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Giving feedback to owners - your experiences and if you even bother anymore...

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I was at a casual BBQ place on the weekend close by... The CH thread had given it mediocre reviews but I decided to try it anyway.

The place had a mailbox that said "Comments and suggestions" on it so after my mediocre experience I decided I was going to leave some comments about why I wouldn't be rushing to come back. I asked the guy at the counter if they had any comment cards/pen and he grabbed me a piece of paper/pen. I went back to the counter I was sitting at and started writing out my comments. A few minutes later he was like "you writing a book over there? did you have a problem with the sandwich"? I told him I was giving some feedback and asked if he was the owner. He was so I told him I could tell him directly but I wanted to make sure my comments had gotten back to the owner.

The thing is he was not very receptive at all to my points. Instead of listening to me it felt like he was trying to argue/defend himself on all of the issues I brought up. There was another lady working there and she was more receptive and she said she appreciated the comments. I kept having to say that I was just giving him my opinion and that others might agree with me. He kept saying about no one has ever complained before and that people love his food. He was telling me about the customers in his area and how they all loved it. Then, he went on to blame ME for ordering the sliders vs. getting a normal sandwich. The bread was really dry and the sandwiches had hardly any meat on them (compared to the sample photo of them). It was a joke really how little meat was on them compared to the size of the bun.
Don't blame the customer for ordering something bad off the menu, remove it from the menu if the quality isn't there! They were distributing flyers too with the sliders promo on it. To give him credit, it originally was just for pork sliders and I asked if he was able to do it for beef too and he did one of beef/pork/chicken for me.

Anyone care to share experiences of how owners/staff have reacted to your comments about food/service. I told him that not everyone who has an issue will say something, they will likely just walk out and never come back again... or go on sites like this, yelp, urbanspoon, etc and post bad reviews.
I can see why people don't bother as this isn't the first time an owner has reacted defensively instead of taking in what I say and considering it.

(sorry if there is another thread on this, didn't find anything in my searches here).

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  1. If the owner reacts this way it is clear he is not a professional. A place like that is not worth going back to and leave it at that. The mark of a true professional is someone who listens, does not make excuses for the diner's experience but offers to make it better the next time, perhaps with a complimentary offer attached to the invite. This ensures that the restaurant has the chance to prove they can do better and the customer gets a second chance as well, perhaps at a discounted rate.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ttoommyy

      +1 to ttoommyy comments.

      We were asked to leave a restaurant once and were "banned for life" after the owner didn't like my response to his questions.

      We actually knew the owners (they were friends of friends) and I think he was expecting praise instead to my honest feedback. I was gentle with my observations but he just went bonkers. The restaurant closed within two months.

      Maybe the above experience should have "cured" me but it hasn't. I continue to provide feedback when asked by owners/managers. We have a few casual friends that own or manage restaurants we frequent so I assume they are truly want feedback or they wouldn't continue to ask me.

      1. re: cleobeach

        i have the same problem cleo, i think that if people ask me a question they really want to know what i think. You would think that years of experience to the contrary would have taught me something, but apparently im feedback-impaired in some way. (edited)

    2. After a few minutes of writing, I too might have inquired what you were writing and what problems you had. Then, it was in fact you who put the conversation on an antagonistic footing by demanding to know whether the employee, an agent of the restaurant and owner, was the owner, as if you would not deign to discuss the problems with your meal with mere hired help and that your comments must be communicated to the owner..

      To me it sounds like you went to the place to find problems and complain.

      1 Reply
      1. re: FrankJBN

        Asking if someone is the owner is not "demanding to know". When I asked for the comment card he didn't make any effort to ask me about my comments so I felt the best option was to write it down. Had he or someone else asked me to discuss with him the issues I would have as we ended up doing in the end.

        If I was a restaurant I would say "thanks for your feedback on the situation" but I don't see why you feel a need to attack me. I went to the place to have a good meal not find problems. I value my time/money.

      2. Well, clue one was the snarky comment about writing a book. Instead of getting into a conversation, you could have just handed him the comment and considered it done. People do not often react well to criticism in their face. Right, wrong - no matter. It invites snarly feelings on both sides. So. leave a comment and suggestion when you want to complain or help in the box for the low stress solution. Call or get in their face when you want to have it out.

        Eventually, when business slows they will either figure it out or fade away.

        1. I take the very cynical view that restaurants "welcome your feedback" more because they feel they should they should ask you for it, than they have any intention of taking the slightest notice of what you say.

          So, I rarely bother to comment even when asked by a server "how was everything". There is little point and we're both wasting our time. Occasionally I do respond, as recently:

          Server - "How was the tarte au citron?"

          Me - "Actually not very lemony"

          Server - "Yes, the chef knows that"

          Me - "Well, why the fu&k hasnt he done something about it, then?"

          (PS: I only actually thought the final remark)

          1. Sometimes the owners appreciate the comments, sometimes they don't. Some restaurant owners I've met can't take any criticism.

            I generally only make comments if it's a restaurant to which I would want to return or if I was extremely disappointed. Usually, if I don't like the food, I'll just leave it on the plate. If the server or owner asks why I didn't finish the order, I'll let them know.

            Sometimes, I'll email comments, if my visit was during the lunch or dinner rush, or if I didn't see the owner/manager.

            If the owner is rude or dismissive in reaction to my comments, I usually don't bother going back. If I take the time to email the owner about my experience, and he doesn't respond to my email, I usually won't bother going back.

            1. I had one very positive experience years ago....he owner wrote me a very nice letter (after seeing a post of mine on here) and gave me 12 ($100) gift certificates to his place and made several changes based on what I had said.

              Another time, I criticized a service issue and the owner sent me a scathing email insulting his competitors and my character.

              I recently went to a new BBQ place in town and the entire experience was awkward and the food was "meh". I've thought about sharing my thoughts but have not felt compelled to do so.

              1. Immediate feedback works best and almost always results in a good faith attempt to correct the problem. Days later, not so much.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Steve

                  So you complain during the meal, not afterwards on a comment card. I often battle with myself. "The bread is kinda dry, but should I complain?"

                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                    Some things are not worth complaining about, but when they are it is best to do it then and there - before you eat the whole thing!

                2. Having owned a little restaurant and knowing a few other owners past and present I'd say a lot of owners don't actually see their patrons as being very knowledgeable about food. I realize this isn't neccessarily so. When I received what I considered honest negative feedback I always took it seriously and did what I could to improve things. On the other other hand there were some 'professional complainers' who bitched about everything no matter what restaurant they went to. There was an old German lady who would make the rounds going to all the local restaurants. At the end of every meal she declare the meal was the worst she had ever had, (she always managed to gag back these horrible meals LOL). She'd complain about her bill, the service, the lights......you name. She'd stomp out declaring she would never return! Sure enough a few weeks later when she had done the same to all the other local resturants she'd be back scowling and demanding special treatment b/c she was a "regular customer". LOL
                  So there's a balance between dealing with sh** disturbers and the honest patrons trying to help. You just have to figure out who' who.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Puffin3

                    There is an elderly lady in my town who does the same thing. I would think it was the same person but mine isn't German.

                    She is rich, very rich and seems to love to scan for EVERYTHING. I have been acquainted with her through several boards and have seen her in action many times over the years.

                    It is rumored that she is denied service at several restaurants in the area. She recently started terrorizing a new-ish restaurant in town and the owner asked her to leave after he learned about her tricks. One the way out, she tired to steal two of his tablecloths because she was "cold"

                  2. I own a business (not a restaurant) and can tell you that I truly appreciate genuine feedback. It sounds like your were disappointed in the meal and were giving your honest opinion. You weren't mad, you weren't asking for a refund, you were just trying to help out. There are plenty of people that own businesses but aren't business people. This is in my opinion why so many small businesses fail in the first few years. It's great to have a desire and passion about something, it's something all together different applying that desire and passion to a profitable business model and dealing with the public.

                    1. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard, "No one else has complained" as the knee-jerk response to constructive criticism I have tried to pass on to a restaurant, I would be able to afford a very nice bottle of wine. Lots of people are in fact complaining, but not to the owner. To their dining companions, co-workers, friends and loved ones. I often feel I am banging my head against a brick wall to try and pass on any negative feedback. I wish it weren't like that, but it is. These are legitimate complaints, such as repeated delivery orders being wrong (missing entrees, special orders not handled, extra items not included) at so many restaurants I really think almost every place I dine needs a new expediter. When I complain, I make it clear I am not trying to get a free meal, I just want them to know what the problem is. But the feedback is rarely well received and likely almost never acted upon.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        As I said earlier, these types of places are run by people who are not at all professional. A true professional takes the criticism and acts on it in a positive way. Someone who knows there is a problem and balks when a customer voices that problem is someone who should not be in business.

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          Well, national award winning publications and other award giving places seem to think they are professional. I just think there are a lot of great chefs who are not great at the "owner" part of "chef-owner."

                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            Agreed. And they should not be in the front of the house, because they do not know how to act in a professional way. They should hire a manager.

                      2. If a restaurant experience is generally mediocre or bad, I usually won't bother complaining, because I figure there isn't much point. Either other people aren't bothered by the problems the way I and and the restaurant will do fine without me, or it will end up closing down quickly.

                        I will complain about individual problems that can or should be fixed on the spot - wrong orders, or really slow service, for example. And if a restaurant is generally good and has an issue that stands out, then I figure that it might do some good to comment on individual issues.