Opinionated Abut Dining Survey

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March 13, 2005


marc dibiaso


Great story. Sounds similar to something on TV here in Sweden last week. It is a Swedish version of the Gordon Ramsey show where a famous Swedish chef, Melker Andersson, tries to help out restaurants that are having problems. He was at a "fancy" restaurant in a smaller city. The first night he sat down to eat with his wife and it was their anniversary. They are the ONLY guests on a Friday. As expected he complains about the food, its disgusting, the soup is too thick, the room is cold. The server is also the owner and basically never says "I'm sorry let me try to fix that". Instead always an excuse, some people like it thick, the temperature is turned up all the way. When Melker asks if he thinks one course tastes good the owner says "I wouldn't know I don't like fish". The owner is pissed off and thinks Melker is an arrogant asshole (which he is, but that's beside the point because he is a customer in your restaurant and someone YOU asked to come and try to help you get more than two covers on a Friday!)

Switch to next day. Melker tells the owner to sit down and be the guest and use the chance to get some revenge. Well, however the owner complains Melker handles it perfectly, "Soup is too thick" "no problem, I will ask the kitchen to thin it out", "Now it's too thin". "No problem, I will have them thicken it back a bit but not all the way". "It's too cold" "I will get you a blanket"

It was the perfect example of how to treat all guests, even the rude ones. But the owner learned nothing, his motto was still I will always tell the customer what I really think because it is not nice to lie. (this is a guy I would prefer to see as a politician not a restaurant owner).

One has to wonder where the service industry is going.

I had my own example today here in Sweden at none other than MacDonalds. I try to avoid this place like the plague especially since the last time they accused me of trying to steal a Sprite. I had told the server we had not gotten all 4 Sprites that we ordered (I was going back and forth from the counter to the table where I had 3 kids waiting). They said they had ABSOLUTELY given me all 4. I actually went back to the table twice to count and check my sanity. I finally got the 4th one but not without the young lady letting everyone else in waiting waiting know it was really my 5th one and I was stealing it.

That was 5 months ago. But recently my daughter had gotten a 7th birthday present from Ronald in the mail. A free happy meal, and she really wanted to go back. (they do know how to market). I give in and go with her and my 4 year old son since we had to do some errand on the highway anyways. A 1/4 pounder meal for me (55 Swedish crowns), and 2 Happy Meal at 25 crowns each, one to be paid for with my daughters free coupon.

The young lady puts it all into her register and says, 84 crowns please. Now, I don't have to take my pants and shoes off to count to 21. And for me, 55 + 25 + 25 - 25 = 80 not 84. I tell her kindly, "it should be 80, 55+25 since one meal is free" Her: no, I put it all in the computer correctly, its 84. Me: forget the computer how much is 55 + 25. Her: I'm sorry 84 is right. Me: Look at the menu behind you. 55 for a 1/4 pound meal and 25 for a Happy Meal. Her: we don't sell meals anymore. Me: Then why does the word MEAL with a price after it appear about 15 times on the menu up there behind you. (now she actually turns around to look at the menu. She studies it.)

Her: Sprite costs more than the cola that goes with the meals! (the menu is not wide enough to fit Cola, Cola Light, Fanta and Sprite so there is actually no price on the line with Fanta and Sprite, wonder why she did not think it was free?).

Me: You are joking. Miss why don't you just think for yourself for 2 seconds, ignore the 84 on your register and add up 55 and 25.(what I mean to say is Miss your IQ might be 84 but not the bill). Her: Can someone help me.

After 5 minutes and 5 people looking at the register and the menu and discussing this the only with that actually has some working synapses says, "hey you forget to take away the fries for the free meal". I finally get to pay my 80 crowns, feed the kids and on the way out tell my daughter, "If I ever agree to go to MacDonalds again please shoot me"

mikhail L

Tabla - Now i HAVE to go. Class act - that the way it should be. Too many times the rest. exp is ruined by the staffs inability to understand that the customer is their bread! i know - its NYC and they have more than they can handle..but what about professional respect..and isnt a repeat customer always good for buisness.. thats why i like small places that remeber you after a couple of times and make you feel special. thats what's going out is all about - if i just want good food i can go home - my wife is an excellent cook and extremely inventive - in 3 years i've never had the same thing twice. We go out to relax and that is where service comes in. for the money that they are asking (and making) i think we deserve better - more like the people at Tabla. Thanks for the article.

owen kotler

This is so typical of a Danny Meyer restaurant. No surprise there. I for one won't go to L'Impero. There are too many other good restaurants in NY.

Add L'Ecusson in Beaune, France to the list of restaurants people should avoid. My friend had reserved for a Saturday night, 29 Jan, during St Vincent Festival (20'000 people in Beaune) at 8:00. He recieved a very warm email reply confirming the reservation. When we arrived at 8:00 we were told by Madame that the restaurant was full (Nous sommes complet Monsieurs). We explained that we had a reservation. Nothing doing. She asked where the confirmation was. She actually wanted to see physical eveidence. We stated it that is was at the hotel and we would be happy (well not exactly happy) to go get it. Nothing doing. She ushered us out of the restaurant. We were fuming,as not only was our reservation not honored, but it was a Sat night at 8:00 during Festiavl St Vincent and it would have been impossible to get a table elsewhere. Luckily we had a connection with Le Chassagne in Chassagne Montrachet. We called and they "found" a table for us (they were completely booked). The service was perfect and the meal outstanding. Stephane Leger is doing very high quality food with great imagination. We had a great experience in the end and would certainly recommend Le Chassagne


At Least You Got To Eat There!

Reading your tale of two tables reminded me of my own experience last Christmas Day. My wife and I were visiting New York and had reserved a table at Jean-Georges, until then one of my favorite restaurants. The main dining room was booked up, so we were to eat at Nougatine, the more casual area adjacent to the flagship restaurant. We arrived on time and were shown to a table, which was right next to the busy passageway into the main dining room. There were a half-dozen open tables, at least two of which would have been swell, but we were told those were not available. We asked again for a different table and were told we could have none of the ones we were requesting. We then tried, briefly, to sit at the original table, which was noisy and uncomfortable. So we left, went across the street, and had a mediocre Indian meal at Sapphire. Merry Xmas! The next day, I visited Jean-Georges' Web site and sent the following note via e-mail to Dan Del Vecchio, described elsewhere as Jean-Georges' right-hand man:

>My wife and I live in the Chicago area. We're big fans of Jean-Georges's restaurants, including the flagship at Columbus Circle, where we've dined ten or twelve times over the years.

We were in New York for the holiday and, although I was unable to secure a booking at Jean-Georges, I did reserve a table at Nougatine. We arrived on time at 5:30 and, after a 10-minute wait, we were shown to a two-top.

Because my wife has some physical ailments that make it difficult for her to find comfortable seating, the designated table was not acceptable. We asked our hostess repeatedly to find us a better alternative and, although there were two or four two-tops nearby that would likely have worked for us, we were told we could not have any of them.

So, we gave the first table a try, but after a few minutes of discomfort, we unhappily elected to leave. As we departed, the maitre d' asked why we hadn't let the staff know that we were dissatisfied. Since we did, albeit in a civil but insistent manner, we were puzzled by this response.

But what really puzzled us was why your staff would allow loyal customers to depart when a simple solution was just a few feet away. When you have a moment, please let me know how this happened -- and if it will ever be safe for us to dine in one of Mr. Vongerichten's establishments again. >>

Of course, I never received a response, not surprising given the disinterest shown at the restaurant in honoring a customer's reasonable request. The upshot? I've been a huge J-G fan for years, but I'll never eat in one his establishments again and will actively dissuade others from doing so, too. We already had an opportunity to go to V, the steakhouse, and elected to eat elsewhere. And we'll be in Shanghai this summer, but will avoid J-G's property there, too. And so on. I just can't justify spending a large chunk of change on a dining experience -- yes, not just food, an experience -- when it's likely that I'll be treated with contempt.


A pet peeve of mine is when the customer takes 'the customer is always right' too far. I think you need to step back from the situation and think about what went on here. You failed to contact the restaurant before your meal to determine their BYOB policy, which is a fairly standard and courteous thing to do, and then you balked when they restaurant would not break their rules for you. Certainly, the restaurant could have curried some favour by bending a little to let you have the 2nd bottle, but it's up to them if they don't wish to. I find it outrageous when a guest like yourself becomes indignant when the restaurant won't bend policy to accommodate. I can only imagine that the restaurant is quite happy with your decision to never return.

Steve Plotnicki

I'm sorry I wasn't indignant about it, just unhappy and I told the restaurant as much in so many words. And I am within my rights to think that their policy is stupid, and to criticize them publicly for it. In my opinion, it should not be difficult for a restaurant to bend a stupid policy. If they take a different view, and they value their rules to such an extent that it makes their customers unhappy, they are entitled to their opinion about it the same way that I am entitled to mine. On the other hand, by not bending policy, the restaurant lost customers. Not only me, but a number of other people who have read this article have told me they have written the restaurant off. Whether the restaurant cares about that or not is not my concern. But what I do know is that you can't desposit the rules in the bank. But I guess in spite of that, some people value rules more than money, or happy customers.


After a fairly reasonable wait at noon Friday, I retrieved my order and sat in a lovely spot to indulge in two delicious double cheese burgers and a root beer float. Great stuff.

Another anecdote about Danny Meyer-style service: I ordered fries and noticed when I went to the pick-up window, no fries were on my check. I said to the girl shouting out names that I had ordered fries but they were not on the slip. She asked if I was charged for them. I said no, but I wanted them. "How can I get them without standing on that line?" I asked. "Give him an order," said the counter manager. That's making things right even though it cost them $2.88 for an order of fries.

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