Jay and I decided we wanted to go to the Flatiron Grille for Valentine's Day. It's a locally-owned restaurant that serves good drinks and good food, and it's got a really nice atmosphere, especially for Jackson. We've been there several times and have been mostly satisfied with the experience, particularly since it's one of the only two upscale dining options in town. So I called about a week before Valentine's Day to ask if they were taking reservations. The man I spoke to said that they weren't, but that they were doing call ahead seating. On Thursday before Valentine's Day, after seeing a full-page ad in a local magazine that implied that they were taking reservations, I went to the restaurant in person. I talked to the hostess who confirmed that they were not taking reservations, but that they would be doing call ahead seating. She recommended that I call about an hour before I wanted to eat in order to put my name on the list.
I arranged for a babysitter to arrive at 7:30 on Valentine's Day, planning to get to the restaurant by 8:00. I called the restaurant at 6:00, just to find out how long the wait was. It was 2 hours. Perfect!
"Great!" I said. "Can you go ahead and put me down on the list?"
"Ma'am, we're no longer doing call ahead seating."
*Stunned silence. It's 6:00 on Valentine's Day. I have a babysitter coming and nowhere to eat.*
"But I was told twice this week that you were doing call ahead seating tonight."
"We were, ma'am, but our waiting list is two pages long and we have people hanging out the doors. My manager told me a few minutes ago to stop taking call ahead seating."
I asked for the manager's name, but didn't ask to speak with him. Maybe I should have. I figured that if he didn't care enough about customers to honor his call ahead seating plan then he probably didn't care enough about customers to talk a really disgruntled one on that phone.
Despite the fact that my head was about to explode, I called our favorite sushi place and was told that there was no wait. We went there, had a good time, chatted up the owner, I got free beer, and Jay got the promise of a bowl of kimchi chigae every week, made by the owner herself.
Since then I've left scathing reviews on about ten restaurant review sites and sent a comment via the Flatiron Grille website. Today I received a reply. Here is an excerpt:
So here's the dilemma. I already said in my note to the owner that I was never going to darken the door of the establishment again, and I really don't intend to. What about this free meal? What about the fact that the whole first paragraph of this letter is one big lame excuse for miserable customer service? Do I accept the meal? Do I just drop it, even though the Marketing Director who sent me this note obviously doesn't get it? Do I call the guy? I'm really bad at ending up a big sputtering ball of mad during confrontations, so I'm not sure what good that would do. Could he really say something to make me less angry about the situation? What would you do?Ms. Bernheisel,
In an effort to serve our customers, we were offering
call ahead seating for Valentine's Day. By 6:00 p.m.,
our staff was overwhelmed with long lists of call-ahead
guests and large numbers of walk-in guests accumulating
inside the restaurant, waiting to be seated. It was at
that point that our Proprietor, XXXXXXX, opted to forgo
call ahead seating. He felt at that time that if we
did not do so, we might not be able to serve all of the
guests who were already inside the restaurant, waiting for
Please accept our apology for being inconvenienced. We
would like to offer you and your guest a complimentary
dinner. Please call me at your earliest convenience to
set up those details. My direct number is XXXXXXXXXX.
Mr. XXXXXXX would like for me to extend his personal
apology, as well. He would like to have the opportunity
to speak directly with you. He asked me to pass along
his number to you. His direct number is XXXXXX or you
may reach either of us at the restaurant number of XXXXXXX.