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A Customer Doesn't Like His Order. What Do You Do?

A few months back, I wrote in this column about an experience I had when a menu order had been botched during a lunch with friends. I received tons of good advice from you on how to handle the mistake and keep a good customer. I got another letter recently from a reader who was seeking advice for an extreme variation of the problem just mentioned. Joe Guarise of Panini Beach Trattoria in the U.S. Virgin Islands says he's not sure how to deal with customers who say they do not like a dish they ordered, even though it was cooked and presented as intended.

“We serve regional Italian food and house specialty drinks, which are described on the menu,” he wrote. “Our servers are available to inform customers about specific ingredients and to answer questions. Sometimes I believe the customer can't read, or simply doesn't listen.”

So what do you do in this case? Do you excuse the customer from paying for a dish they do not like? Do you replace it and charge them for the second dish? Do you explain that the dish was prepared correctly and make the customer pay? Is your response based on how much they've eaten off the plate?

I'd love to hear how you handle this problem. Jot down your thoughts and email them to me.

That's a problem; here's an opportunity.
Forbes magazine calls it The Mommy Track, and what it's referring to is a trend in which younger mothers are attempting to create a more traditional family environment. The trend is being tracked by Christine Hayes and Carter Turrell of Find/SVP Marketing. Turrell told Forbes that recent generation of mothers grew up with “super-moms” and were likely latchkey kids. “They saw their mothers going crazy trying to do it all. This is a different group of women and they have different concerns and different ideas about what's important,” says Turrell.

What's important, apparently, is an emphasis on family. And marketers are responding with “ momcentric” campaigns that focus on nurturing while also keeping an eye on savings, convenience, health and nutrition. The folks at Find/SVP pointed to the Applebee's marketing campaign as an example of a company that is emphasizing family and convenience: “Eating good in the neighborhood.”

This trend may also suggest that the so-called comfort food trend may not have been solely a result of stress generated by a poor economy and a crazed political environment. Craving comfort food may be a response to a desire to have what super-moms did not have the time to provide (meatloaf, anyone?).

In the same vein, Tim Ryan, president of the Culinary Institute of America, recently reported at a British food conference (see Trendinista, page 34) that the fastest growing CIA program is pastry, and 75% of the enrollees are women. “Women are coming to dominate the pastry profession,” he said.

Is this, perhaps, another response to the supermom phenomenon? In any case, if your marketing campaign does not address a young mom's sense of nostalgia coupled with a modern-day need for convenience, perhaps it should.

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