Saturday, July 30, 2011

I’m not a good Customer

I am an easygoing man but sometimes things bother me. They’ll sit in my stomach like a pit making it difficult for me to digest.

Six months ago my wife and I decided that we really wanted food from one of our favorite small local restaurants. I could almost taste the delicious sauce from my regular dish as we entered the half-empty restaurant. The hostess smiled at us and grabbed some menus.

“Do you have a reservation?” he asked.

Smiling back and looking across the 10 empty tables I replied, “No we don’t”

A startled look came across his face and he looked back across the restaurant and saw something different than I had.

“I’m sorry. I don’t think I can seat you tonight”

A couple tables had reservation signs on them complete with menus and table settings but the remaining empty tables were not yet reserved or set for expectant guests. I was confused and then angry. The hostess walked away offering nothing to console me. No offer to seat us at the bar. No explanation about how they had a huge amount of reservations for the evening. No suggestions on how to avoid this problem in the future. No real apologies. What about take out?

I left feeling that I had been brutally kicked out. We had never needed reservations before. I didn’t even know that they took reservations. This is a small local restaurant and the hostess is also the owner who lives just down the street from me. Now I felt stupid and hungry.  We got pizza instead.

It took me six months to get over it. Or maybe more appropriately it took six months for my desire for that fabulous sauce of theirs to become bigger than the pit created by my experience. We stopped again without a reservation and asked for a table. The scene was remarkably similar to our last visit. The restaurant was half empty. Only a few tables with reservation cards…

“Do you have a reservation?” the hostess asked.

Smiling back and looking across the 10 empty tables I replied, “No we don’t”

He quickly scanned the restaurant and nervously looked back at me.

“I can’t sit you outside”

“That’s OK” I replied, “We want to sit indoors”

We followed him to a table in the corner by the bar and he seated us. Our meal was fabulous and the conversation exceptional. It took us a little over an hour to eat and in that time ALL the reserved tables remained empty. ALL the empty tables remained empty. Two other couples came in during that time. One waited 15 minutes for a table to open up on the half empty patio. The other decided to eat at the bar. I’m not sure if that they made that choice voluntarily or because they were told that there were no tables available.

 I’m not a good customer. This is a good restaurant but they are doing something extremely stupid. They are not managing their tables or customers very well. A small restaurant like theirs needs 3 turns for every table. Taking reservations and committing that table to just one turn for the evening is costing them revenue. If I were a good customer I would tell them.

Instead I won’t go back for another six months. I’ll let this experience sit in my stomach. It will take it that long to digest and when asked for a great place to eat I won’t mention their name like I used to.

I hope you aren’t like me. I hope you are a good customer. Please be a good customer. If Mr. Subb does something stupid, please tell us.