"Text-Book" Complaint with A Great Restaurant Response
Example of How to List Grievances and How to Encourage A Dialogue with A Restaurant
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with A GREAT Response!
(Originally published in the November/December 1999 issue of SoloDining.com)
(Bonus Complaint Link)
On July 28, 1999, I was staying at a nearby Holiday Inn and decided to treat myself to a good dinner at your
My visit did not turn out well. I arrived at 5:00pm to beat the rush. I was greeted at the front door and led
to the dining room, where we passed several tables set for two, to the front window area where I was seated at
a large table set for four.
The greeter handed me two single sheet menus. One was apparently the early bird specials and the other a wine
list. He then left.
While I sat reading over the dinner selections, I overheard people at a table behind me discussing what they
were ordering. Many of the items did not appear on my menu. I can only assume they had the regular dinner menu.
The waiter was busy clearing other tables and taking dessert orders while I waited to place mine. He then moved
to a table of eight behind me and began taking their orders. Many hadn’t decided yet and the process was dragging
on and on.
Since I had already been sitting there about 15 minutes without so much as a glass of water, I left. There were
only three other tables occupied in addition to the party of eight, so the restaurant was not busy.
Perhaps your staff needs some training in dealing with solo diners. Placing me at a table set for four right
in the window was poor. I do not wish to be on exhibition. A smaller table would have been ideal. The greeter left
in such a hurry, I had no time to request a move. Also, whatever happened to the drink order? If I had something
to drink, the wait wouldn’t have seemed so long.
In all cases, when dining alone, I over-tip the server since the cost of the meal is less than two or more dinners
to show my appreciation for the service. In this case, it appeared the server just didn’t have time for a single
Believe me, on several occasions I have had a server stop to take my order before a large party, explaining
how it will reduce my wait. I hope this information will be useful in future treatment of solo diners.
I received a letter from the owner/manager who indicated he was very concerned about ‘this isolated incident’;
he assured me that ‘steps had been made to correct these problem areas.’
He personally apologized for the unpleasant experience and enclosed a $25 gift certificate to ‘visit again and
regain your faith in our fine establishment.’ ”
Our thanks to SoloDining.com subscriber Bill Schell for sharing his letter detailing this unfortunate solo dining
experience and the successful resolution.
Lisa e-mails SoloDining.com:
I found your website after doing a google search for solo diners after a bad dining experience. Below is the text
of the e-mail I sent to the restaurant. I haven't heard a response. Should I try mailing it on the chance that
it got lost somehow?
[Your editor responds:
Perhaps it did get lost. Sometimes spam monitors are the culprits.
Here's my suggestion: Call the restaurant. Ask for the name of the manager and for a mailing address. Please
consider mailing it to that person "return receipt requested" so that you'll receive a postcard signed
by the person who took receipt of your letter.
This action should get management's attention.]
I’m writing re: my concerns about single/female diners at The Lake Club. I’ve dined at your establishment several
times. The first few times were under previous management. We had mixed gender groups and no problem. I went a
few times when you were under transition w/another female friend. We put up w/minor mistakes & having to prod
for specials because we understand that it takes awhile to get things off the ground. We were glad to have the
type of ambience and food selection you have on the Island.
My last visit was this summer when my friend and I were seated next to a table including badly behaved kids despite
the availability of other tables. We had to listen to assorted screaming and carrying on for well over an hour,
not something we’d expect at your caliber of restaurant. The kids were running around & bumped my friend’s
chair several times. Not wanting to be seen as the intolerant, single gals, we kept quiet. Finally another table
complained & someone from The Lake Club stepped in to address the situation. No one stepped in when the kids
were carrying on at an obvious volume & disrupting us by running into my friend’s chair.
If not for a subsequent situation, I’d write that off as a one time quirk. But today, I thought I’d treat myself
to lunch at The Lake Club. I turned 40 today (Wed. Jan 11th). Due to work &/or location, my friends and family
are planning to celebrate this weekend. I thought I’d treat myself to some spa time & then have a nice lake
view lunch on my own.
The reason this is an invitation to discussion vs. a complaint is there is room for miscommunication, etc. and
I want to give you a chance to address that. I didn’t make a reservation, which maybe I should have (specifying
my single status & lake view preference). I arrived a bit after 2. I asked the maitre d’ for a table for one.
He seemed taken aback by that request & offered me a table in an isolated corner by the fireplace. I said I
wanted one w/a lake view. There were what appeared to be several open ones, including some right by the window.
He offered me the one farthest away from the window, saying he only had a few w/a lake view.
I don’t dine alone much, but when I do, I notice some places are very welcoming to single women while others treat
us like lepers (guess which gets the business $$ from the single women). I was getting a distinct leper vibe from
my experience today and opted to go elsewhere. If the open tables were reserved, your maitre d’ could have informed
me & offered me the option of waiting at the bar. He didn’t. That reinforces my notion that this was about
me being a lone, female diner. I know from my own waitstaff experience eons ago that there is a perception women
don’t tip well which leads to bad treatment of female patrons. Well, I tip at least 20% as a standard. Even in
my own waitstaff days, I realized not everyone fits their stereotype so give them a chance. If they stiff you,
you don’t give them as good service next time. But you have allowed them to show you if they conform to a tipping
stereotype. Which I certainly do not. In fact, in a potentially weird single dining experience where the waitstaff
treats me well, my usual is 25%.
I ended up walking to the Roadhouse. I was seated at a good table & treated w/respect & courtesy. I tipped
30% on my order of a Grey Goose Martini, 2 glasses of wine, an antipasto appetizer and grilled chicken salad. I
almost ordered dessert but was too full.
For The Lake Club’s waitstaff’s sake, I hope some folks filled the table the maitre d’ was saving for the couples
and other non single social lepers. I hope they ordered as much as I did & tipped them as well. Am I a less
valuable customer than the folks that drag screaming kids into your establishment scaring away other customers?
And you know those kids aren’t running up a bar tab! J
I live within walking distance of your establishment and The American Grill and The Roadhouse. I know from past
experience, the other 2 treat single diners w/respect & courtesy. Your establishment has failed miserably in
that regard. Is it an honest mistake or a policy decision? Either we have an honest miscommunication here or your
establishment is hostile to single/female diners. Which is it? I look forward to your clarification.
SoloDining.com thanks Lisa for sharing her complaint.
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