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Apr 4, 2007 03:17 PM

opinions on guest complaints (moved from Southwest)

I was at a quite well-reviewed, upscale Phoenix restaurant a few months ago sitting at the wine bar and I had a completely unimpressive soggy pizza and a tasteless, wilty $11 caesar salad. I wrote a very respectful guest comment (of course NOT looking for freebies but just a 'hey' the kitchen was cranking out some shoddy stuff) to the restaurant and as of now still have never received any word in reply...

here's the thread: what are some of your experiences/opinions/thoughts on upscale restaurants that answer/don't answer genuine, respectful guest complaints? (i'm not talking chili fingers...)

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  1. FYI--this is probably going to get moved to General Topics--

    Commander's Palace in New Orleans responded to our email about inattentive service by sending us a copy of their cookbook and an apology. They are a class act and I hope the reopened restaurant is doing well.

    1. We were at "a quite well-reviewed, upscale" New York restaurant known for its "authentic" Italian cuisine a while back. We had ordered some of the more unusual dishes and wines, discussed some of the ingredients, even discussed some food travel to Italy with the person who took the order (sort of a team manager-asst. captain). I had ordered a "whole, roast fish". When the dish came out, the head had been removed. I politely asked where the head was, since for presentation, and that there are some tasty morsels in the head as well as for the esthetics of presentation. I was told that "the average diner doesn't want to see the head, so we just automatically remove it". I don't mind being called "average"-don't have that kind of ego- but if you've been ordering all kinds of special things and discussing Italian cuisine in detail-would you do this? Especially in a place that prides itself on its authenticity. I politely expressed my disappointment, especially when the menu stated "whole fish". She gave me a "tough-luck" look, shrugged her shoulders and walked away. Otherwise the food was excellent, but the attitude was lousy. I composed what I thought was an extremely polite, respectful, non-complaining letter to the chef/owner about our experience and our disappointment. Again, I wasn't looking for anything-just perhaps to give them a heads-up about what is going on with the staff (no names were mentioned). Never heard from them; needless to say, we won't go back. There seem to be a few approaches in NY (and probably elsewhere)- some like Danny Meyer who takes every comment/complaint/suggestion/compliment seriously and tries to respond-they realize it's a competitive market and word of mouth is powerful. And others-apparently like the place we went to-that has favorable pr, good Zagat reviews, etc. and probably a bunch of favored regulars, so one malcontent once in awhile is probably ignored and written off. By the way, later that year, we were dining in a nice, but much simpler spot at the Jersey shore and again ordered whole roast fish. The server mentioned that some people like it that way and others don't want to see the head on. I told her how we wanted it and I thanked and praised her for her professionalism and told the manager on the way out. The restaurant was a byob and we left her the rest of the Oregon Pinot Noir we had besides the tip.

      1 Reply
      1. If you use the comment card in the check holder, I think your chances of getting a response are much lower than if you write a letter or email. The comment cards seem almost designed to be anonymous feedback.

        1 Reply
        1. re: babette feasts

          i think alot of those comment cards wind up in the trash, well before a manager would ever see it, especially if it's about poor service.

          an e-mail, phone call or polite word with the manager should do the trick. if you never hear back, never return. and tell your friends.

        2. If it were me in the situation you described, I would have asked to see the manager - if I were offered a freebie, I could choose whether or not to decline, but "look at this junk" is a lot more effective than a tale told days later.

          2 Replies
          1. re: wayne keyser

            Serving whole fish is a minefield.

            You wanted the entire fish. I lose my appetite if the fish comes to the table with the head on and there are at least two restaurants in NYC that I have never returned to because I was served fish with the head. (When I think there is a chance the fish will come with the head, I ask for it to be removed in advance, but was once denied this request so I ordered something else and never went back.)

            I think the poster who mentioned that the server asked when they took the order had been given the best approach.

            I think you would have had better luck complaining about the server's attitude than the fish head.

            1. re: Le Den

              Sorry if that wasn't clear- it wasn't about the fishhead per se- it was just an example of a diner's issue of any sort with a restaurant, be it the quality of the food, service, reservation policy, noise level, etc. It's about whether at the time or afterwards the restaurant is attentive and responsive to any of your concerns. Unfortunately, the place I went to did not have one of those comment cards.

          2. Please do not take this the wrong way but if you go to an "upscale" resto and order pizza and caesar salad and then write a letter, the resto is probably thinking "big deal", the guy is probably looking for a freebie. But you should have received a letter out of courtesy.

            Letters are a good means to give a full perspective on a bad experience, but why wait til then. If something is wrong during a meal, point it out to the server. If you get any attitude, excuse yourself from the table, approach the host(ess), maitre d' or the manager and have a quiet chat with him. Explain calmly what has transpired and he will 9 times out of 10 apologize and take care of it. If not the resto's a write-off anyways.

            Wrt the comment cards, I would venture that the server picks up the credit slip, take a look, good ones go to the manager and the bad ones go in the pocket.