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horror stories...why not alert management?

I see a lot of "horror story" posts on this board, and my curiosity has the best of me. Why go home with a bad experience to report, or wait until the end of the meal to consult management? When I am dining out, If I receive a glass with a lipstick stain, for example, I immediately notify the staff. If I get a rude server, i immediately ask for management. Is this not the norm? Rather than have a bad night all together, why not address the problem as it occurs as opposed to writing a bad review after the fact. I worked many years as a fine dining manager, and would want to be notified of issues to I could rectify them right away. opinions??

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  1. Just because a person notifies a manager, about a complaint, doesn't necessarily mean it will be rectified or even considered.
    If I find I like a place and little problems happen here and there I'll either let it go or talk to someone about it.
    However, if it's a place I don't particularly care about, don't think I'll be back, then I'll leave the place without saying anything.
    The way I look at is this...the restaurant business is a difficult, time consuming venture. It's a venture that requires total hands-on, 24/7 attention. If the owner/management waits for the problems *they're creating*, to be addressed by customers then they're, obviously, not doing their job.
    Why should, I, the customer, be the one to notify them of 'issues' when it's their job to make sure my dining experience is excellent and I don't leave the business anything but totally blown away by the food and the experience?

    1. Well, one reason is that you don't want an already iffy evening to get worse. Another is that you don't want your fellow diners to be made uncomfortable. A third is that sometimes the manager doesn't see it your way, or give a crap in any case, so you wonder why you didn't remember Reason One. For what it's worth, I don't post negative reviews and always point out lipstick stains at the time (usually to rueful, not hard, feelings by all and a grin all around),

      1. A manager doesn't always solve the problem. Managers are not always around or make themselves unavailable.

        Sometimes, the manager IS the problem.

        1. Ooooh. Just want to say really good answers so far.

          Personally, I often feel like the wait person just won't care. And I hate to be a "squeaky wheel".

          I must say a good recent experience was at Pizzology in Indianapolis Indiana (of all places!).

          I felt the the waitress ~really wanted to know~ what we thought of our food. That went a long way with us.

          I think if chef/owners really and seriously want customer feedback they need a way to train the waitstaff so that that sentiment can be conveyed.

          1. The chance of angering someone who will be taking care of your food.

            1. Have you read Waiter Rant? Since reading the book we make two choices about immediate issues: say nothing or leave immediately. Say nothing if the issue won't harm us, leave if it will.

              1. Interesting, because I experienced this just the other night. DH and I decided to escape for NYE and found a deal at a package at a lodge at a National Park. Now, understand, we were there for the scenery and the isolation from the city...not for the food. So that might have affected our response to what happened. But thinking about it; we have eaten many times at that particular lodge, and although the food is never great its never awful either...and we never experienced service problems like we did NYE.

                It started with several dishes that were out and the waitress not knowing that they were out. OK, fine, but did you have to wait 15 minutes before telling us? Shouldn't the kitchen have told you right away if they were out of choices? And not to return immediately to allow us to re-choose is unacceptable imo. And then the wait between courses was really looonnnnggggg.....My husband was getting particularly nervous about it; which I found interesting as I am far more likely to be the complainer. He later confessed that he was worried they would return to tell him they were out of his fish dish; the only main on the special NYE menu he would eat (they did have a vegetarian ravioli dish but it was heavy on cheese, and DH is trying to avoid dairy..) Finally the mains showed: DH's fish was there (whew!) but instead of the ravioli which I had ordered there was a filet. I sent it back; DH is Hindu and I really don't like eating beef in front of him, especially on a special occasion. I should have kept the filet; when I finally did receive the ravioli it was stone cold and tasted like perhaps it had come straight from the freezer.

                So why didn't we complain more? Well, as I said, we weren't there for the food. And because of the package we received for our room, we weren't paying much for the meal. And we were full of New Year's Eve "cheer." I considered talking to the manager, but overheard a woman complaining long and hard to him about her meal experience (not only did she complain to the waiter, she insisted the manager come over and talk to her....and then followed him out of the dining room and continued to complain). Apparently one of her biggest concerns was that her waitress was underage and couldn't open their wine, and no replacement was sent so they ate without wine. (I only know this because she spoke so loudly). About this same time I noticed the woman at the table on the other side of us send back her prime rib (from the looks of it; I would guess because it too was underdone....)

                So I didn't complain because I figured the poor manager had enough to worry about without my input. And it was obvious that several people had issues with the service; I didn't want to pile on. Clearly the kitchen was not prepared for the number of people eating that evening; even the waitress commented on that (but with all due respect, the restaurant seating was by reservation only...so they had to know how many to expect!!). And I know I will eat there again; like I said I love staying at that lodge in that park...its not about the food.

                All that being said, our brunch buffet this am was perfectly acceptable, and had a decent selection of items...all of which were freshly made and at proper temperature. So apparently the kitchen can produce good food when they are not (apparently) under-staffed and/or under-supplied.....

                1 Reply
                1. re: janetofreno

                  Good points Janet. And in general any time someone is going out on a major event day/holiday (mother's day, valentines, NYE, etc.) you can't really be surprised by a sub-par experience. The kitchen is probably trying to do something special for the day, staff has called in 'sick', deliveries didn't show up on time, patrons bring extra guests or show up late. All things that happen periodically in the everyday world, but seem to pile one on top of the other on major event days.

                2. There are always at least 2 sides to every story.

                  Sometimes, the side presented by a fellow 'Hound on these boards is not the only side, and, in fact, oftentimes may not even be the "right" side of the story.

                  1. I've been perplexed by this recently as well. We just opened a new place a few months ago and while the overall response has been overwhelmingly positive, there have been a few missteps and once in a while, a guest will have a minor problem that could be easily fixed right at the moment, but they'll say nothing and stew over the problem, then leave and slam us on Yelp.

                    There's pretty much nothing we won't do for our guests, and if there's a problem and you tell us about it, not only do we whisk away the offending dish and bring you a new one or an alternate one to your liking, but you'll most likely get your whole table comped, plus free desserts, and walk out with some gift cards as well.

                    Or you can take the passive-aggressive route and just throw a public tantrum on Yelp and get a public apology and offer for a refund if you come in with your receipt, but then you're stuck with the memory of a bad evening which could have been so easily avoided if you just man up and confront the problem like a grownup.

                    I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm guessing that a polite quiet word to management at the time of the problem will yield much better results for the guests than a belated public hissy-fit. But then, I don't live in New York any more.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: acgold7

                      <a guest will have a minor problem that could be easily fixed right at the moment, but they'll say nothing and stew over the problem>

                      I don't use Yelp either to complain or look for advice because I understand the concept you're talking about and find alot of it not credible.
                      What I don't understand is a staff that's. presumably, taking care of their customers and their needs & their clients walking away upset.
                      I understand the owner/management aren't mind readers but I would think if there's a dish that's not touched it would alert the waiter of a problem? That waiter, without being asked, should identify the problem and talk to the management who then does everything in their power to make things right.
                      There should never be a dirty fork, a lipsticked glass, a hair in the food or a waiter who's too slow and not attentive. I shouldn't have to ask 10 times for my water to be refilled or my soup reheated. If it happens then I won't go to Yelp...I will just assume the management/ownership really isn't paying attention and I won't go back.

                    2. Of course I sent back the glass with the lipstick stain and received a new one. If it was a one time event, I would not have bothered to post about it, but it was part of a dinner with multiple mess ups, and that was the subject of the other thread. Besides the new drink that came in a clean glass, there was no compensation offered for everything else that went wrong and was complained about.

                      1. I guess it depends on how bad things are. I grew up with parents who were always getting pissed off about one bad thing or another at a restaurant and sending it back or demanding to speak to a manager and it really made me cringe every time, even though they were right to be upset as best I could tell evaluating their veracity as a little kid. I don't like to make things unpleasant. Unless something is really, really bad, like there is a piece of balled up plastic wrap under my fries or a bug cooked into my pancake (both have happened), I'm not going to bring up the fact that BOTH of our entrees are dramatically underseasoned and bland, the steak is overdone, our app was late and ill prepared. These are run of the mill things that might cause me to tell others not to go there, but aren't things I'm going to call a manager over and rant about. I'm just not comfortable being confrontrational like that. And no, I don't use Yelp or any other online site to bash.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          I am with you rockandroller1, my father demanded perfections and that often led to confrontations with management. I really think before I lodge a complaint. I don't use Yelp for bashing or research.

                        2. I do alert the server or management right when an incident occurs. (exception below)

                          Having worked as a server, I can see things from both sides of the table, so to speak. I think I am always polite and reasonable....

                          In the case of my complete intolerance of lipstick residue on my glass, I politely ask for a new, clean glass, no muss, no fuss.

                          In the case of the waiter throwing the dessert plate at me, my husband was so furious, nothing good could have come from a confrontation that evening. Any discussion would have resulted in him exploding. It was more practical and effective to discuss it later with the manager. The outcome was the same.

                          As a business owner, I would never go on-line and yap about bad service without first discussing it with owner/management. Even then, it would have to hve been something REALLY offensive for me to mention it.

                          1. I usually have a pretty high tolerance for "bad" service (none whatsoever for bad food though -- that is reported immediately!). When I do receive it, I generally don't do anything at the time because I've found that reporting the problem tends to escalate it. I just won't go back.

                            Last night (New Year's Day -- maybe everyone had made too merry the night before?) we went to a local restaurant and got the silliest, most out-to-lunch service for the entire meal that I have experienced in my longish dining career. Every single interaction took two to three times longer than it should have, we were brought the wrong dish, the dish we had ordered was 86ed unbeknownst to the wait person, a salad was overdressed when we had asked for dressing on the side, we couldn't get any server or manager's attention without going up to the till where they were all congregated, the list goes on. Any one, two or even three of the silly things that happened would have been tolerable but the aggregate was just incredibly frustrating and ruined the whole meal (the food was acceptable BTW). They voluntarily comped the missing main at the time it was reported which was good business, but I still can't see myself rushing back, even though the beer was very good per my SO. Conversely, I can't quite bring myself to bash the joint as there was one wait person who was at least trying, albeit failing, to provide some level of satisfaction.