Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shunning Restaurants or Giving Feedback

My friends think I'm a bit harsh sometimes but there are a handful of restaurants that are "dead to me." Perhaps I am really silly and childish for shunning restaurants but I don't do this lightly. I only decide never to dine at a spot again when my experience has been so terrible, I cannot in good faith support the establishment any further. Here are a few things to think about before writing off a restaurant - or just being rude:

1. Give restaurants the benefit of the doubt. I am pretty patient; sometimes restaurants are new and they need to work out some operational kinks and sometimes they are busier than normal. I don't know if a line cook suddenly came down with the flu at the last minute or a place is lacking an expediter that day. If you dine at a place with great service, more often than not, the server will give you a status check and mention that the kitchen is running behind or apologize for a late order. If not, you're entitled to ask for a status update on a late item. Most servers are sweet about it.

2. Speak up rather than passively aggressively seethe in annoyance. Give feedback politely when it is warranted. However, always think about things from a restaurant's or server's perspective before lashing out. Ask yourself, "Is this really worth complaining about? Or am I just super hangry?"
I tend to keep my opinions to myself, but Nick is very good at providing constructive feedback to the server. When a server checks in on us with a, "How is everything?" Nick may kindly mention, "Well, this salmon is perfectly cooked and it's delicious. However, you might want to mention to the chef that there still are some big bones in the fish. Not a big deal - just thought he should know." Usually, the server apologizes and asks if we'd like something else, comps the offending entrée or provides a discount. We do not ask places to take a dish back unless something is inedible or undercooked.

3. If you have an egregious issue that a server cannot handle (or perhaps the problem is the server), politely bring it up with the manager. Never demand anything; the best question is to ask the manager, "I have this problem. What can you do?" Managers usually figure out how to make things better for you in a way that can appease you. But be fair! Your whole meal shouldn't be comped just because an entrée was lukewarm or because an appetizer was too late.

4. Don't provide a negative Yelp (or other) review about the service until you do those things. It's not fair to flame a restaurant when they've had no chance to try to explain a situation or make you happy. You can definitely critique the food in a fair way but a one star review for a poor parking situation, slightly slow service or a trite issue makes reviews useless. Also, you should never use a review or a blog as a threat to a manager to give you free things.

The reason why I have shunned a few spots in the past is because I had such terrible and disappointing experiences that could not have been improved and because quite frankly, there are so many awesome restaurants in Seattle, skipping a few won't kill me. If you hate a place, you never need to go back. Perhaps all of this seems like common sense but Seattle folks are really good at being passive aggressive.

So why have I shunned places at all?  One Belltown Mexican spot was so terrible, my friend almost got into a physical altercation with a manager and our poor server was in tears from the situation. I'm happy to say that the restaurant has since closed down. Another restaurant provided abysmal and slow service which was almost forgivable until they decided to give the last piece of a dessert I ordered to a local celebrity chef who was dining there - and then proceeded to tell me about it! The last I have shunned since prom because prom is supposed to be a special lovely night for a group of well-behaved teenagers. Despite making reservations well over a month in advance, the restaurant screwed the whole thing up and provided us such poor service, the diners next to us noticed and commented. My date ended up stealing a tall pepper mill to exact some revenge. I guess my restaurant grudges last a long time. But with age comes maturity and my friends and I no longer steal from restaurants when we're unhappy. :)

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