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Gjelina's attitude [Moved from LA board]

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tartufo May 7, 2009 12:32 PM

Last week I had a reservation at Gjelina for a party of four. In the afternoon our friends had to cancel so I called to modify the reservation and was told NOT TO COME. They did not have a 2 top to seat us at and they wouldn't waste a four top on the two of us. I was stunned. Is this the new MO for trendy restaurants. No concern for goodwill here. Is this the new standard?

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  1. n
    namstermonster RE: tartufo May 7, 2009 12:36 PM

    wow... that's completely inexcusable. didU respond to that or didU just hang up?? i would've taken it to the manager at the least...

    1. JEN10 RE: tartufo May 7, 2009 12:37 PM

      That is insane in this economy. I would talk to someone about this, that is shameful behavior.

      1. Bob Brooks RE: tartufo May 7, 2009 01:13 PM

        If it's a hot restaurant they probably had a waiting list or at least knew they could fill the table with another foursome. In this economy you don't waist a fourtop on a deuce.

        34 Replies
        1. re: Bob Brooks
          b
          Brussels Sprout RE: Bob Brooks May 7, 2009 01:26 PM

          I would waste a fourtop on gaining good return clientele and avoiding bad Reviews on Chowhound.

          Treating customers right is never a "waste" and is always financially beneficial.

          1. re: Brussels Sprout
            Bob Brooks RE: Brussels Sprout May 7, 2009 01:41 PM

            The OP did not say that they were treated rudely. They canceled a reservation for four and then asked for a table for two. They were told that a table for two was not available. That's the reality of what happened. The restaurant certainly doesn't deserve bad press for wanting to sell as many covers as it can.

            1. re: Bob Brooks
              Porthos RE: Bob Brooks May 7, 2009 02:00 PM

              No. The OP called to modify a 4 top and change it to a 2 top. That's not the same as cancelling and trying to rebook a 2. Even the hottest restaurants and most high end restaurants by NY standards will allow that. The reason is that you can rearrange the seating and split a 4 top and create 2 , 2 tops.

              I have always been allowed to downsize a party be it Babbo or Bazaar, Jean-Georges, or Providence. This is truly the first time I've heard of this happening.

              1. re: Porthos
                Bob Brooks RE: Porthos May 7, 2009 02:29 PM

                I haven't been to Gjelina, so I don't know how their 4 tops are configured. But I'm willing to bet that if their 4 tops were made ot 2 tops pushed together, this post would never have occurred.

                1. re: Bob Brooks
                  Phurstluv RE: Bob Brooks May 7, 2009 03:39 PM

                  Gotta say, I can see it from both points. The OP may just as well cancelled their first res and ask for the same time but for two, and if the restaurant had a waiting list, which is possible for busy weekend evenings, they would have to honor that next res waiting for that 4 top. As BBrooks says "In this economy you don't waste 4 tops on a deuce."

                  Maybe if you were running it, BSprout, that you wouldn't chance a bad review or poor front of the house service to a possibly returning client, but the management obviously feels it has the right to do so.

                  And front of the house service is what makes high end NY restaurants & like Babbo or Bazaar, & J-G stand head & shoulders above the likes of a restaurant like Gjelina.

                  Been there twice in the early days, and had fine service both times, with a party of 2 at one point & party of 3 at the other. But have to say been reading more of press like this sort of event, not very long ago.

                  But also have to agree that the host/mgr that answered the call should have gently reminded & encouraged the OP that they can come in at the same time and wait for two seats at the communal table, unless of course, those were sold seats too. Basically, sounds like poor judgment on the mgr/front.

                2. re: Porthos
                  Dommy RE: Porthos May 7, 2009 03:43 PM

                  Exactly... I can't imagine this has be a 'horrible' inconvience to them either as this probably happens often... I know I can't the only person with flakey "LA" friends... :PP

                  --Dommy!

                  1. re: Dommy
                    Bob Brooks RE: Dommy May 7, 2009 04:09 PM

                    What you describe as a "horrible" inconvenience to the restaurant is nothing like that at all. It is a party that made a deal to bring four covers to the restaurant in exchange for being given a table for 4. When the party changes its end of the deal and only wants to bring 2 covers, but still expects to use a table for 4, that's asking the restaurant to give up 2 covers that night (assuming, of course, that the restaurant could otherwise have filled them). I'm not familiar with Gjelina's menu, but that probably would translate to somewhere north of $150.00, n'est ce pas?

                    In a perfect world every restaurant would accommodate every customer's every whim without hesitation. And, sure, it's easy to be glib about public relations and good will, but customers have to understand that restaurants have to look at the bottom line.

                    1. re: Bob Brooks
                      Porthos RE: Bob Brooks May 7, 2009 04:45 PM

                      Spin it however you want. It is well known that if unsure, you make reservations for more rather than less and until now, that if you have fewer, you call as a courtesy to adjust the party size. As stated before, the OP could have just shown up. However, given advanced warning, even the most crowded restaurants with much higher price points are willing and able to accomodate patrons.

                      Gjelina's move is amateurish and there's no excuse for that. By that token, they should not allow parties of 3 because they'll take up a 4 top. According to your logic, perfectly understandable since they need to fill every cover.

                      1. re: Porthos
                        Bob Brooks RE: Porthos May 7, 2009 05:12 PM

                        If I ran a busy restaurant that I knew I could fill every night (while it's still in its "hot phase") I would not take a reservation for 3 if I were certain I would get a request for a table for 4 instead. That's business, and that's also the way it happens in the real world. Fortunately for us diners, there aren't that many restaurants who have that luxury in these difficult times.

                        1. re: Porthos
                          b
                          bibi rose RE: Porthos May 8, 2009 02:38 PM

                          >>It is well known that if unsure, you make reservations for more rather than less and until now, that if you have fewer, you call as a courtesy to adjust the party size. >>

                          Well known according to whom? And does this authority give any limit? Like is it OK to reserve for 6 and downsize to 2, and call ahead merely as a courtesy? What about downsizing from 8 to 4? I don't have a problem with attempting to downsize, but you are in effect asking for a whole new reservation, last minute.

                          I'd like to know exactly what was said in this case. If it was anything like the poster reported, they blew it big time. I still don't understand the assumption that a restaurant should always be able to downsize a party just like that on a busy night. Most places I go to could not split a four-top in two, at least not without a fuss.

                    2. re: Porthos
                      j
                      joshekg RE: Porthos May 7, 2009 04:59 PM

                      I had the same thing happen to me at The French Laundry - they refused my request to downsize from 4 to 2. I always wondered what would have happened had I not called and just shown up.

                      1. re: joshekg
                        Bob Brooks RE: joshekg May 7, 2009 05:43 PM

                        Knowing, of course, that the FL is the most coveted reservation in the US, there are plenty of people willing to jump on any cancellation at the last possible moment.

                        I am also aware that the FL has very few two-tops, which is why it is so difficult to get a reservation as a single couple.

                        So, if you had just shown up as a couple instead of a foursome it certainly would have been your bad. However, from all I've ever heard about the FL, they would never have said a word and treated you like royalty.

                        1. re: joshekg
                          Phurstluv RE: joshekg May 7, 2009 05:47 PM

                          Which proves Brooks' point once again. A place like TFL is definitely right to refuse that reservation - at that price level you just take what you can get and find a fourth! I bet if you did show up, they would've acomodated you, but again they were within their right not to.

                          1. re: Phurstluv
                            j
                            joshekg RE: Phurstluv May 7, 2009 07:29 PM

                            I wasn't trying to suggest that it was not within their right and I didn't take it negatively when it happened. I of course hoped that they would be gracious but I understand that if they were to do so as policy it would mean giving up serious $.

                            As a side note, I did attempt to find 2 people to join by posting on here, but the CH police deleted the posts as soon as they were up.

                      2. re: Bob Brooks
                        b
                        Brussels Sprout RE: Bob Brooks May 7, 2009 03:33 PM

                        Read again, the OP did not call to cancel, the OP was doing a favor and letting them know the reservation needed to be "modified" as two people couldn't come. That is being a responsible person. The table was still reserved-they had reserved it. The restaruant, rather than do what many have and honor the reservation, told them not to come, and essentialy said in so many words "we throw away our prior agreement of a reservation" or "you are not as important to us now," That, to me, is RUDE.

                        I suppose to have kept the table, the OP could have just been rude and NOT informed the restaurant-just shown up and have two people missing. They were, essentialy, treated with bad customer care because they chose to be considerate and polite.

                        That is not the way to earn repeat customers. Two people returning over and over because they were treated as if they mattered means repeat business, repeat business is the mainstay of keeping anyplace open. Happy customers also give good reviews, and lead to more customers.

                        It was rude,unfair, and bad practice. They should at least have been offered a gift certificate, reservation at another time/date, or the chance to keep thier table.

                        1. re: Brussels Sprout
                          n
                          Nicole RE: Brussels Sprout May 7, 2009 04:13 PM

                          Well said. I agree completely. It's like they were punished for being considerate enough to call and inform the restaurant of the change! Very rude.

                          1. re: Brussels Sprout
                            Bob Brooks RE: Brussels Sprout May 7, 2009 04:14 PM

                            You can spin this any way you like, but they made a deal to occupy a table for 4 and then they wanted to get out of it. If the restaurant could not accommodate their revised request for different seating options. Tough buttons!

                            1. re: Bob Brooks
                              b
                              Brussels Sprout RE: Bob Brooks May 8, 2009 12:15 PM

                              Bob, this is the service industry, not Wall Street. "Greed" is not the watchword. "Service" is. Restaurants are supposed to cater to the needs of customers, not the other way around.

                              1. re: Brussels Sprout
                                invinotheresverde RE: Brussels Sprout May 8, 2009 08:36 PM

                                A restaurant is a business. It's there to make money. "Service" is no more the watchword in a restaurant than it is for any other company. It's this crazy "the customer is always right" mentality that's the reason many odd policies are in place at restaurants to begin with!

                                Not every guest and every restaurant are a good match. If you don't like the policies of a restaurant, simply don't go there. A restaurant isn't going to change their policy because Brussels Sprout doesn't like it, no matter how much he/she thinks they should (A giftcard? Really?).

                                You don't like the restaurant's policy and they don't like whiners. Make a clean break; it'll be a win-win for everybody.

                                1. re: invinotheresverde
                                  b
                                  Brussels Sprout RE: invinotheresverde May 11, 2009 08:08 AM

                                  "The customer is always right" should probably be repalced with "Happy Customers pay our bills and paychecks".

                                  I never have to whine. IS it the policy to cancel reservaitions if people don't show up and the customers are polite and mention it ahead of time?> Would the table have been canceled if they ahd just shown up?

                                  Maybe it is, but just because it is a policy, doesn't mean it is a good one. Restaurants change policies, of course they do. If it isn't working and is driving away customers (happey customers = $$$) then the policy is changed. Especially if it is a silly one.

                                  Buisinesses don't make money if they continue to upset or drive away customers.

                                  1. re: Brussels Sprout
                                    alanbarnes RE: Brussels Sprout May 11, 2009 08:20 AM

                                    "happey customers = $$$"

                                    See, that's where you're wrong. If you sell spectacular food for less than it costs to serve it, you'll have very happy customers, but no money. And if a customer is going to be upset and/or driven away because a business refuses to accommodate a demand that the owner / manager deems unreasonable, that's a customer the business doesn't need.

                                    Of course, the business shouldn't be unreasonable, either. But if there's an honest difference of opinion as to what's reasonable and what's not, it's probably better for everyone concerned that the customer take his or her trade elsewhere. Not every business wants its customer base to include everybody with a pulse.

                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                      b
                                      Brussels Sprout RE: alanbarnes May 11, 2009 09:05 AM

                                      Had the OP been allowed to come and eat, there would have been a profit on the food ordered. I am not saying to undercharge, just to honor a reservation for a dinner out and earn a repeat customer.

                                      I have unfortunately had to call ahead and reduce a reservation size more than once (thank you flakey brother in law), each time at a reputable spot with foodie cache. Never have I been told that my reservation was being taken away. NEVER. In fact, I've never even heard of such a thing happening!

                                      1. re: Brussels Sprout
                                        alanbarnes RE: Brussels Sprout May 11, 2009 09:34 AM

                                        Well, you've heard of it here. Not just Gjelina, but TFL and presumably other places.

                                        A restaurant doesn't have an obligation to let a couple take up a four-top. If there's a waiting list to fill the table, the management has to balance the likelihood of greater revenue against the possibility of alienating a potential future customer.

                                        In the OP's shoes, I would hope that the restaurant would allow me to reduce the size of my party. And you're right - most restaurants will. But there's a big difference between requesting (or even expecting) that courtesy and getting one's panties in a twist when it's not extended.

                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                          Porthos RE: alanbarnes May 11, 2009 10:10 AM

                                          Let's be frank here.

                                          1. Gjelina is no TFL.

                                          2. You would be pretty upset if this happened to you because it is NOT the norm in the restaurant industry. I find it hard to believe that those defending this practice have never downsized and would have been "just fine" with the restaurant cancelling their reservation entirely.

                                          3. Finally, just to be clear, I do NOT believe the customer is always right. I find it absurd when people complain about waiting at a restaurant known for long waits, or music being too loud at a restaurant known for loud music, or those that expect being comped for anything less than perfection in their eyes.

                                          Gjelina's practice is obviously not an accommodating one. However, the point is taken that as long as Gjelina continues to do well, they can treat their customer however they want. It's what the customer will bear.

                                          1. re: Porthos
                                            Servorg RE: Porthos May 11, 2009 10:42 AM

                                            It's a pretty short sighted response on the restaurants part. Dining patrons are not dependent on one place for their gustatory pleasure in the LA area like they might be in a small town / middle of nowhere situation. Gjelina is hot now. Later they will cool. They have probably permanently lost at least two patrons and very probably four - who obviously will not be recommending it to their friends. You can win the battle (from the restaurants perspective) and lose the war. Probably not what you want to do if you are trying to keep and build on your customer base (especially in the current economy).

                                            1. re: Servorg
                                              n
                                              Nicole RE: Servorg May 11, 2009 12:09 PM

                                              Porthos and Servorg make good points. I find it interesting that most of us L.A. locals disagree with the restaurant's position, and the opposition is largely coming from outside the L.A. board. I think this reflects a couple of things:
                                              1) This policy is unheard of in the local dining scene.
                                              2) We understand how pretentious it is for this particular restaurant to have this policy. As Porthos wrote, Gjelina is no TFL. It is a casual local restaurant that happens to be trendy at the moment...there's no award-winning chef at the helm, and it's not even what I would consider a special occasion place.
                                              So yes, if TFL had this policy I think most of us would understand it. But that is an exceptional circumstance, and not applicable to 99.9% of restaurants. In sum, I'm guessing the naysayers don't have a good understanding of the local dining scene here and how this particular restaurant fits into it.

                                    2. re: Brussels Sprout
                                      westsidegal RE: Brussels Sprout May 26, 2009 03:35 PM

                                      this restaurant's capacity is so inadequate to the demand for it's terrific food, that they can afford to drive away half of their potential customers and still be fulll every night.

                                      personally, there are a couple of restaurants that i no longer frequent because i didn't feel valued by the front of the house. those restaurants serve excellent food, though, and are still being booked to capacity years later.

                                      empirically, i'm not seeing any evidence that gjelina will be hurt by this type of behavior short term or long term.

                                      must completely agree with Bob Brooks

                              2. re: Brussels Sprout
                                j
                                jdwdeville RE: Brussels Sprout May 7, 2009 05:16 PM

                                I'm with Bob Brooks on this one. Gjelina's call is not "amateurish", it's the only possible response of a packed-house restaurant that has sold every duece in the house. when your party failed to show, should the restaurant have bumped a duece that had gone through the reservation process in equal good faith, and had kept up their end of the agreement?
                                otherwise, they could've gone with the policy in effect at many high end NYC and San Fran places and charged a no-show fee for those empty seats.
                                but i suspect that would've gone the same post and the same response.

                                1. re: jdwdeville
                                  Porthos RE: jdwdeville May 7, 2009 06:36 PM

                                  No show fees only apply if the entire party does not show. Not if there are fewer numbers in your party.

                                  1. re: Porthos
                                    invinotheresverde RE: Porthos May 8, 2009 06:04 AM

                                    Oh, that's DEFINITELY not true. The not-to-be-named restaurant I worked at charged a fee if fewer guests showed up

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde
                                      Porthos RE: invinotheresverde May 8, 2009 07:20 AM

                                      Name the restaurant. If it's their policy, there's no need to be descrete.

                                      1. re: Porthos
                                        invinotheresverde RE: Porthos May 8, 2009 11:42 AM

                                        No, I don't work there any longer. They're not hard to find.

                                2. re: Brussels Sprout
                                  Bob Brooks RE: Brussels Sprout May 8, 2009 02:59 PM

                                  That rude, greedy restaurateurs who mistreat their customers might ultimately develop a bad reputation that could lead to the demise of their business is a concept so obvious I can't believe anyone would need to post about it.

                                  Here, the OP never said their treatment was "rude". I would expect the restaurant to have been as gracious and apologetic as possible in explaining their inability to accomodate a last minute request for a different reservation from the one that was originally made. Although I think expecting a gift certificate from the restaurant is plain ridiculous.

                                  The point again, and this will be my last discussion on this topic, is that restaurants cannot afford to grant every diner's request. And restaurant goers should stop acting like spoiled children who think they're always supposed to get whatever they want whenever they want it.

                                  1. re: Brussels Sprout
                                    alanbarnes RE: Brussels Sprout May 10, 2009 10:58 AM

                                    Where do you draw the line? If a restaurant is too noisy for my taste, can I book the entire place, then show up with just my sweetie for a nice quiet romantic evening? Of course not. Can I reserve a large banquet room, then show up with a couple of friends? Not a chance.

                                    The restaurant and the customers had a deal - the customers would bring four diners, and the restaurant would hold four places. If the customer wants to change the deal, the restaurant has the right to accept or reject the proposed change. And if the OP had just shown up with two people missing, the restaurant would have been within its rights to refuse to seat them.

                                    Yes, a restaurant should make every reasonable effort to accommodate its patrons. But the key word is reasonable. And especially when there are other customers waiting for the same table, it's not necessarily unreasonable to insist that the customers live up to their end of the bargain and bring the number of diners they promised.

                            2. j
                              JE33 RE: tartufo May 7, 2009 02:00 PM

                              even if there were no two-tops available, i'm puzzled that they would instruct you not to come at all when they have that communal table that is first come first served...you could always have just waited your turn and eaten there...

                              1. m
                                melangeinc RE: tartufo May 7, 2009 02:02 PM

                                It would of been interesting if you had just showed up and said you were only 2. They would have seated you. You certainly should not of been penalized for your adjustment. Terrible customer service

                                1. s
                                  smartie RE: tartufo May 7, 2009 07:51 PM

                                  well I still think it is poor behaviour on the part of the restaurant.

                                  A four top could not order apps, order the cheapest things on the menu and drink tap water - check for 4 $100.
                                  A two top could order 3 courses, high end prices, a bottle of fantastic top end wine - check for 2 $300, great review, great recommendations etc etc.
                                  Now the OP has slated the restaurant, we have all heard about it.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: smartie
                                    l
                                    Lizard RE: smartie May 8, 2009 01:56 AM

                                    I don't know.

                                    1. How poor is the restaurant behaviour? I have an odd suspicion that the host did not use phrases like 'waste a four-top' but possibly did explain that the new information created a problem in seating and reservations and that perhaps with this new situation, the desire could not be accommodated.

                                    2. Mismanaged is another story. From what LA-residents say, it appears that this couple could have been seated at the communal table and that the host should have offered this as an option, combined with an intention of the restaurant to seat them close to arrival, to help allay the disappointment of the lost reservation.

                                    Moreover, more and more I see people in positions that demand organisational thinking, but who lack it themselves. Remember those LSAT/GRE questions about seating? I wonder if restaurant hosts shouldn't take these themselves...

                                    That said, I don't think this post will be sufficient in taking down this restaurant. Until we hear an accumulation of stories of genuine rudeness and mismanagement, I suspect that this single post will need to be taken as just that: a single experience among many. No offence to the OP whose pain I feel.

                                    1. re: smartie
                                      Bob Brooks RE: smartie May 8, 2009 07:52 AM

                                      I don't see how this is a valid point. Every restaurant has to deal with differing eating patterns among its clientele. That's a normal part of the mix. In this case, however, we know exactly what two empty chairs will order. Nothing.

                                      1. re: Bob Brooks
                                        b
                                        Brussels Sprout RE: Bob Brooks May 8, 2009 12:25 PM

                                        As it was, the two who didn't call orederd nothing, as did the two who were "cancelled" And those people will probably NEVER order from there, as will possibly people who they tell about this. Also, the OP will never consider booking events or taking other guests there. Hundreds of dollars of portential future business gone, all because of poor customer service.

                                        1. re: Brussels Sprout
                                          westsidegal RE: Brussels Sprout May 26, 2009 03:44 PM

                                          let's see: "possible" business gone compared to money in hand today.
                                          i'll relinquish the possible business every time.

                                          there is plenty of empirical evidence that the food quality served at gjelina will draw in customers despite a number of other drawbacks. i plan to be one of those customers.

                                          if i need a restaurant that is accommodating and flexible, i will go to cafe del rey where i will be served fine food and be treated like royalty. if i want exceptional food, i will go to gjelina.

                                    2. jfood RE: tartufo May 8, 2009 04:30 PM

                                      Let's see all of the items we have going on here:

                                      - No good deed goes unpunished
                                      - The customer owns the table not the number of seats
                                      - The restaurant is there to fill every seat
                                      - The restaurant is a service buisness to maximize profits
                                      - The was a contract for 4 people
                                      - The first reservation was cancelled and a second was denied
                                      - The first reservation was modified
                                      - The restaurant should accomodate all changes to reservations
                                      - The restaurant was rude
                                      - Just show up with less and take the table
                                      - If a customer shows up without a full party they will/won't be seated

                                      Oh the tangled web we weave when change is met with resistance.

                                      Depending on your position you can use any of the above to justify your position.

                                      Here is where jfood stands.

                                      What the OP did was very considerate, it was not that they booked more than they thought would attend and then arrive with less. It was a legitimate change of numbers. The restaurant should have accomodated the change from 4 to 2. Whether the restaurant is "hot" or not, basic service business models need to allow for the gray area. One cannot maximize number of seats and number of courses for every night and seat. Not everyone will order the $25 foie, the $52 steak and the dessert with the $1,000 bottle of Chateau Whatever. If that is the desire, try another field, maybe a commodity business.

                                      There are numerous of sub-questions posed here, but jfood would hope the number change is not SOP for customers and inflexibility is not SOP for restaurants.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jfood
                                        l
                                        lemons RE: jfood May 10, 2009 10:07 AM

                                        As usual, the well-thought-out voice of reason from jfood. Arrogance in restaurants is annoying, especially when it's in response to customers trying to be helpful. They have as much right to refuse you if they are willing to bear the consequences. And in this case, it's telling the world. Quite appropriate; I'd do the same.

                                      2. b
                                        Bite Me RE: tartufo May 8, 2009 10:16 PM

                                        I'd be surprised by this too. I always call to modify or cancel reservations - fortunately, never had this response.

                                        1. l
                                          lrhr RE: tartufo May 14, 2009 10:00 AM

                                          On my first visit to Providence we had a reservation for 6. The morning of the reservation, one in the party came down ill so he and his wife were out. We called Providence to explain and they offered to reduce us to four or to five (if the wife decided to come) and when we stated we wanted to all dine together changed the reservation to the next friday night. This was during the busy holiday season and pre-recession. The food and service while we were there didn't hurt, but it was the sort of customer service that contributed to Providence becoming our go-to splurge spot.

                                          1. jmckee RE: tartufo May 19, 2009 06:37 AM

                                            Wow. As the manager of an independent bookstore where I worked years ago repeatedly said upon hearing yet another customer's horror story of Waldenbooks saying they couldnt' get something that was eminently gettable: "Wow. It must be nice to be able to afford to turn business away."

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