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"I have a question. My daughter had dinner reservations to take me and my sister to dinner. My daughter and I were on time but my sister was running late. The restaurant would not seat us until my sister arrived. Is that normal? I can think of a million times when I show up to a restaurant and say, "there will be one more person joining us." We decided not to wait and instead went to another restaurant."
I loved reading all the comments, that ran the gamut from "No way should a restaurant do that" to "Yes, it is reasonable and acceptable for a restaurant to do that." I thought it was fascinating, because to my thinking, everyone missed the point. The point wasn't whether the policy was good or bad, right or wrong, the point was that the customer left and went away (unhappily, and now posting for all the world to see, I might add). Sure, there might be good reasons for certain practices or policies, however if in implementing them you upset and/or lose your customers, is it really a good policy? Sometimes, in an effort to streamline or make things flow better, or easier on our staff, we forget the most important perception is the customers'; they are the reason your business exists.
What are your thoughts? Would better staff training have given this story a different ending? Have you had an experience (either good or bad) with implementing a new policy? Let me know!
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Sherie M. Bishop
The Growing Company | The Interior Plant Company
First off, I noticed you have an 'extra' name now. If you got married, congrats! I'm a little behind on the W&H newsletters.
In re a good idea being bad policy, we still have not been back to a restaurant where the owner insisted on holding booths for '3 or more patrons only.' So, he could have a line of 2 tops sitting, fuming, and deciding to go elsewhere while the 3 'prime' booths sat completely empty.
His employees were losing tips and his customers were losing patience. But his idea was he would 'need' those booths if a 'crowd' came in. However, from the street the place looked empty because the booths were all in the window!
No amount of talking to him could convince him that getting that line of cranky diners seated was better in the long run than having a group of 3 have to wait a few minutes! Our last visit there we waited about 10 minutes for a table while the 3 booths sat empty and finally decided his policies were idiotic and took our business elsewhere. Permanently.
BTW, the staff would all let you sit in the booths if he wasn't around. THEY got it. More seatings, more tips, more return visits.
As for us, we instituted a 'late arrival' policy that charged the guest $35 if they chose to arrive after our 'front desk' closed for the evening. ('Front desk' being my husband and I who had already been up since 5 AM and really needed to get to bed by 9 PM!) The original reason for the implementation was because of one guest who totally abused our previous 'no fee' policy. (Another lesson learned was to never make a new policy based on one instance of a problem!)
The guest called us at 5 PM to say they 'hadn't left the city yet' and would be 'a little late.' The city in question is at least a 5 hour drive. We decided to nap and then get up around 9:30 to greet them. They actually arrived at 2 AM and we found out from overhearing a conversation they were having with another guest that they decided, 'Hey, it's late anyway, let's stop in Boston and have dinner!'
Knee jerk reaction was to pay myself for the guests being so rude by instituting the fee. What happened next was a lot of, 'Oh, but, my flight doesn't arrive until...' or, 'But I can't get out of work until...' on and on. It was easier to implement a 'self check-in' by installing a keypad on the front door and giving the code to guests over the phone. I got to sleep, they got to go out to dinner for however long they wanted, they got to catch a later flight or work some OT, whatever they needed.
Monica & Rock
White Cedar Inn
Hope Italy was fun - don't know how it couldn't be.....
And LOVE the red dress!
Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana
It is standard policy at the Rutherford Grill in the Napa Valley.
What is the impact to the restaurant if a small percentage of the members in a party arrive after those that have arrived have been seated.
There are lots of reasons why a resataurant meal can drag on longer that it should; one missing person in a table for eight is not high on this list. A server with too many tables, or a kitchen that gets slammed are the most common reasons I see.
It's the give-and-take that is missing. As you said, staff training is the key. If restaraunt employees thought of themselves as restaurant owners, they would be able to apply this rule in such a way that everyuone benefits.
Yes, my restaurant has this policy and while I don’t entirely agree with it, I have seen our restaurant fill up so fast that I have seen the benefit of asking guests to wait until their entire party arrives. I also believe that when these waiting guests see other guests arriving in full parties and are ready to be sat, the focus becomes more on the late person(s) in their own party. The way our restaurant is laid out, the areas that can accommodate parties of 5 or more and special needs guests are in short supply. So, we try to seat these areas carefully so that when we fill up, we have maximized our ability to fit in the most guests that are ready to dine.
I think that the problem with enforcing this type of policy is when guests arrive early enough that they really have no impact on peak service capacities, then I think people should be sat regardless. Within reason… if there are 5 guests at your host stand and they are waiting on 20 more, and this takes up half of your restaurant to accommodate them, then they are going to have to wait. What we usually do is offer menus, drinks, and freebee appetizer bites to guests that are waiting in this situation.
One thing that we have to remember too, is when a group of friends or family has agreed to all go out to eat together, the place to go may have been selected democratically amongst everyone, but it only takes one person in the party to veto the restaurant that has been chosen. And this may be the person that is running behind, maybe they received bad communication, bad directions, or something that accounts for their lateness, but when they get the right message they may in turn refuse to meet with the rest of the party and this in turn causes everyone to go somewhere else. So, it’s a really tough call on balancing whether to seat incomplete parties or not. But, I believe that if you take really good care of every guest, their going to come back anyways and if the food is great, then its worth the wait.
A restaurant here in Chicago, named after a famous HBO program about a mob family (not that I want to out this place), was recently visited by Mwa (aka, me). In the fine print was a curious policy that if you do not finish a bottle of wine, you don't get to take it with you (BTW, in Illinois, you are now allowed to take your half-finished BYO bottle home with you, so I am assuming that a restaurant bought bottle could also be taken home).
This is just strange on two levels. One, you are practically encouraging customers to over-indulge on their bottle, to ensure they get their money's worth. Which, of course, will not make the neighborhood roads any safer if they are driving home. Liability, anyone?
And of course, if said party is lingering at a table, cause they don't want to waste any of their wine, THE TABLE DOESN"T GET TURNED! Isn't that a major priority for restaurants, even in good economic times?
I stayed at this place, ordered a decent pizza for one, listened to a laughably bad Steve and Edie clone for about an hour. But I will remember this very strange policy more than anything else.
Let's face it, eating out isn't a necessity, it's a luxury. If I'm going to spend my hard earned dollars on eating out, it's going to be at the place that has service to match it's food. This means, that within reason, the customer always comes first.
I grew up in the restaurant business, and I can tell you that customers remember bad service much longer than less than stellar food. dinner for 2 and even a cheap bottle of wine is going to run you about $100 by the time you walk out the door at any place worth doing your makeup for. For that price, I'd better leave with a smile on my face, or you won't see me again.
Treat me well and not only will I tip your wait staff well, but I'll keep coming back, I'll refer everybody I know, and I'll forgive the occasional off night.
Treat me badly, and I'll walk out in the middle of a meal. Then I'll tell everyone I know and a lot I don't that your establishment should be avoided at any cost.
Willi's Wine Bar is one such case. I had horrible service, glass after glass of wine smelled like BLEACH. The bartender argued with me after I requested a new glass. He grabbed another off the shelf and of course. it too smelled like bleach. I asked that he wash a glass and rinse it in fresh water, he rinsed it with fresh water and then rinsed it in the bleach filled rinse water. a dozen glasses and $140 later, we left. I explained what had happened to the manager. His response was: "Gosh, I'm sorry", then he too argued with me about how they washed their glasses, and then told me something must be wrong with my nose (I consult for several ultra high end Pinot labels). Never was there any mention of "Gosh, I'm sorry, let me refund the charges for the meal", "Let me give you a voucher for another meal", "let me (at least) refund the charges for the wine you refused to drink",
I sent a email to the head office and several weeks later someone finally contacted me. The first letter was another argument, the second one asked "Well, what do you think we should do about it".
Since then I am proud to say that I have cost Willi's quite literally tens of thousands of dollars. almost 3 years later, and I still gleefully tell everyone I can whenever an opportunity presents itself. I know for a fact that several of my friends re-tell my story to other people themselves. Every customer that I pour for invariably asks me where to go for dinner, and what restaurants are the best to try lots of wines by the glass, and I always refer them to Spectrum, Starlight or several other places, while at the same time warning them about Willi's. I have poured for thousands of people since then, and I could have convinced most of them to go to Willi's...
OK, maybe it's a little extreme, but it makes a good example of how one unhappy customer that walks away, can cost you over, and over, and over... Not only that, but I tried to get somebody to rectify the situation: 3 different people, 3 different times, and they stonewalled me, so finally this bitch got pissed and out came the claws...
All my best, Karen
PS: And over, and over and over.... LOL!!!
Karen A. Todd
This one is so simple that I am shocked that any worthy service professional would see it any other way.
The table was reserved, and the majority of the table was on time, period. End of story. Graciously welcome and seat the present guests, and then sell them cocktails and a few apps while they await their missing guests. Take advantage of the fact that the table feels that they my be putting you on the spot. If you know you need their table by a certain time for another reserved party, simply make them aware of this, so if the delayed parties will be continually delayed, at least the table is aware of any time restraints that you are in need of providing for, and they can react accordingly, by taking orders over the phone for "on the way guests". Simple communication goes a long way in this situation, and most guests in this situation are more than happy to be accommodating, only because you have honored their effort to make a reservation, and that you have honored the "late" reservation with a small caveat. If you are truly busy, and this is made obvious to them, then the onus is on them. Make them feel welcome, and then make the stragglers feel just as welcome when they arrive. You win by accommodating the table's needs, and they win by being able to experience all that you have accommodatingly been able to offer them. Why this is so hard to understand is beyond me.
If you are running your book professionally, a small delay in the arrival of the complete table should be no big deal.
If you overbook, as is so prevelent these days, you are at the mercy of your arrivals, and get what you get logistically.
Bottom line, the customer, above all else is King. Especially if they have made a reservation. Treat them as such and you will garner repeat business. Turn up your nose, and turn them away, and they will Yelp about their experience GUARANTEED.
It is so easy, in the heat of the service battle we all face nightly, to forget the soapbox venues that our patrons have at their disposal, not to mention the age old adage that for every satisfied customer, you might get one recommendation, but for every dissatisfied customer, no matter the circumstances, you will get many negative reports to friends etc.
Figure it out people!
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