A no-win situation

In the April issue, Editor Michael Sanson discussed a scenario in which only seven of eight customers received their entrees. Though this problem is not unusual, the restaurant in question totally mishandled the situation. What follows are excerpts from readers who reacted to the column.

Your column caught my attention as I was dealing with the same scenario just a few days ahead of your article. It was a six-top for lunch and the sixth entrée was never fired. It was the kitchen’s mistake, but it happens. Immediately my server delivered a soup du jour to the sixth person, and the guest seemed happy that she took the initiative. I followed shortly after and apologized for the inconvenience and assured the table that the sixth entrée would be served in minutes, as well as desserts for the whole table on the house. That was the moment where all the negative, uncomfortable feelings were forgotten and bright smiles and cheers came out! I created a simple chocolate ice cream, whipping cream and raspberry sauce dessert with fresh strawberry for the table and made it a lunch to remember.

Daniel Mrkic
Restaurant Manager
Hilton St. Louis Frontenac
St. Louis
Send out a simple Plan B cup of chowder or French onion soup, and wrap a to-go salad, a slice of prime rib, a potato and a veggie and comp the substitute charge for the dinner. If the customer is staying in a hotel just comp it. Mistakes happen. It’s all in how you compensate for it. There’s no time for blame. The time to strike is when the iron is hot and the customer is hungry.

James Quirk
New England Steak and Seafood
Mendon MA

Unfortunately these things do happen. The manager should find out what had happened, then apologize to the party and the guest. Be honest and explain to them that a mistake was made and that the order is being prepared as we speak.  Bring the guest a soup or salad, so he or she won’t be left out.

Francis Liong
Lamb’s Grill
Salt Lake City

Ultimately it doesn’t matter who gets the blame. The mistake and how we respond reflect on the restaurant. The guest doesn’t want to see professionals behave that way (blaming each other). As the chef at a sports bar, I have several at-the-ready items that I can produce at a moment’s notice. I do just what you suggest in the article: send out a “Plan B soup, chili or bruschetta.” This almost always eases any tension. The most important thing is to make sure the guest is happy with his or her experience. I also send a dessert to the table, and if they don’t want it for dine in, I send it home with them to go.

Scott Phillips
Executive Chef
Crabtree Tavern
Raleigh, NC

“My first customer intervention was about 10 years ago when a waiter told me that one of our guests in the dining room had just been bitten by a rat and would like to see a manager immediately.”
—from a restaurateur who asked not to be named