn't eat health foods. They need all the preservatives they can get.
Robert Orben

What do snowmen eat for breakfast . . . snowflakes.
Unknown

Some things you have to do every day. Eating seven apples on Saturday night instead of one a day just isn't going to get the job done.
Jim Rohn

I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead - not sick, not wounded...dead.
Woody Allen

The next time you feel like complaining, remember that your garbage disposal probably eats better than 30 percent of the people in the world.
Robert Orben

This recipe is certainly silly. It says to separate two eggs, but it doesn't say how far to separate them.
Gracie Allen

Never eat more than you can lift.
Miss Piggy

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
Mark Twain

Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was.
Unknown

When women are depressed, they either eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It's a whole different way of thinking.
Elaine Boosler

Never trust a dog to watch your food.
Patrick, age 10, Advice from Kids

Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And, cooking done with care is an act of love.
Craig Clairborne

The rich would have to eat money if the poor did not provide food.
Russian proverb

Don't take a butcher's advice on how to cook meat. If he knew, he'd be a chef.
Andy Rooney

I've been on a constant diet for the last two decades. I've lost a total of 789 pounds. By all accounts, I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.
Erma Bombeck

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not.
Mark Twain

How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?
Charles De Gaulle

Some say the glass is half empty, some say the glass is half full, I say, are you going to drink that?
Lisa Claymen

There are four basic food groups, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate truffles.
Unknown

I told my doctor I get very tired when I go on a diet, so he gave me pep pills. Know what happened? I ate faster.
Joe E. Lewis

Other things are just food. But chocolate's chocolate.
Patrick Skene Catling

Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks.
Unknown

A smiling face is half the meal.
Latvian Proverb

In a restaurant, choose a table near a waiter.
Jewish Proverb

It all comes back to the basics. Serve customers the best tasting food at a good value in a clean comfortable restaurant, and they'll keep coming back.
Dave Thomas, Wendy's

I learned more from the one restaurant that didn't work than from all the one's that were successes.
Wolfgang Puch

A well run restaurant is like a winning baseball team. It makes the most of every crew member's talent and takes advantage of every split second opportunity to speed up service.
David Ogilvy

The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant. Every table had an argument going.
George Carlin

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
Aesop

News is like food, it is the cooking and serving that makes it acceptable, not the material itself.
Rose McCauley (English writer)

Too many people just eat to consume calories. Try dining for a change.
John Walters

Get to know the chef and you will start to enjoy dining out even more.
John Walters

One cannot think well, love well, and sleep well if one has not dined well.
Virginia Woolf

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.
Oscar Wilde

A good dinner sharpens wit, while it softens the heart.
John Doran

Food is an important part of a balanced diet.
Fran Lebowitz

There is no sincerer love than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw


Famous (and not so famous) Quotes about Customer Service!

(More food for thought and entertainment)


Well done is better than well said.
Benjamin Franklin

If we don't take care of our customers, someone else will.
Unknown

Customers don't expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.
Donald Porter

Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you onto the game. Service wins the game.
Tony Alessandro

The way to a customer's heart and wallet lies in how well we initially serve our customers and recover from poor service.
Unknown

Although your customers won't love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.
Unknown

The customer's story about you is crafted by your words and deeds.
Jeffrey Gitomer

One customer, well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.
Jim Rohn

Customer complaints are the schoolbooks from which we learn.
Unknown

There is only one boss. The customer! And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
Sam Walton

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.
Walt Disney

Treat every customer as if they sign your paycheck ... because they do.
Unknown

Restaurant Self-Assessment Checklist: Restaurant owners and managers can now conduct a thorough "Self-Assessment" of where their operations stand today, and then, based upon the results of this analysis, implement sound business strategies for accelerating growth, reducing unnecessary waste, and improving their profitability. This unique management tool features 1,329 tactics, strategies and action items for evaluating thirty different operational categories ranging from store image to customer service to operations management; all designed to bring your restaurant to the next level of growth and profitability. To see a more detailed description and sample pages of the checklist, then go to: Restaurant Checklist
Retail Price: $69.95


 

 

 
 
 
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