A magazine and a restaurant have more in common than you think: high overhead, no margin for error, and, in this economy - both shrinking to nil. So, we do our best to report the good of what's going on and try to stay away from the doom and gloom.
That's why, only the most egregious of customer service gaffes make the final cut - and yes, please in the comments tell us whether you think my reaction was the right one.
The scenario: We've had guest in Park City from Switzerland for three weeks who's been jonesin' for sushi. And while my sushi boycott has been in effect for more than six months, on the eve of her leaving, it was time to give in.
The Pinebrook Oh Shuck's/Ahh Sushi was the chosen venue. Not just for its proximity to our home (one-beer's walking distance) but for its Wednesday Night Locals' Special (yes, we're on a budget and flash-frozen fish is flash-frozen fish) ...$3 nigiri, $3 single-item rolls and $4 Funky Charlie rolls (an unagi/tuna/avocado thing) with $3 domestic schooners (32 oz.) to wash it down.
The Giants game was on ESPN and we settled in for an evening of peanut shells and pool.
(Oh, O'Shucks how I loved thee: Seen here Billy Demong w/his hardware during the Locals' Special days)...
The restaurant, meantime, was empty but for a couple-a local bro-brah types at the bar and a family of four (two young-'uns) playing shuffleboard while mom and dad had a beer.
Our server greeted us, we ordered a couple schooners and asked to start with Sake nigiri plus a spicy tuna roll. Noticing we were pointing at the 'Local's Special' (sic) portion of the menu, he told us the offer was no longer valid.
The conversation went like this:
Server: "Um, sorry, we're not doing the Locals' Special anymore." Andrew: "Um, since when? Tonight?" Server: "It's been about two weeks." Andrew: "Well, I know you don't want to hear this - but we come here a lot, and, well, even if we just walked in for the first time, you handed us a menu with 'Wednesday Local's (sic) Special' on it." Server: "Sorry, we don't have it anymore. We're doing our happy hour special instead, which is pretty much the same thing." Andrew: "OK then, we'll have your happy hour special then: A couple Sake nigiri and a spicy tuna roll and I'm going to order some...." Server: "That expired at 6." (Andrew checks watch, it's 6:05). Andrew: "Look, I don't want to be a pain in the ass, but, again you gave us a menu with this option on it. You need to honor the option." Server: "Don't blame me, I just do what I'm told." Andrew: "Thanks. OK, can you get your manager over here?" Server: "Sure."
Now there's uncomfortableness. The server no longer wants to serve us and the table is feeling the bad vibes. This, restaurant managers of the world, is where you come over and make things better - generally:
Manager approaches: Manager: "Hi, do you have a question about the menu?" Andrew: "Yes, hi, I'm Andrew - thanks for coming over. ...Look, we're sorta regulars here and have enjoyed your Locals' Special before. We saw it on the menu tonight and were told we can't order it. Is that true?" Manager: "Yes." Andrew: "You understand it's on the menu. You need to honor what's on your menu." Manager: "We can't." Andrew: "So, I can't order anything off this menu? You're no longer serving food or beverages?" Manger: (Rolls eyes) "No, just everything on the top half. All our specials are no longer good. We ordered new menus. They should be here in two weeks." Andrew: "OK, but in the meantime you either have to honor what's on the menu, or cut that part off." Manger: "..." Andrew: "Tell you what, is there any way we can just order the Locals' Special that's here - on your menu - one last time with the understanding that next time, when we come in, we'll be seeing a different menu?" Manager: "No." Andrew: "Why not?" Manager: "It's not in the computer." Andrew: "Really?! That's your answer." Manager: "Yes." Andrew: "Let's try this one more time. I am the customer. You are the manager. You gave me a menu when I walked in. I ordered off it. You told me that I can't order the special on the menu. Now, I need to know what my options are. Is there anything you can do to make good on this portion of the menu that I'm reading off of but is no longer, according to you, valid?" Manger: "No." Andrew: "Could we get the happy hour special that ended five minutes ago?" Manger: "No." Andrew: "There's nothing you can do, no mountain you can move, to honor what's here or at least try to make good?" Manger: "No. Sorry. No." Andrew: "Great. Awesome. I know you don't want to hear this but I spent a number of years as a server/bartender and nothing like this ever happened on my side of the table or the side you're standing on." Manger: "Yeah, well - sorry." Andrew: "'K, fine. I have to get up and walk out and never come back then, you understand this." Manger: "Fine."
...And walk out we did.
So, O'Shucks. I get it. It was an isolated mistake. But you lost a customer in a bad economy. I know it's shoulder season and I know there are a million critical moments in a restaurant every day. It was a single bad decision and I'm just one customer. Perhaps this winter, when the crowds come and the new menu is in place, it'll be all good.
But, customer service is customer service, and it doesn't matter if someone is going to spend $15 or $500, if you're in a business where every dollar counts, you better make sure you've got people to count on.