Welcome Back to Soupfly!
If you’ve been following Soupfly for any length of time, you know that I always focus on the positive. My intention on this blog is to share our dining /service experiences and principles that can help people in the Service & Hospitality industry -or any industry for that matter, to elevate the level of service they provide. Even if I experience something that is less than positive, I usually do not call out said establishment. I usually just share principles that I hope will be helpful.
Well, moving forward I will start sharing more in depth. If a restaurant critic can freely talk about if the food is not up to par at a particular establishment, why shouldn’t I be able to freely share about if service is not up to par at a location I’ve dined at? Answer-I should and I ought and I will. So, Soupfly friends here’s a true Soupfly experience my wife and I recently had:
So here’s a first. ..in all the years that I or my wife separately or together, of all the restaurants, in all the various locations we’ve ever eaten or dined at, Never, Ever have we experienced having a manager bring a plate of food back to the table to question, argue, discuss with the guest-me, what is wrong with it, saying, “That’s how we do it.” And that without even first introducing himself to me. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
My wife-Michelle, her daughter-Melissa and I decided to try the new Grape Street Cafe in Downtown Summerlin last Saturday night for dinner. When our server explained about the seabass, he said it is prepared with a tarragon butter sauce. I choose not to eat butter, so I asked Britton if they could do it with just olive oil. He said yes. When my fish was served -it appeared charred to me, singed. Not just seared. I took one bite and I did not like it. I called our server over and asked him to take it away. Our server told me that it was like that because of the olive oil. He didn’t seem to think that it would come out any differently if they cooked it again. Since, there was really nothing else on the menu that sounded appealing to me, I just asked for some bread with olive oil. He told me they had a french loaf. What he brought me resembled more of a large hotdog bun-not a French loaf. I resigned myself to the fact-that I’d be having a hotdog bun-excuse me, French loaf for my entree-of course, with olive oil. A few minutes-maybe three to five minutes later, a gentleman, whom I presume must be a manager comes to our table carrying my plate of singed seabass and proceeds to ask me why I sent it back, arguing with me. He said, “This is seared, in fact if you look at the fish on the inside, it’s almost undercooked.”
Arguing with the Guest-Not a Great Way to Get them to Return
So, you’re telling me that it’s nearly undercooked on the inside but you want me to still eat it? He stood there and argued with me, I finally nearly acquiesced and told him to just give it back to me, since that is clearly what he was wanting to do. I said-“Ok, I’ll just let it sit here in front of me.” As he began to place the plate back in front of me on the table, my wife, Michelle asked, “Is this how you do business?”
How audacious, unprofessional, un-customer friendly of him. My seabass, was to my perception, too overdone/charred on the outside. When I told my server, he was concerned only with getting me something that I would be happy with, not focused on arguing, discussing with me why my perception was wrong and telling me “that’s how we do it”… like the manager did. The manager only told us his name because I asked him what it was.
No Friendly Greeting
This is the same person who, when I walked into the establishment two weeks earlier to talk with the general manager, said to me, “Two?” To which I replied, “Two what?” “Will there be two for dinner?” he asked. No, I was there to talk with the GM . There was no “Welcome, good afternoon, Thanks for coming to Grape Street Cafe, etc.” And this is a newly opened establishment. If the manager doesn’t know how to greet the guests in a welcoming, friendly manner, how do they expect the staff to? If the manager doesn’t set the tone from the beginning for a positive dining experience, then, when a Soupfly does happen-like a piece of charred fish-then it becomes a much more difficult situation to fix.
Is the guest always right? No, but you never argue with them. Would Wolfgang Puck do that? Hell , no!
Hey mistakes happen, sometimes the food doesn’t come out perfectly. Guests usually are understanding, accepting and forgiving. Let’s not focus on the problem, let’s move on and figure out how to make it right. Unfortunately for Grape Street, the manager, wasn’t about that, he was more concerned with why his server, our server, was asking to comp an item on a guest’s bill.
It’s not like I ate half of it or 3/4 and the sent it back. I took one bite and then determined I didn’t want to eat singed fish. I know the difference between that and seared.
Now, eventually, the owner, Chef John, did ask me about the situation and did his best to address it. He made me a seared-yes, seared tuna that was cooked right and I enjoyed it. However, never once did Carl come back to our table, apologize or ask if everything was fine or good after that point. He did go to nearby tables while we were eating but completely ignored us after his arguing with me incident. Nor did he thank us or say a word to us as we were leaving.
John, did comp my fish and brought out a tiramisu for us for dessert. That was nice. However, his response to the whole situation, especially when I told him, that my wife doesn’t really want to come back, he said-“Just come in the kitchen and ask for me, next time you come in.”
Well, why should we have to announce our presence in order to get good service? We shouldn’t. That’s not how to run a successful business. You need to train your staff and management properly. By the way, our server, did not know how to properly present and pour wine. The food runners didn’t have a clue who ordered what/where to place the food. So they auctioned it off. Every course was like that.
None of the staff seem to understand about not reaching arms and elbows in front of the guests and reaching over. Nor do they know about serving ladies first. Or about cleanliness and not man-handling the rims of glasses as they set tables. These are basic service principles that they should know and be able to execute properly, especially when entrees are upwards of $35.00. Like Michelle said, we did not have a $300.00 dining experience. Not even close. But that is what we paid and that with my entree being comped.
The first time Michelle and I came to Grape Street in Downtown Summerlin a few weeks earlier, we sat at the bar, had a couple drinks and something to eat. It was a pleasant experience but I’m not going to elaborate on that now. They don’t deserve it.
So what’s the lesson besides think twice before going to Grape Street Cafe in Downtown Summerlin? Engage your guests, set the tone from the beginning. If Carl had been walking the floor, touching tables, greeting guests earlier, then, if/ when a Soupfly may happen, it’s so much easier to get past it and make a positive recovery. How about just the common courtesy of introducing one’s self as they approach the guest at a table, rather than waiting for the guest to ask-“Who are you and what is your name?”
Yes, Chef John /owner did his best to recover. He came back to our table a couple of times to check on us. But he came to our table originally because we asked our server for him. At first our server said that he probably couldn’t come out because he was on the line. I understand that, but if he is on the line, doesn’t he-the owner want to know what is going on in his establishment? If we hadn’t asked for him, would he have known about the situation? Communication is vital to providing 5 Star Service to your guests. Grape Street has a long way to go on all points of Service & Hospitality. John does a fine job, himself, as does the GM-who wasn’t in that night. But the entire team and management all need to be reading from the same play book.
Finally, in any type of establishment, let alone, one that is masquerading as a fine dining place, it is so very tacky to use linen napkins to stablelize wobbly tables. And this was at almost every single one. There are other less tacky ways to fix wobbly tables.
Getting to WOW! Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service?
I’ll tell you this: none of us won tonight, not us and not Grape Street Cafe in Downtown Summerlin.
John, the owner, said, “Please keep coming back.” I gave – Yes – gave- him a copy of my book and I circled the two chapters-Getting Past the Soupfly and Getting the Recovery, that they were sorely needing to read that night. Today is one week later, I wonder if Chef John , the GM and the Manager have even cracked it open yet. My hope is that they did. Remember Everybody WINS with 5 Star Service.
Here’s the Positive Contrast-WOLFGANG PUCK Gets it
Later that evening as Michelle and her daughter went to do some shopping, I went to Wolfgang Puck in Downtown Summerlin just to have a glass of wine and an appetizer. When I walked in Sharlyn-the hostess-(not sure if I’m spelling her name correctly) was friendly as she greeted me, and remembered me from only being there one other time, as did Jacob, and Doug Chippewa the manager. Both of them came by my table just to say hi. I felt very welcomed. My server, Gianna was courteous, friendly, hospitable, knowledgeable and made my short experience there very pleasant. Bartender, Courtney, created a nice cocktail for me that wasn’t on the menu. Delicious and refreshing. Chelsea, the newest member of the management team was walking the floor, greeting guests, running food, serving drinks. The energy of the entire place was upbeat, fun and positive. I can’t wait to go back.
This place-Wolfgang Puck, exudes Service and Hospitality. Smiles, friendly greetings. Servers and management that clearly care about their guests’ dining experience. I heard things like, “Sorry to make you wait”, “Please enjoy”, “How’s everything?”, “Let me know if I can do /get anything else for you.” etc. etc. That’s why there’s only one Wolfgang Puck but we can all ASPIRE to that level of Service & Hospitality wherever we are.
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God Bless you and Cheers!
Christoff J. Weihman
Las Vegas, NV