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"Text-Book" Complaint with A Great Restaurant Response



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"Text-Book" Complaint

with A GREAT Response!

(Originally published in the November/December 1999 issue of SoloDining.com)

(Bonus Complaint Link)


Complaint:


Dear Sir:

On July 28, 1999, I was staying at a nearby Holiday Inn and decided to treat myself to a good dinner at your restaurant.

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 diner.

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.

Response:


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.

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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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Bonus Complaint Link!

Consumer Action Website (Federal Citizen Information Center) — Provides a "before you buy" section — general advice on steps to take when shopping for goods or services, warnings on what to watch out for, and specific information on how to shop for certain major items such as cars, etc.

AND an "after you buy" section — if you have a problem after making a purchase, including finding legal advice, etc. (Sample complaint letter!)

Additionally, a Consumer Assistance Directory reveals the most effective places to file your complaint or ask a question. (Contact info for consumer organizations, corporations, trade associations, and government agencies at the city, county, state and Federal level. These sites have a "contact us" button to provide another way to send your message directly to the company or agency.)




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