Periodically, during the COVID-19 lockdown, I received links from readers to bad restaurant reviews posted by oblivious people who couldn’t understand why they couldn’t meet their demanding expectations during quarantine. I weighed in on a few of them because they were so blatant that it was hard to believe that such completely egotistical people existed.
Things like, “They wouldn’t allow us to sit inside” (when it wasn’t allowed), “the chef himself wouldn’t cook me a special meal on Mother’s Day” ( when the restaurant was both extremely busy and extremely short-staffed) or “they didn’t accept our substitution request” (partly because they didn’t want to pay for it, and partly because the restaurant didn’t did not have the item they wanted to replace).
It was widely believed that posting a bad restaurant review during a pandemic was like kicking someone when they were down. And, for the most part, I agreed with that assessment.
But things are different now. Restaurants are at 100% capacity and, in many cases (with parking outside), at 150% or 200%. Staffing can be an issue, but it shouldn’t be the client’s issue.
So recently when I got a request to weigh in on a bad review, I looked at it a little differently, in part because the opening read like this, “We’ve been getting a bunch of these lately … “
The bulk of the complaints (eight of them, from different people at different times and from different regions) were that the portions were way too small for the price.
Every restaurant (and every restaurant employee) receives this random complaint, the outlier, complaints so strange they’re almost comical. But it’s different to receive the same complaint about the same thing over and over again.
A few years ago, a restaurant opened near my home. It was a very popular fine dining restaurant before it was sold to a new owner. This new owner opened a pizzeria that has struggled and struggled. One day I sat at the counter and ordered a “mini pizza” because they didn’t have any slices.
“People keep asking for them,” replied the waiter.
“Do you have any burgers?” A couple asked as they entered.
« Non. »
“We heard it was a great burger restaurant,” another couple said.
“We only do pizza. “
“Do you have it by slice?” “
« Non. »
No less than six conversations like this took place while I was sitting there. Finally, I asked about it.
“It’s ridiculous how many people ask for a burger,” replied the owner. “It happens at least a dozen times a day.
“Do you have a grill? ” I asked.
” Yes. “
“So why not make burgers too?” ” I asked.
He wiped his hands on his apron and uttered a phrase so deeply ignorant that I couldn’t believe he was in the hospitality industry in any capacity, let alone as an owner.
“I don’t care how many people ask for a burger,” he said. “It’s a pizzeria, and people have to learn it. “
Here is a clue. They didn’t learn that, and now, years later, that hamburger-turned-pizzeria is back to being a burger place – under different owners, mind you – and the irony is it’s doing better than ever. .
Sometimes in the restaurant business people get too insular. They stop looking at themselves objectively. And while the axiom “the customer is always right” is too often applied, in many cases “the customer is always wrong” is also applied.
People and businesses make mistakes or miscalculations – the way they handle these situations really defines who they are.
If your steak is overcooked, does the establishment accept responsibility and try to rectify it? Or do they want to discuss what the rare medium is? If this drink is too tangy for the customer’s taste, does the bartender say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” or does he try to fix it?
The same goes for menu requests. If two dozen people ask you to put spinach on the menu, guess what? It might be a good idea to put spinach on the menu. This is the essence of customer service. Plus, if you don’t, someone else will, and you probably won’t have to worry about it anymore.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• No Customers, No Business: How To Succeed In Business Rule # 1.
• Receiving a random complaint about a random thing is no reason to change everything. However, receiving the same complaint over and over may be a reason to change something.
• We cannot continue to blame things on COVID. Sooner or later we just have to take responsibility, both as consumers and as suppliers.
• Burgers and pizzas? Now there is an idea.
Jeff Burkhart is the author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars: The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender, Vol. I and II ”, the host of the Barfly podcast on iTunes and an award-winning bartender at a local restaurant. Follow him on jeffburkhart.net and contact him at [email protected]