Table for Two? or maybe THREE!

I love date night.  The problem is, couples all over the world go on date night far to infrequently.

My last date night was totally impromptu.  My wife and I saw about a two hour window and we jumped at the opportunity.  We were riding in the car trying to decide where we would spend our date night.  Usually she picks.  If you want her to be happy, either you let her pick or you pick one of her favorites(note to the newly dating).  This time however, I picked the location.  She actually was excited to go to one of my old college hangouts.

Honestly, our date took us to a place where I have always received below average service.  When I was in college all I cared about was cheap food.  Customer service was definitely not #1 on my list of how to make dinner decisions.  That being said, this American grill has awesome wings and great salads.  I’ve been frequenting this place for 15+ years.  So we get in and seated fairly quickly.  The really cool thing is that we actually got seated by a hostess.  Back in the day you would have to brave the crowd on your own.  Finding some group of people that maybe had two extra seats and were so kind as to let you share the table.  So being seated by the hostess was very convenient and hassle free.  We ordered very quickly and got our food even quicker.

The food was delicious!  Our waitress came by regularly to check on us even.  This date night is going very well until………… A LIVE SPIDER!  In my celery.  Unbelievable!  As you could imagine, I was surprised to say the least.  Not to mention, I was more than halfway done eating the celery.  I love celery.  So I, very calmly, told my wife while I corralled the spider in the bowl.  She immediately got the attention of our waitress.  When she got over to the table I handed the bowl to her and explained there was a live spider in my bowl.  She really didn’t seem shocked or disgusted, which I thought was kind of strange.  She killed the spider (I could have done that); however, I wanted her to verify it was ALIVE!  Her first response was “Did you want me to replace the celery?”  That is a funny question to ask when a live spider walks out from under your food on your plate.  I told her that would not be necessary.  She apologized for the inconvenience and left the table.

Spider in my celery (not actual spider). My waitress saved me from getting bitten.

You would think that a manager would be notified of the situation and would then at least visit the table and give a formal apology.  If I managed a restaurant, I would want to know if something like this happened.  However, a manager never came to the table.  Our waitress came back with some fresh celery and assured me that she washed it herself.  I thanked her.  Knowing that the unexpected guest was not at all her fault, we left her a 15% tip for her service.

Now you tell me, should I have made a stink about the whole thing or did I handle it well?  I thought that I was very patient and handled it very well.  I just wish that employees were empowered to make the right decisions on their own; and if not, people in the service industry in general should want to ensure that issues are reported to management.  I don’t even know if a manager was made aware.  Maybe they were and just didn’t care.  I can’t believe that I just wrote that.  I have patronized this restuarant for years and will probably still give them my business.  Should I?

A Night on the town…

There is nothing I enjoy more than spending time with family and sharing great experiences.  Recently, my older brother was home for a few days and we got together one night along with my father for a bite to eat.  My brother has been living out of state for about 10+ years and has no idea where to get a meal when he visits home.  My father is very accommodating so I am making the dinner choice for the night.  I make the suggestion and we are off to one of our local sports bar.

It is a Thursday night during football season approximately 9:45pm.  When we arrive, there are 3 of 30 tables occupied and every seat at the bar is occupied.  We seat ourselves(standard at 90+% of sports bars).  There are 2 waitresses for the now 4 tables.  Our waitress now comes over and says “Can I start you off with any drinks?”  No introduction, no welcome to our watering hole, just “Can I start you off with any drinks?”  So we order drinks and as she scurries away we remind her that we will be eating and need menus.  She returned fairly quickly with our drinks and menus.  She encourages us to look over the menus and she will return in a few minutes.  She was back very quickly to now take our food order.  The food was served in less than 10 minutes.  Wonderful!  Now keep in mind this is a sports bar.  As far as the quality of the food goes, I was expecting your average tasting bar food.  I was correct.  The food was average tasting.  We ate our food, finished our drinks, and waited for her return.  She came back with our check.  She never offered more drinks or asked us how things were.  I definitely wanted more drinks.  I graduated from one of the biggest party schools in the BIG10.  More drinks for me is like more cake for a fat kid.  Just ask, I’m more than willing to increase my expenditures for another 3 or 4 rounds.  If I was waiting tables I would try to get my guests as sauced up as possible; maybe they would, in their drunken state, leave me a fifty dollar tip.

Now I’m curious.  So I ask when is closing time?  “Usually when things slow down.”  At this point it was approximately 11pm and you could tell she wanted out of there.  So we pay the waitress.  She says thanks and have a good evening.

My brother asks, “How much do we tip?”  I tell him we shouldn’t tip at all.  She didn’t do anything worthy of a tip.  She never attempted to make us feel welcome.  She never even brought us water.

Here is the deal.  Our waitress had all the opportunity to make our visit a memorable one.  She could have introduced herself, given us very personal service, or even taken the time to offer us more drinks.  But instead she was more interested in what she was getting into that night after work, or how long she had to study for her mid-term exam.  Maybe she thought these three guys look like cheapos, they won’t tip very well.

My wife waited table for three years after my youngest daughter was born.  I have heard “They work for tips” probably a thousand times.  So I definitely understand that waiters/waitresses make next to nothing without tips.  That being said, exceptional service can only be given when we give service unto others as you would want to be served.
When a customer feels that your main concern as a customer service provider is their experience being a memorable one for all the right reasons, that is what makes an exceptional customer experience.

This was obviously not a good experience for me.  I will, however, give this local sports bar another chance sometime in the future.  I don’t know when, and I don’t know for what reason but they will have another opportunity to WOW me with a great experience.