Skip navigation

Don’t put guests in a no-win situation

Here’s a nasty problem that bit me in the butt again recently. I’m talking about a situation that I’m sure most customers would put at the top of a list of things that make them think twice about ever returning.

Here’s the scenario: I was out to dinner with seven other friends at one of the better, upscale restaurants in town. An eight-top can be unwieldy, but our server was confident and sharp. Drink orders were taken and drinks were properly delivered. Several appetizers for the table were ordered, arrived promptly, and passed. But here’s where the problem occurred. Later, our entrée orders were delivered and placed in front of the proper people . . . except one.

There we were, seven of us with our entrees placed before us and the eighth person in our group was left hanging. What happened to the eighth entrée? Our server was so on top of her game; I believe the kitchen dropped the ball. But it doesn’t matter who messed up.

What matters is how you handle this scenario, because now everybody at the table is uncomfortable. Will the eighth dish arrive in a minute? Was it ever fired? Those are the questions customers ask as the server scrambles to find answers. Those (customers) with manners won’t eat until everyone has their food. The one without food doesn’t want the others waiting while their food gets cold. In essence, everyone at the table has just been put in a no-win, stalemate situation. The solution is simple, in my opinion, but so many restaurants blow it.

When a mistake like this happens, have a go-to menu item (soup, a salad, an appetizer) ready to be delivered immediately. Once that item is placed in front of the customer, others at the table have been set free to eat without guilt. But that’s not what happened during this most recent incident. A mistake was made and the eighth diner’s food was never fired. And the restaurant never had a Plan B food item at the ready to save the day.

But that’s not all! The manager, following some weird concept of damage control, came over to the table and blamed the server for the mistake. What? Now, all of a sudden, we’ve been put in another uncomfortable position because our server has been thrown under the bus. I’m sure they don’t teach this tactic at Harvard Business School. Customers don’t give a damn whose fault it is. They want to be released from the awful situation they’ve been put in. Fix it! Don’t blame someone.

Inevitably, when a restaurant blows it this badly, the people with food eat and try to share some of their meal with the lone soul. By the time we were done eating, the eighth dish arrived horribly overdue. Now the eighth person was eating uncomfortably alone while the seven others tried their best to make the person feel okay. This is all so unnecessary.

Email me and tell me how you handle this  type of scenario and how you fix it.

Michael Sanson
E-mail me at [email protected]
Follow me on Twitter @MikeSansonRH

TAGS: Archive
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.