Saturday, October 13, 2007

No worries, Mate.

A week ago Friday, we went out to dinner with the kids to the Outback Steakhouse in Eden Prairie with our good friends and their two daughters. We hadn't been there in years but they go there all the time as one of their daughters suffers from Celiac disease. With a Type-1 Diabetic in our family, we can appreciate a menu with lots of options and nutritional information.

Outback has a great gluten-free menu.

A party of nine, we arrived 5:30, were seated at 5:45 and ordered at 6 PM. We were visiting and having fun for quite a while when we realized that it had been almost an hour and our food hadn't shown up.

When it did, the food was really good save my son's cold steak.

We asked to see a manager regarding the long wait and the cold steak. Our server only then realized how long we had waited, and that's job one. Quite a few minutes went by and the manager (in-training I think) presented herself. Actually, maybe she was the assistant to the regional manager...but I digress.

We calmly told her of our issues. She offered her apologies and one gift certificate (for us to fight over presumably) and some free deserts (of their choosing - remember the gluten free deal?).

Another several minutes went by, as we waited the deserts and our check. By now the kids are at 211 degrees.

Finally. The deserts. No check. We asked the server to take the deserts back - we were out of time and patience - and to have the manager bring our check.

The manager brought the check and reminded us that parties of nine include a 15% gratuity.

Wow. Good help is hard to find.

Our stayed calm as I began to bubble over. The manager offered nothing more than her repeated apologies, apparently the only tool in her bag.

Seriously, we all know that these things happen. An order gets lost. Someone takes the wrong plate. I grew up in the restaurant business. What customers want is not perfection, every time. What they want to see is how an organization, vendor or professional mitigates and rectifies an error, defect or bad experience. Do they show you that they sincerely want you to come back again.

Restaurants live or die by word of mouth.

We left the Outback in disbelief. We felt like roadkill.

As a last effort, our friends emailed Outback regarding our experience. How they had invited their friends to come out with them to their favorite restaurant. How embarrassed they were.

Her phone rang fifteen minutes later with one of the owners on the line. He was livid. He was apologetic ad infinitum. He sent $150 worth of gift certificates with a letter and his cell phone number so that we could call him to tell him when we were going to Outback again so that he could call ahead to assure an excellent experience.

The next day, a large bouquet of flowers arrived: Love, Outback Steakhouse. Please come back!

Ripper, you little!

Do you think we'll go back there? You darn right mate!


Aaron APC said...

Good story. Glad to hear some companies still ensure clients get good service.

My parents had a similar experience when I was growing up in Indy. My mom made a group reservation for about 12 couples (all friends) to go and celebrate their November anniversaries. The place my mom picked (the Velvet Turtle, which I'm sure has been closed for some time.) had even worse experiences than yours. After 2 hours, some people hadn't got their food. While others had been given their food less than an hour after arrival - and it got cold while they waited fro everyone else to be served. Those who were served early had to eat a cold meal, while others watched.

My mom complained, and was just brushed away. She was finally able to get an apology and a return trip completely "on the house." However, it took at least 3 months and several calls just to get this.

Bike Bubba said...

I don't know that I would have waited that long for my food. One time, when it was obvious my larger family was being made to wait while others who arrived after us were being seated, I simply left. Probably should have let managers know why, but would it have killed them to put two tables together to serve people who'd been waiting for 45 minutes already?