The old saying goes, “you can make some of the people happy some of the time, but you can’t make everyone happy all of the time.” There’s a lot of truth in that.
One of the things I tell the customer service teams in all of my companies – and this includes Town Kitchen and Grill -is that the customer is NOT always right. Whoever said they were was an idiot. Professional customer service people know this. If I stood in front of them and said the customer was always right they’d know I was a fool … I try to avoid that.
Here at Town, our philosophy is pretty simple. We do our best to make every guest happy every time. We succeed a lot of the time and we hear that back from the guests we work so hard to serve. Sometimes we don’t succeed. When we don’t we look closely at those cases to see what happened. We scratch our heads and think about it and then we try to fix it.
Usually, when we don’t make someone happy it’s because we didn’t communicate well. That’s something we’re working really hard to cure. As an example, one night we had a fire in the kitchen. It was short lived, but it was a real, certified, fire. (Chef put it out with some very quick thinking and no one was ever in any danger). The problem was that the fire destroyed all of the dishes that were on the hotline. That meant we had to start over in making all of them and that meant that food was delayed getting to the tables. That should have been communicated instantly to the guests in the restaurant, but there was reluctance to communicate the idea of a fire in the kitchen to the guests.
I get that, but I think it was the wrong decision. I’ve found that most organizations make a mistake by trying to think too much for their customers. In my experience, people are pretty smart. If you give them clear information, they understand it. I’ve also found they’re generally happy with more information than with less. So we’ve talked that through and now, even when there will be short delays (as an example, caused by large parties) we communicate that thoroughly with the guests.
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, we can’t please a guest. One mildly funny story relates to a woman who came in recently with her teenage son. She had no reservation but we had a table for her – a two-top in the middle of the restaurant. She noticed a round table in the corner and demanded that the hostess seat her there. The hostess explained that the round table was reserved for a party of five that was coming in shortly. The woman insisted to be seated there anyway and asked for the manager. As it turns out, at Town, the hostess is a manager. The woman and her son ate dinner at the table they were originally directed to. They finished all of their food. When the woman left, she made a beeline to the manager and told her that she was going to write a review and say the food was very good but the people are very rude. The manager discussed what had happened with me and I told her she’d done an excellent job.
You can’t make all of the people happy all of the time. When you fail – for whatever reason – you take a deep breath and move on and try to learn from the way you failed.
(and sometimes you have to take a deep breath and tell yourself that sometimes people are just a bit unreasonable).