Caught In The Storm (Part 1)

I know it’s Thursday, but we’re going to begin our Foodie Friday Fun today. This is actually a two-part post about my dinner experience the other night and there are some instructive business points I took away.

I’ve been traveling this week on business. A fellow has to eat, so I had made a reservation via Open Table a week or so ago. It’s a place I had been before and liked a lot. Upon arrival, there was a note on the door that the place was closed for a private party and all non-party seating would be outside. I’m not a huge fan of dining al fresco and given there was a massive storm about 2 minutes away (no exaggeration – thunder, lightning, heavy rain, and extreme winds), outdoors was no option. There was no one from the restaurant at the host stand to provide further detail. I flagged down a waiter, explained that I had a reservation, and asked if there a table someplace away from the party where I could dine? He went to find a manager and came back with a polite but firm “no”.

Under normal circumstances, I might be a little angry and very disappointed. Given that leaving the area was a non-starter (by this time it was a deluge), I was mad. The place is in an indoor complex with other restaurants but most were fast food places that held no appeal. I ended up in a faux Irish Pub and we’ll continue the tale there in a minute.

What could have been done differently? First, if the party was booked prior to last week (I’m willing to bet it was), the times should have been blocked in Open Table. The manager must have been counting on outdoor seating being available and thought he could double-dip – have a big party and serve a bunch of covers as well.  It was not possible due to the weather, but even if it had been, anyone making a reservation (me) should have been informed they must eat outside. Second, they should have reviewed the day’s reservations as they opened up and reached out – my contact information is in the reservation – and said there was a problem. In a perfect world, they’d offer a suggestion of a comparable place and maybe even make the reservation for me. Third, someone should have been greeting the diners they were turning away. There was a table greeting the party goers but it wasn’t staffed by restaurant employees.  In short, this place put their own needs – the party, maximize revenues – ahead of the needs of their customers.  There were a few others who showed up when I did and who seemed equally disappointed.  There actually were a few tables being served outside – I didn’t stick around to see what happened to their food when the storm hit – I don’t imagine they were allowed inside by the invisible management.

As we all know, unhappy customers make a lot more noise than happy ones.  Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about what became a happy ending and more business points learned as two other businesses get it right.

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