Customer Hall of Shame
Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame
Every time I watch National Geographic, Discovery Channel, or Animal Planet, I am reminded that there’s not much difference between wild animals and some human beings in shared public space.
LEHI — A young mother of twins took potty training to the table — the dining table — in a popular Utah deli Tuesday. And the picture an onlooker snapped and posted on Facebook has a lot of people talking.
If anyone understands how stressful potty-training can be, it’s mother of three, Kimberly Decker. In fact, she just finished potty training her little boy and couldn’t leave her house for several days during the process. That’s why she was so shocked at what she witnessed Tuesday at the Thanksgiving Point Deli.
“I noticed that this lady was having her two — she had two twins, two little girls about 2-and-a-half years old, sitting on what I thought were booster seats,” Decker said.
But after doing a double take, she realized they weren’t booster seats, they were child port-a-potties.
“She had to undo the jumpsuits, and take them all the way down so they were completely nude, with the jumpsuits down to their ankles just eating their chicken nuggets, sitting on little toddler potties,” Decker said.
Decker snapped a picture on her cell phone, while she and her friend stared in awe.
“The more you thought about it, the more unappetizing everything looked around me,” Decker said. “I was like this is not ok, we’re eating, there was a business meeting with about five or six businessmen going on right next to me. The place was packed.”
Spokeswoman for Thanksgiving Point, Erica Brown, said they received several complaints from patrons. Their staff didn’t realize what was going on among the crowd until after it was already over, but she added they would have asked the woman to leave and take the potty training into the restroom.
“I think state and local health codes were probably an issue, as well as just social norms,” Brown said.
You’re probably right, Erica…
Book Chapter: Confronting without Confrontation
This post is a precursor to a forthcoming post titled, Amateur Hour, Online Restaurant Reviews, that will include suggestions for restaurateurs and reviewers, especially anonymous reviewers. Some of your comments following this post will be quoted in the future piece.
Roy Binbuffalony, a Server Not Servant facebook group member, recently sent me a link to a story by ‘queenseyes’ on BUFFALO RISING, a website covering everything happening in and around Buffalo, NY. The piece, titled, Surprising Buffalo: Mike A’s, highlights a relatively new restaurant by renowned Buffalo restaurateur, Mike Andrzejewski. The piece includes quotes from travel writer, Steve Jermanok:
“Dinner was exceptional, probably one of the best meals I had since dining at the acclaimed Next in Chicago last summer. Mike Andrzejewski is one of the city’s best loved chefs and he finally has a high-end restaurant that matches his talent. One taste of his wagyu beef tartare, spiced with pine nuts, capers, watercress, red onions, olive oil, truffled Dijon mustard, and egg yolk, and you realize this dude’s destined for a James Beard award.”
Posted by anonymousOOO on August 7, 2012 PM:
A disappointment from one of WNY’s [Western New York] seasoned restaurant owners, & we never even made it to review the food! Our issues started with the lack of a sign for the restaurant/dining room, and some confusion between where to check-in, in relation to the location of the bar. (Note: it is a restaurant bar, not an open late hotel lobby bar.) A cheap curtain between the kitchen and the dining room, was our first red flag, far from five-star. The drink menu was impressive, and the specialty drinks even came with an old fashion single large ice cube, like Vera Pizzeria also does (nice touch). The odor of old and new in the place mixed together, interestingly. We especially liked chandelier lights in the bar area, but they totally missed with carrying the noir lights also into the dining room. (Cheap Home Depot spotlights throughout the entire dining room.) We then made our way into the loud echoing dining room, with beautiful high ceilings, which unfortunately only exacerbated the high noise level. There were nice mosaics throughout, and the unshaded windows provide a nice view of the library. We then had issue with the overzealous waiter trying to give us each 4 pieces of bread (another amateur mistake). Then after an expected deep dive into the menu, there was a lack of any specials menu. Now this is something that isn’t necessarily mandatory, but expected by many (another miss). Then came a whipped cream radish teaser thingy (another fail). We placed our orders and promptly received some overcooked scallops, and romaine wedge salad (didn’t know that a WEDGE came from Romaine- not what we expected) with a nice bottle of mildly priced pinot noir was ordered. Our wine arrived and the waiter then spilled our bottle of red wine all over me!!!, which promptly and effectively ruined any chance of any further review, EPIC FAIL! Given the above we cannot recommend this restaurant. This place has only been open a few weeks, but we expected so much more. [sic]
Response from Chef/Owner Mike Andrzejewski on August 9, 2012 4:43 PM:
RESPONSE to ANONYMOUs000 Hello Christopher Hawkins of HSBC bank aka Anonymous000, Lets tell the readers the whole story here- and Why you are angry , you classless pig. Mr. Hawkins showed up at the Lafayette hotel last weekend claiming he had a reservation under another name. Our hostess who behaved as professionally as possible to accommodated him and tolerate his obviously intoxicated ,agitated and aggressive behavior moved their table twice to satisfy his demands. The server was as tolerant as possible while Mr. Hawkins bantered and stammered, and the table ordered a bottle of wine and the rest of the savory portion of the meal. After eating the appetizers AND finishing the wine Mr. Hawkins purposely knocked over the empty bottle in a childish display of bad acting, blaming it on the waiter startling him. (This was witnessed and verified by other guests around him in the dining room.) Again making a scene he instructed the other guests to retrieve the car from the valet and he would “take care of the check”. when the manager went to print the check Hawkins then sprinted out the door and left without paying his bill, and worse stiffing the server whom he abused through his service. BUT WAIT – Hawkins then went to Seabar , Our other restaurant and demanded tho the Host that she take care of him and that “Mike A” himself sent him there to make up for his experience. Sherri, my wife and owner of Seabar trying to make the best of a bad situation promptly moved things around seated Hawkins , who once again was a complete Obnoxious jackass to the server. and the staff proceeded to try and provide a good dining experience, all the while Hawkins and his pathetic girlfriend with tears in her eyes berated my restaurants to everyone within earshot. Finally after being called about the situation I arrived at Seabar from the Hotel , just in time to hear how the server should be ashamed and that we owed him money. Immediately I made sure to tell him to get himself and everything else associated with him out of my restaurant, and the spineless tool even admitted he spilled the empty wine which he already had finished and skipped out on a bill. Demanding that he leave immediately he and entourage finally exited. BUT it gets better! After leaving the scumbag gets pulled over by Police , who is aware of the situation and make him call the restaurant and turn over his credit card number to cover our cost. To end the saga , the other couple they were dining with ,so mortified and embarrassed went back to the Lafayette and payed for the wine Mr Hawkins stole, and explained to our management that they wanted no part of such behavior. To them THANK YOU! that was a classy and dignified thing to do and earned a great deal of respect from our staff. Chris Hawkins is really a spineless and crass individual,and stories abound about his horrendous actions and abusive behavior throughout the restaurant industry. Now he is such gutless clown he wont sign is name to false criticism he is slandering all over the internet … I will though- this is the rest of the story. Mike Andrzejewski [sic]
The exact same ’anonymous’ rant was also posted on UrbanSpoon on August 7, 2012 under the moniker of “anonymous1″(first and only post), and also on Yelp under the handle, “C A.”(first and only post). Yelpers refer to (usually anonymous) reviewers with no photo as “Orange Heads”. The UrbanSpoon and Yelp reviews have since been taken down by the site monitors.
I reached out to “C A.” via Yelp’s messaging option. Here is his response and my exchange with him:
I have considered not responding to your note, but feel if I did not, then an accurate accounting of that evening would not take place… I am the victim here…
I would prefer that you not use my full name.
Patrick Maguire: How long have you known Mike?
Chris: I have been eating at his establishments for over 10 years, and spent thousands over the years. This was the first negative experience I have EVER had. I have never met the man other than saying “hello” to him over the years.
PM: Do you have a grudge against him? If yes,why?
Chris: I certainly do not have any grudge against anyone. I was simply disappointed, and I felt that it was my right to say so. The backlash of saying so has been significant.
PM: Do you have a response to his comments ripping you and your actions in his restaurants?
Chris: I do, he is outright lying in his response.
PM: Have you contacted him and apologized?
Chris: My Atty has advised me to have no further contact with him in any way. I have no intention to apologized as I did nothing wrong, other than leaving to avoid conflict.
PM: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Chris: Sure,.. As a foodie, I have ate[sic] at many an establishment, and posted several reviews. In this case, I have learned a lot as a result of my negative experience that evening and the internet post. That review was sincere and accurate from me. His rebuttal however, was not.
One of the things that I have learned, is that businesses can have negative reviews removed from some websites for a cost per word! Where is the literary integrity there?
When posting a negative review about any business, their proprietors take it as a direct personal attack on their livelihood and will do anything to fight back, including LIE. (My review was not meant to be a personal attack.)
In this case, some examples include, 1.) there was no police involvement that evening. (A quick review of the police blotter from that night can prove that).2.) We were not intoxicated at any time, (we had our first drink when we got to the restaurant.) 3.) Almost every other statement he made was either an outright lie or an exaggeration. Mr. A, personally wasn’t involved in any of the interactions, so any accounting he received was after the fact, except when he asked us to leave, which we quietly did, offering to pay for whatever we ate so far, but was met with “Just go”. 4.) I certainly did not spill anywine on myself!
He made a scene in his own restaurant, not us. (Perhaps he could have approached us outside, or asked us to talk privately- instead he blew up in the middle of his own establishment.)
I have always believed that, If you leave someone alone, they will leave you alone. He obviously is interested in some free press and attention, I however am not.
Which is why I posted anonymously.
At this point, I just want to put this to rest and move on.
A Cease and Desist letter has been sent to Mike Andrejewski from my attorney, to stop using my name or any likeness thereof, directly or indirectly through any 3rd party, in any slanderous way, as my Review was not directed at him personally, rather at our negative experience we had at one of his many restaurants.
After the written response from Chris, I called him and left a message, and he called me back right away to confirm that the Yelp message was, in fact, written by him. During that conversation, I told him that everyone would have a fair opportunity to respond to the public comments following this post. After speaking with Chris, he sent me another Yelp message requesting that I state that he is not employed by HSBC, and to add that he is a consultant.
I also called Mike Andrzejewski and sent him a couple of emails seeking clarification from his perspective. Here is my email exchange with Mike:
Patrick Maguire: In retrospect, is there anything you wish you handled differently? (It seems like you should have thrown him out of your steakhouse for being a drunk, obnoxious boor.)
Mike Andrzejewski: I think as a restaurant we did everything possible to make the best of the situation. It’s easy in retrospect to second guess, but at the steakhouse we had no idea he would run out on the check, and then show up at Seabar to try and extort a free meal there. I should have answered my phone earlier when they tried to call , but I was in the kitchen and the staff and my wife at Seabar did their best with a bad situation.
PM: Have you heard from Chris since the incident?
Mike A.: [He] messaged me on facebook with an very untrue explanation of his actions.And several delusional accusations. He also called the restaurant , spoke to my wife Sherri, attempted to apologize and ask that I remove references to his employment. I did not post anything regarding him, his employment or anything else about the incident after my initial response. I also instructed our employees to cease posting anything or even discuss the incident any further.
PM: Have you confirmed that the guy in question was him?
Mike A.: Absolutely confirmed it was him.
PM: Has he apologized?
Mike A.: When he called back with his credit card number he initially told our employee to take the number and tell us to fuck ourselves. Afterwards, when he called the restaurant, he asked us to remove employment references ( Which we did not post) and vaguely attempted to apologize. He was told to apologize to the servers and host whom he mistreated.
PM: Does he have an ax to grind with you? Why?
Mike A.: I don’t think he had a problem with me personally. He does now. I think if you read some of the comment threads which there are a lot of , his behavior has been known around Buffalo and he has a reputation of really being an asshole.
PM: Feel free to add anything you’d like me to include.
Mike A.: I want to make it perfectly clear that any references to Hawkins’ employment or personal issues were made by people following the posts he began, and not posted or sanctioned by anyone at our restaurants, just more literary integrity from the masses. ”The pen is mightier than the sword. “
Also, I need to say that the only regret I have is not finding out more of the police involvement , I have been unable to verify first-hand exactly what happened with the officer, and was told of this by customers coming back into the restaurant as the events were unfolding. I tried very diligently to follow up and get a first-hand and verifiable witness report, but received no contacts or answers from the people (2 separate Groups) who first told us of this happening. Everything prior, we have undeniable and first-hand accounts.
I think the history of our respective reputations speaks for itself. As does the response to the postings put up, literally hundreds of people chimed in with stories of their own about Hawkins, and myself for that matter. If he was so concerned about only voicing an opinion, he certainly did – posting the identical critique on yelp, buffalo rising, urbanspoon and several other sites. As far as paying for removable reviews? Really? and literary integrity, start by signing your work.
I have never responded to an online review previously in a public fashion like this incident, and have, on a couple occasions, contacted reviewers who posted negatively to address and correct the problems they brought to my attention. This was not the case in Hawkins’ situation. His malicious intent warranted a public response in defense of my staff, restaurant and the way he treated them especially my wife , who runs Seabar. There was a time in my life when I would have handled this differently, much differently.
As far as the claim he spent thousands in my establishments is a stretch , to say the least. Maybe a hundred fifty over the last 4 years. And as far as claiming I’m looking for free publicity? Seriously, I get an almost embarrassing amount of attention from the local press, and certainly do not need to drag this kind of bullshit out in public.
My actions in telling him to leave the restaurant , and not asking him to speak privately were directly in response to him screaming at the waitress for giving him a bill , and stating that she owed him money for his troubles. He so embarrassed himself that a number of customers actually applauded and commented as he finally left the restaurant.
Finally, if Mr hawkins wishes to contact attorneys, he can have them approach the “anonymous” people on facebook , Buffalo rising, The buffalo News and other public forums to cease and desist. Since its ok for anyone to post things as they see them why is he complaining? After all, Isn’t that his point when he put his comments up publicly?
I really love the restaurant and service business, I think it’s a pretty noble profession. It angers and hurts me when people degrade it and degrade the people who work so hard at it.
Sincerely, Mike Andrzejewski
#2- What advice/suggestions do you have for amateur, anonymous posters who hide behind their keyboards when writing restaurant reviews?
#3- How about suggestions for amateur reviewers in general, even those who disclose their real names?
#3- What do you think of Mike A’s response on BUFFALO RISING to the comments by Chris?
#4- What advice/suggestions do you have for restaurateurs when it comes to responding publicly to online reviews?
Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Fame
Today’s post comes courtesy of Darren Tully, a loyal reader and commentor on this blog. Darren works at a take-away food counter in Dublin, Ireland. He sent me the following email over the weekend that I am sharing with his permission. This is priceless.
I love customers who you can have a laugh with. One of my regulars, I’ll call her “Mel”, is like that. Mel is 80 years old, and despite needing a zimmer frame, she insists on waiting like everyone else to place her order. She is unbelievably funny and always has a kind word to say, even if she has a complaint to make. I admit that I’m very fond of her. She always asks to speak to me whenever she’s in, and I consider her to be like one of my great aunties.
I was on closing shift tonight so there were only two of us, myself on counter and my friend on tables and dish room. Out of nowhere we got a mini rush in the last 15 minutes. As lines go, it was no big deal. There was no huge wait for the customers, but I had one incredibly impatient woman in the line, a nominee for your Customer Hall of Shame.
When I finally got to serve her I greeted her with a big smile, but before I could say anything she snarled, “Tea to go, NOW!” And that was it–she didn’t speak to me again, she only glared for the rest of transaction. I don’t really understand why she acted that way, I was serving everyone ahead of her in a speedy and friendly manner, but I guess there is no pleasing some people.
Mel was in the line behind her and watched the whole thing. As the woman was walking away, Mel shuffled up and said, “Not enough dick, that’s what her problem is.”, loud enough for everyone, including the woman, to overhear. It was so funny. The other customers were either giggling or standing slack-jawed, and the woman was shaking with indignant rage as she left.
I thought I was going to explode from holding the laughter in, I honestly don’t know how I wasn’t rolling around on the floor behind the counter.
I absolutley love customers like “Mel”. Here’s to Darren Tulley and all of the Mel’s of the world who speak up and say what every worker would love to, but can’t. Mel is a shoo-in for my Customer Hall of Fame.
Please share your stories about customers who have come to your defense and called out other asshole customers. Thank you.
Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame
So wrong, on so many levels.
I started paying attention to the Phantom Gourmet after they asked me to appear on their TV show representing restaurant servers during a ‘food fight’ segment pitting servers against chefs. The morning after I agreed to appear, I sent an email to the senior producer (who booked me) asking if Phantom Gourmet had made a decision about their affiliation with The Upper Crust Pizzeria, a major sponsor embroiled in a controversy involving their exploitation of undocumented workers. Pending allegations against the owner of Upper Crust include a threat to kill a former veteran manager.
If Phantom Gourmet had plans to sever their relationship with Upper Crust, I was going to honor with my commitment. There was no response to my email so I left a voicemail and a second email the next day. No response. In all fairness, it was Christmas week, but I did not receive an auto-response email stating that the producer was on vacation, and his outgoing voicemail message didn’t state that he was out of the office.
The next day I watched the Phantom Gourmet TV program and confirmed that they were still running Upper Crust ads. A day later they unabashedly promoted Upper Crust on facebook. That endorsement solidified their position, and was enough for me to withdraw from the TV show via email. I never received a response from the producer.
For those of you unfamiliar with Phantom Gourmet, they are a Boston-based company that features weekly radio and TV shows devoted to food, restaurants and dining out. The company is owned by the Andelman brothers, Dan, Dave and Mike. Their mystique (shtick is more accurate) is centered around an anonymous restaurant critic (the Phantom) whose reviews appear on their program.
Their shows are largely infomercials for their sponsors laced with more inane banter than I can stomach. Though it is widely known that their singular ‘phantom’ critic is a myth (several people gather research), they have a widespread following of fawning ‘Phans’ (cringe) chugging their purple Kool-Aid. Ironically, they often mock and insult their own audience as well as the people who attend and work at their events.
Their motto: Food and Fun is all we serve.
Yeah, with a side of extra cheese…
I tuned in to a few of the Phantom Gourmet programs, only to see if they responded to the widespread media coverage surrounding the Upper Crust imbroglio. As far as I know, they have not publicly responded to any of the stories questioning their support of Upper Crust, including those published in the Boston Phoenix, Adam’s Hospitality & Tourism Blog, Universal HUB, Grub Street Boston, Yelp, Dave Copeland’s blog and this blog.
One exception was a facebook post by Dave Andelman quoted on Dave Copeland’s blog:
Dave Andelman: Some blogs and real media companies tried taking some unfair, untrue, and obviously coordinated shots at Phantom Gourmet last week. We immediately added 500 Facebook Phans and dominated the TV ratings. They never learn….
Dominated the TV ratings? Opposite what competition?
Copeland’s blog also quotes several comments from rabid Phantom ‘Phans’ followed by another flame-fanning (or is it ‘phanning’?), lame, cheerleading comment from Dave:
Dave Andelman: Purple power, people. Thanks ya’ll.
Purple power? Really? Lemming power is more like it.
Fast-forward to the Phantom Gourmet radio program on Saturday, 2/12. The infamous Phantom Gourmet radio program is one of the most painful media programs I have ever endured. The inane, vapid banter between the 3 brothers is punctuated by Dan Andelman’s incessant, maniacle, hyena-like laughter that is torture to tolerate.
Saturday’s program started with a story about Mike and Eddie Andelman going to dinner before the Celtics-Lakers game. Eddie, the sportscaster patriarch of the family, was filling in for Dave who was on vacation. Michael mentioned that they chose Grill 23 for dinner and arrived at 5:05.
When you ask Bostonians about the best steak houses in town, Grill 23 is often their number one choice. The food and service are consistently excellent.
The Grill 23 website states the following:
Monday-Thursday 5:30pm to 10:30pm
Bar opens daily at 4:30pm
For the record: There are 2 bars for customers to wait in before dinner service starts at 5:30. The first floor bar area has nineteen stools and the second floor bar has ten stools.
Mike and Eddie wanted to be seated in the dining room as soon as they arrived in order to get to the Celtics game on time at 8 o’clock. The hostess informed them that the bar was open, but the dining room didn’t open until 5:30. Apparently, there were no barstools open so Mike and Eddie suggested that they get a drink from the bar and sit at a table in the dining room and wait until 5:30 for dinner service. The hostess informed them that she couldn’t seat them until 5:30. That wasn’t good enough.
Here are some quotes from the radio program:
Mike Andelman: We walk in and the hostess who’s the typical hot woman, rude, cold- as-ice, never would talk to me in high school-type girl…So she goes, “Two?”, and I said yes, and she looks at us and says, “I’m sorry, we’re not open until 5:30, so there’s nothing I can do.”
Dan Andelman: And what time was this at?
Eddie Andelman: It was about 5:10.
Mike: She said the bar over there, you can stand at the bar and have a drink.
Eddie: There’s no seats.
Dan: At the bar?
Eddie: At the bar. It’s crowded.
Mike: There’s like 20 people standing at the bar. There’s no room at the bar.
Dan: Great bar there, potato chips and everything.
Mike: Great bar, but Eddie and I aren’t exactly going to saddle up to the bar and get hammered. We’re there for dinner. So she looks at us and says, “I can’t do anything for you,” and I said, Well can you just, and she turned her back on us and basically wouldn’t talk to us any more.
Dan: How did she look from the back?
Mike: And so Eddie and I said this is the most ridiculous, rude treatment we’ve ever gotten in a restaurant.
Eddie: Well I said to her, Is it all right if we sit down? There’s not one person. The tables are all set. Can we sit down there and have some drinks ‘till 5:30? And she said, “NO!”
Mike: Yeah, she says no, and so we basically, you know, under our breath say F-you, and we leave, and we walk across the street.
Dan: I don’t get it…, the restaurant was open, she just wouldn’t seat you?
Mike: No…, the dining room did not open until 5:30.
Eddie: They don’t serve until 5:30. We were willing to sit at a table and have some drinks until 5:30, even if we had to get some drinks from the bar and walk over to a table.
Dan: Yeah, but they weren’t open yet.
Michael: The restaurant was open. The bar was open. Every server was there. You think it was going to make a big deal if Eddie and I sat down…?
Dan: Michael, I’m being completely serious…They are not open until 5:30. What the hell…Why do you think you’re so special that you had to be seated?
Eddie: If there were seats at the bar we might have done it, but there’s tables 8 feet away from the bar that we could sit at.[The dining room tables are behind a half wall separating the bar from the dining room.]
Dan: Maybe the servers are all in their pre-meal meeting; maybe they’re eating; maybe they’re doing side work; maybe they’re cleaning, maybe they’re getting dressed…
Mike: Danny, the fact that you consistently take the side of the restaurateur or just a really stupid maître d’ or a hostess over your family time and time again, you just continually…(cut off).
Mike: The era is over of being able to treat customers like crap. It’s just over. I don’t understand.
Eddie: There’s 25 steakhouses in Boston.
Mike: And it’s not like this was 8pm on a Saturday night. It’s 5 o’clock, and guess what, if the owner of Grill 23 was standing next to this dumb hostess, this moronic hostess who was just getting her, uh, jollies off by sticking to the rules of her little brochure in a little binder, this little monkey, her only job is to look at this binder and say don’t let people in ‘till 5:30….
Dan: Although in her defense she was good-looking apparently. I’d like to see a picture. Was she wearing yoga pants? These are things I want to know. I have a thing for hostesses (laughing).
Mike: There’s not a hostess who’s not good-looking, because they’re incompetent and can’t do anything else in life. If you can’t model, when you’re good-looking enough and not tall enough to model, you stand behind a little box and say, How many?
(A few irrelevant comments have been omitted between quotes, including Eddie’s comment about not wearing underwear. Ouch.)
Saturday, 2/19 update: Please disregard everything from here down to “A few questions.” The audio has been removed from the 96.9 website. The fact that it was ever available after the show is mind-boggling. I have retained a recorded copy if anyone would like to hear it.
For context, the entire conversation from the broadcast (that I recorded for translation) can be heard here:
(The relevant content is the first 8 and a half minutes.)
Be patient, the site loads slowly.
Click on play to the right of: 2/12/11 Eddie and Mike go to a Celtics game.
I encourage everyone who will be commenting on this post to listen to the segment before commenting.
A few questions:
#1- How does a guy who makes his living around dining out and researching and discussing restaurants not understand why Grill 23 wouldn’t allow you to sit at a table before dinner service started?
Dan hit the nail on the head with his explanation. The dining room doesn’t open until 5:30. What if they let everyone who arrived early wander into the dining room and sit down? Once you make an exception or try to be flexible, people always want more. Before you know it, diners would start with, “Can we just look at a menu while we wait?”, “Is there any chance we could just get some bread?”, “Can we just get some water?” In other words, they’ll ask you to serve them before service starts.
And what happens when someone breaks a glass or spills their drink all over the table? More service is required when the service staff is busy learning the daily specials or working on a multitude of other tasks required to prepare the dining room for service.
Grill 23 has been in business since 1983. I’m sure they have experimented with their hours and policies over the years. On my list of 64 Suggestions for Restaurant Customers, number 23 reads, Respect the fact that restaurants have policies for specific reasons, despite the fact that they might not make sense to you.
Instead of thinking about that, you proceeded to leave the restaurant and then insult the hostess (and all hostesses), and trash the restaurant on your public radio program including the statement, “I will never spend another cent at Grill 23.” Your loss.
#2- How can the co-owner of Phantom Gourmet and VP of business development (you), rationalize the adjectives you used to describe the hostess at Grill 23? You referred to her as stupid, dumb, moronic and a monkey because you didn’t get your way.
#3- Did you ask to speak to a manager to explain their policy or to voice your concern about the rude service? No, but you didn’t hesitate to blast the restaurant on your radio show.
#4- How can you justify the sweeping generalization that you made about all hostesses when your business is all about promoting restaurants?
Referring to hostesses: “…they’re incompetent and can’t do anything else in life.” Really?
I’ll bet there are a few current and former hostesses who would take exception to that statement.
In a very entertaining and informative piece, one of Boston’s most knowledgeable food and drink writers, MC Slim JB, dubbed you (Mike) the “dumbest of the Dumb Brothers”. After listening to the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s program, you did nothing to prove MC wrong or to dispel that notion.
Current and Former Hostesses:
Please respond to Michael Andelman’s comments, and please forward this post to every current and former hostess you know.
Please feel free to clarify your policies and weigh in on all of the issues presented.
Restaurateurs and Restaurant Employees:
If you own or work at a fine-dining restaurant similar to Grill 23, please comment on the issue and policies of opening times of the bar and dining room.
What ‘shots’ were taken at Phantom Gourmet by blogs or ‘real media’ companies that were unfair or untrue?
Don’t feel obligated to respond. After all, this isn’t ‘real media’, it’s just a blog…
Please join the conversation. Despite the temptation, please keep the comments respectful and civil. As always, all comments will be moderated before they are posted.
Please click on the blue box below to share with your facebook network. Thank you.
Book Chapter: Customer Hall of Shame
I’ve often described working in a restaurant as Improv Theatre. Every shift presents unique circumstances and challenges, and even the most experienced professionals can be taken aback by the audacity of the human condition.
A seasoned general manager of a popular Boston restaurant sent me a text last week requesting to meet. Based on his extensive hospitality industry experience, I knew his story would not be an every-day tale of woe. When we met for breakfast the next day, he did not disappoint.
The Wednesday lunch started out like every other day for the GM and his front of the house staff of one hostess, two servers, a bartender and a busser. About 11:15, a handful of guests walked to the podium and said, “We’re going to be at least 30 for lunch.” After welcoming the guests and confirming that the group did not have a reservation, the hostess told them she would seat them momentarily after the staff moved a few tables together.
Within seconds the GM, staff and kitchen were alerted, and the restaurant went into ‘all hands on deck’ mode, with everyone pitching in wherever needed. The GM became waiter/busser/food runner/kitchen expediter; the executive chef stepped in as line cook; the hostess hustled to help the servers while the bartender pitched in everywhere.
And here’s what happened:
The party of 30 grew into a party of 47 students from a local college celebrating the completion of finals and the beginning of semester break.
Forty-five minutes elapsed between the arrival of the first guests and the 47th member of their party. Food and drink requests were a little frantic, with some guests shouting out their first drink order as others were already eating their entrées.
The group appeared to have a great time; the staff heard no complaints about the food or service. The total of the tab was a little less than $800 before tax and tip.
In the meantime, 4 small parties were seated along with another walk-in party of 23 high school students and their 2 teachers. The high schoolers enjoyed everything, paid with one credit card and thanked the staff for their efforts and teamwork.
Back to the party of 47 when the fun began with the dreaded request:
Could we have 47 separate checks? Followed by, Most of us have Groupons we want to use with each check.
The Groupon deal with the restaurant states that the purchaser receives $35 worth of food and drink for $15, one coupon redeemable per table, and one coupon per visit.
Since they were all seated at one long table on one tab, the GM told them they could use one Groupon towards their bill and then invited them to open separate checks at the bar to redeem their individual Groupons. Many were planning to extend their celebration in the bar after lunch, and they did.
The students countered with:
We thought separate checks would qualify as separate tables. If we knew we couldn’t use all of the Groupons we would have sat at separate tables.
The GM offered the group 3 options:
1. He would take the total, add the 18% automatic gratuity and tax, subtract out $35 for one Groupon, divide by 47 and present them with 47 equal checks. He advised them he would need time to process the separate checks.
2. He would furnish pens and paper for the whole group and they could determine what each one of them owed, and the GM would split up all of the charges and tabs accordingly.
3. He informed them that there was an ATM just outside and suggested that they determine what they ordered and owed, and to pay in cash if possible.
After a lengthy debate, the group agreed to combine options 2 and 3 by sorting out the bill on their own and writing their names and amount owed on pieces of paper. After the staff processed 31 credit cards and collected all of the cash, they were still $60 short. At that critical point, you always hope that one or two poor slobs will quietly step forward and kick in the rest of the money.
Sure enough, one guy came forward, apologized profusely, and paid the remaining $60. (The appreciative GM reciprocated by picking up his bar tab after lunch.)
I knew I would eventually need to address the issue of separate checks, but I never dreamed that it would involve a request for 47!!
Can you imagine walking into a restaurant with 46 of your closest friends with no phone call or reservation, enjoying a great lunch, then asking after the meal for separate checks? I can’t either!
What are your thoughts?
What is the largest walk-in party you have ever served or been part of?
Is 32 the largest number of separate checks ever processed for one party? If not, what is? I should have included this on my list of 64 Suggestions for Restaurant Customers. If you will be paying separately, inform your server before you order.