I usually let a restaurant get its bearings before rushing in to try it. I’ll let others get the service hiccups, execution errors, and unbalanced flavors that tend to get smoothed out within a few weeks of an opening. However, when faced with a long line at a neighborhood favorite down the road, I decided to try a cocktail and a snack at a brand new spot, gleaming and stylish.
- Noticed Something Was Wrong: The worst thing a restaurant can do is to pretend everything is just peachy. The waiter returned after I’d had a chance to sample the food, noticing that I’d only been picking at it, and inquired about it. It’s never comfortable to complain about food, so I tested the waters, making just a bit of noise. He encouraged me to say more, assuring me that was okay. He offered to remake one of the dishes that seemed to be a simple execution error, and notified his superiors that there was a dissatisfied customer.
- Showed a Desire to Improve: If the food is bad and nothing is going to be done to change it, why would anyone ever return? After the second version of the dish (only slightly better), the owner stopped by to discuss the issues. It seems simple enough, but the art of making a customer complaining about a dinner feel comfortable explaining the issues—in the hopes of improving the dish for next time—is never easy.
- Didn’t Make the Customer Pay: I rarely advocate restaurants giving away free meals, since so many people abuse that offer, but if they don’t eat the food because it’s truly terrible and give honest feedback about the meal, don’t make them pay. The owner explained that while she couldn’t comp drinks (which were, despite an eclectic cocktail list, quite good), she’d be happy to pay for my meal. With the losses cut to the bad meal, I left feeling more sorry for a new restaurant trying hard than upset with the quality of the meal. A small difference, but a tiny, influential nuance.