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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.