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Oct 2, 2008 11:29 AM

Spring - TERRIBLE experience

I was visiting Chicago with my boyfriend and his mother two weeks ago and Spring had been recommended to me (among others) as a place to try. I liked what I saw on their menu, so I made a reservation for us.

We arrived promptly for our 8:15 pm reservation. We were told our table wasn't ready, but would be in a couple of minutes - which it was.

Our server arrived at our table to greet us and talked for a minute or so about the menu. Thing is, he really didn't say anything meaningful or informative - he threw out a popular buzzword or two like "seasonal" and "locally grown," then disappeared saying he would come back to us shortly to "talk more about the menu."

He eventually came back to the table (and did not have anything new to add about the menu, by the way, as there were no specials) and we put in our orders for appetizers and accompanying wines. We selected two appetizers to be shared among the three of us. We also put in the order for our mains at that point.

Our appetizers and wine arrived within normal time and we started eating. A few minutes later - about halfway through our apps - things took a sharp turn south. Much to our shock, out came a runner (not our waiter) with our main courses. We were not even through with our starters!! At this point we looked around confusingly and our waiter showed up. We saw whispering and general bungling between the server and runner. Next, our food, waiter and the runner disappeared. No one told us what was happening. For all we knew, our mains were lingering under a heat lamp in the kitchen - far from ideal at any place but all the more bothersome at this "caliber" of restaurant.

After we finished our apps, a guy in a suit came over to our table (he appeared to be a manager-type, but did not introduce himself). He asked us if we enjoyed our appetizers. The word “yes” was barely out of our mouths before he took our plates and quickly disappeared. There was no apology for the mains coming out so fast and NO COMMUNICATION as to what was going on with the rest of our meal.

For at least the next 20 minutes if not longer, NOT ONE PERSON came to our table to let us know what was going on or where our food was. Finally, we were able to flag down the guy in the suit - who, as it turns out, was the manager. We asked him if he knew what was happening and he told us that our mains were being re-made and that there had been a mix up. (Clearly). My boyfriend politely noted that it would have been nice if someone had communicated that to us earlier because no one had - to which the manager responded in about as rude a tone of voice as I've heard in a long time - "Honestly, most people don't care."

I was beyond stunned at this point, as were my dining companions. After another verbal exchange or two with the manager - who was still rude and barely gave us the most token of apologies - we decided to leave. Then, the manager condescendingly asked us if he could call us a taxi. No “what can we do to make this better” or “how can I help” – nothing.

I've dined a lot of places from total dives to Michelin star restaurants and have never - EVER - been treated this rudely. The whole experience would’ve been disappointing enough had it happened at an Olive Garden or a neighborhood greasy spoon, but at a place like Spring – unacceptable.

Suffice to state, I won't be back on my next visit.

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    1. re: Chargenda

      Yes, that's the right question. To be honest, if a restaurant mistakenly made the mains too soon, but took them away and remade them, I would not be the slightest bit upset. Should they have explained that they 'goofed' and were remaking the mains? Sure, that would have been the smart thing to do. But, if that was their only sin and the food was great who cares.

    2. I don't see anything rude about the restaurant's behavior -- or that of the manager or waiter. Someone made a mistake and they corrected it. Perhaps they could have told you more, but it's hardly worth getting your nose out of joint over it,.

      4 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        I agree. Spicygal I have to say it really sounds like an over reaction on your part, although granted none of us were there. However, they made a mistake and were in the process of fixing it when you confronted them after just 20 minutes between courses.

        1. re: forzagto

          20 minutes is a long time to have to wait between courses. the waiter should have at least apologized for the wait, if not for the bungling beforehand. not something that i would have gotten so upset about as to leave over, but i would have been unhappy as well. you are paying for the entire dining experience, not just the eats.

          1. re: basilb

            Sounds like an instance of poor communication, and communication is important to good customer service. That said, I agree that the restaurant got the fundamentals right: they realized their timing issue and corrected it quickly and properly (by cooking the mains from scratch, not reheating). To me this situation also sounds like an over reaction to a relatively minor problem. Judging by the style in which the original post is written, I wouldn't be surprised if the customer contributed to the breakdown in communication.

            1. re: basilb

              At a place like this, you *are* paying for the entire experience and for good customer service. And at least to me, the staff's ability to communicate with its diners is a big part of having a good experience, as is delivering a meaningful (even if you have to fake it a bit) apology if a mistake happens. It could be that I wasn't clear in my original post. It wasn't the mistake with the mains that sent us away, it was the way we were spoken to by the manager when we politely pointed out the lack of communication. Oh, and to answer a question posted above, the two appetizers we had were OK, but nothing to write home about. Our dinner the night before at Avec - another story entirely. It was fantastic in every respect.

        2. Quite frankly the over-reaction to this situation is stunning. The kitchen made a mistake and the runner brought over the entrees too quickly. The waiter saw what happened and intervened. Jfood would give major kudos to the waiter. Nice job. If that happened to jfood he couldn't care less why it happened but it was corrected so back to the food and the company.

          Next you finished your appetizers, someone inquired if you liked them and the plates were removed. OK this is exactly what should have transpired. Why should Mr Suit air his dirty laundry about the mistake on the entrees. It was taken care of. And you assumed the worst about the entrees and the heat lamps.

          Twenty minutes is the time jfood likes between courses at a good restaurant when out with friends and he can not remember anyone ever approaching the table to give any sort of explanation. So yet again the restaurant seems to have performed well. You flagged the manager and he told you exactly what you wanted to hear, the entrees were being remade, so the heat lamp scenario was now off the table. Again you should have been pleased. The restaurant did the right thing.

          One needed to be there to have a feel for the tone on the exchange between your boyfriend and the manager, but jfood would have thought the appropriate response to the manager's information on the fresh entrees would have been "thank you very much." From there the slope got slippery and no way to stop that downsliding train.

          Jfood thinks that the restaurant handled the situation very nicely up until the conversation between your boyfriend and the manager. And only those present can comment on the tone, the body language and all that stuff that goes into impressions.

          It's too bad it ended the way it did.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jfood

            The whole incident left so much room for interpretation, e.g. the tone of the manager's voice; that the food was being put under heat lamps; that the waiter was condescending; that the treatment was rude, etc.

            We humans sure do complicate life. It could have been a nice dinner briefly marred by a breakdown, but instead it's become a cause celebre aned a "TERRIBLE experience." What a shame.