More silliness from the restaurant world this Foodie Friday. Today we have the tale of Grill 225 in Charleston, which is a well-reviewed steak and seafood place. They do many things right. According to most of what I can find, the food is delicious and the service is attentive. They are the #8 restaurant in Charleston, according to Trip Advisor, which is no small feat in a very competitive restaurant town.
In addition to being good at what they do in the restaurant, the management appears to be very good at social and other media. Many of the Trip Advisor comments have a reply from the restaurant in the thread. Not only does the writer thank the customer but they manage to turn each of their posts into a subtle commercial for some aspect of the restaurant (our USDA Prime steaks, so glad you enjoyed your famous Nitrotini). Smart! Which is why I was surprised to read about them doing something seriously dumb that has blown up and is instructive to the rest of us.
Like many popular places, Grill 225 asks for a credit card when you make a reservation. If you are making a reservation for a party of 5 or more, they send you a “dining contract” which notifies you that should you cancel all or some of the requested seats within 24 hours of the party’s arrival, they will hit you with a $50 per seat fee. If someone gets sick and doesn’t show, the same fee applies (so if your party of 8 becomes a party of 7 because your pal got hung up at the office, you’re out $50). Many restaurants have a similar policy, although most will tell you they never actually charge the fee.
Where Grill 225 failed is what else they added to the agreement. As the local paper reported it:
The terms set out by Grill 225 aren’t unusual. To curb the costs associated with empty tables, an increasing number of restaurants are threatening to charge miscreants. But Grill 225’s contract includes an additional clause: “By agreeing to these terms and conditions, the guest(s) and their party agree that they may be held legally liable for generating any potential negative, verbal or written defamation against Grill 225.” In other words, if someone in your group kvetches online about the restaurant enforcing its stated rules, a lawsuit may follow.