I went out to dinner with my sister and brother-in-law in the Detroit area over the weekend at a moderately upscale restaurant she’d heard good things about.
After we were seated I opened my menu and noticed that it was stained. Not a good start to an evening where the tab would end up over $200. I had the feeling that this wasn’t going to be one of my better dining experiences. Unfortunately, this was an accurate prediction.
It took over 5 minutes for the apologetic bus boy to arrive with our water. Our waiter breezed by a few minutes later and said he’d be right with us. Five minutes later he showed up and took our drink order. Our drink order was switched. The restaurant wasn’t extremely busy. There were plenty of open tables and wait people but I had the sense our guy was just going through the motions.
When my brother-in-law ordered a Filet – medium, the waiter asked him how he’d like it cooked. When he brought our entrees (he couldn’t remember who ordered the medium steak) he said the wine was on ice and would be “right out.” We were about halfway through our dinner when the ice bucket arrived – empty. My crab raviolis had cooled by the time the wine arrived.
Sensing my growing annoyance, my dinner companions said that at least our waiter wasn’t rude. I might have been able to accept rudeness better than the service we received. The opposite of love isn’t hate – it’s indifference.
Although it was a Saturday night, I don’t believe the owners were present. If they were they weren’t spending any time on the floor. In either case unless they start being present they’ll be out of business in another year. Not because the food isn’t good – it was above average – but rather because service expectations for this type of restaurant are higher than those of a family style restaurant. The only thing exceptional about our dining experience was the chocolate tower of death dessert we shared. But by that time we were mired in mediocrity. Taken individually, my complaints are quite minor. But taken together and amplified by 2 table turns a night, you have a recipe for disaster.
Are you present in your business? Everyone on your staff has an “off day” but unless you’re on the floor interacting with customers you won’t see it and be able to correct the situation in a timely manner. Good service doesn’t generate word of mouth buzz. But all the advertising in the world won’t help you (in fact could significantly hurt you) if you aren’t at least meeting your customers’ expectations.