To All Local Restaurants

Discussion in 'Dining and Food' started by SneakyPete, Jun 30, 2011.

  1. SneakyPete

    SneakyPete Beach Lover

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    Let me start by saying I'm an incredibly patient person, born of Southern temperament, so I assume everyone is doing their best. During the busy tourist season, I don't expect my food and drinks "chop chop!" and I don't mind sharing my husband's napkin, knife or water glass if the server forgot, or was too harried to stop by for a quick check-in.

    But recently I've encountered restaurant employees with very poor manners and I thought I'd dispense a little wisdom for their employers, managers and to the workers themselves.

    1. Everyone on staff should be attentive to the customers entering or leaving the establishment. We waited in the foyer of one restaurant while staff was milling around and no one looked at us or greeted us. We instantly felt unwelcome. Every employee can be trained to smile and say, "Hello! We're really busy, but the hostess will be back in just a minute..."

    Similarly, on a recent visit to a Seaside establishment where the food was high priced and the portions were small and the restaurant was half-full, I watched as two employees stood chatting while two families (who'd probably dropped over $60 at lunch) paid and left without acknowledgment from the staff standing RIGHT THERE! It was rude.

    Here's the way it should go: Your customers have paid, have lingered for a few more minutes afterward and are gathering their things. The server comes over, "Thank y'all so much for stopping in. I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation and that you'll come back again while you're here." That certainly beats the attitude of "you've already paid and tipped so I'm done with you."

    2. If you can lean you can clean. SAME restaurant, same employees – chatting idly while two tables sat full of dirty dishes for the next thirty minutes. If something needs doing and you've got nothing to do, DO IT! As a manager, I've cleaned toilets, mopped floors, poured drinks, fetched napkins, jostled babies... If you're in the service industry every service is your job. It's never okay for an employee to look at a mess and think – "Someone will get that...."

    I've also entered a couple of area restaurants where the floor and other surfaces were sticky or there was a distinct smell of spoilage upon entering. An unclean restaurant is unpardonable!! If the night staff is too tired to thoroughly clean before they leave (which is entirely possible in the busy season), then the day shift should be paid to come in early and give the restaurant a clean before the day's customers arrive. Better yet, hire a cleaning crew! (P.S. Don't neglect the condiments on the tables. I'm not a germaphobe, but I've seen a few bottles and dispensers so dirty that I wouldn't let my dog take a lick.)

    3. Don't coast on your laurels and don't serve food you wouldn't serve to your most beloved family member. My husband and I visited a previously well-regarded restaurant for our anniversary. We were so excited. Two hours and a hundred dollars later, we felt like we would have been better off taking Whattaburgers and a bottle of Champipple to the beach. Since then, I've noticed that their reviews have gotten spotty, and I wish I'd know that before I planned our special night.

    I live here, so I can afford to be tolerant, but there are people who save up for an entire year to bring their families down for vacation. It's the highlight of their year, and I hate to think that they're leaving disappointed, feeling unwelcome or taken advantage of for being mere "tourists." I like to think we're all representatives of the area. I want them to leave thinking about how lucky we are to live here. (And we ARE!)
     
  2. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    SneakyPete, great post!!!
     
  3. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    Wow, that was a great lecture! and it is one we can all apply to our work and lives here during tourist season when things are so busy. Have pride in our community, strive for excellence in your work, drive safely and make our visitors welcome. And meditate while cleaning up the beach - try not to grumble too much - most folks take care of our natural environment but some just don't get it and never will.

    BTW, we had a fantastic dinner at Christianos last weekend. Not packed. Excellent service. Wonderful food. May be the best chicken & sausage gumbo on the coast.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2011
  4. 30A Skunkape

    30A Skunkape Mr. Small Box

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    For the first time in a long time we walked out on a place earlier this week. I will not name names, but it is a newer place (a redo of an old place, actually). We made reservations for 8PM, arrived on time and waited at the empty reception podium for at least two minutes before anyone came up. Make no mistake, there was no lack of staff and the place was dead (one table of diners, as best as I could tell). A lady finally came up, and I'm not kidding, asked us what we wanted(!). We told her we had reservations and she fumbled through some papers to confirm, and yes, we were on the list. She excused herself "to go find a table" (again ,the place was dead). After about three minutes of her being gone, she was coming back and stopped en route by the bartender to run a drink to the one active table (as two employees loitered around the bar with nothing to do). She was gone for about two more minutes, and that was enough, I told the troops we were leaving. She came out into the parking lot and tried to get us to go back in, but I had seen enough...it was probably going to be a bad and expensive experience so we went elsewhere and had a very pleasant dinner. I'm predicting the place folds or at least morphs into something different within a year.
     
  5. debesquire

    debesquire Beach Lover

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    Diversification by folks that really shouldn't

    Wow :shock:! I didn't know the federal Department of Veterans' Affairs had gone into the restaurant staff customer service training business! No good can come of that!!
     
  6. Beach Runner

    Beach Runner beats on hood

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    Restaurant owners and managers should watch a few episodes of Restaurant Imposssible on Food Network for some pointers. Yes, most of these are older restaurants that were successful but now failing, but the same principles apply to newer restaurants.
     
  7. 30A Skunkape

    30A Skunkape Mr. Small Box

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    BR, the funny thing was we had all just watched an episode of Restaurant Disasters, or whatever the show is where Gordon Ramsey goes into floundering restaurants and turns them around. Maybe that is why I had a low threshold for such bad service.
     
  8. Beach Runner

    Beach Runner beats on hood

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    How coincidental! I tell you what, watching those shows has had the same effect on me. Some of the pointers apply to other businesses as well, such as greeting customers when they arrive. Actually my mother always taught me to acknowledge the salesperson when I leave a business by saying, "Thank you."
     
  9. SneakyPete

    SneakyPete Beach Lover

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    Beach Runner -- Me too!! And it does apply to all sorts of businesses. A few years ago I entered a local women's clothing/gift shop and apparently I wasn't dressed in enough finery to merit a greeting or any attention at all. I still gave the store a quick circle, and as I left I said, "Thank you!" very pleasantly, as I'd been taught -- and received a strange look. I never went back and I wasn't surprised when the store closed very quickly. Why do people who don't seem to actually LIKE other people go into the service industry? I've always enjoyed making people feel welcome and happy, because it's such a simple thing to achieve when you're dealing with folks on vacation, all primed to be jolly. (Imagine working in a children's cancer ward or a nursing home...how hard it must be to make happiness happen in a joint like that, and yet people do.)
     
  10. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    It is called "common courtesy". so many people comment on how friendly everyone is in our area - and I do believe it to be the case - at least in my own daily experiences. I met a young woman working here for the summer - she is here from Texas, but originally from California. She said she was in shock to find out how friendly everyone was everywhere she went here and Panama City Beach and all around. She had never spent time in this part of the country before and couldn't say enough about how different it was from back home.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. My favorite customer friendly place? Publix!!! [went to new Walmart yesterday and there was just none of that going on at all. depressing actually]
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  11. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    I am not in the advertising business nor do I have any connection with Marie's Bistro other than I like to eat there. It is the epitome of how a restaurant should be.
    When you enter, Haney, the owner will great you warmly and graciously if he is there. If he is not someone else will. You are explained what is on the menu what the specials are and what you might like best according to your tastes. The food is always excellent and the dining experience outstanding. Suffice it to say, it is how a restaurant should be operated, all the way around.
     
  12. Lake View Too

    Lake View Too SoWal Insider

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    A shop-owner in Seaside many years ago made it clear to me, by her actions, that the key to retail (as well as the food industry) is to provide the consumer with a very pleasant experience. Of course, you can sell them an object, and they can leave the store, OK. But, if you can be friendly, or funny, or engaging in almost any way, then they will simply come back again because they had fun, as well as paid money for the thing they wanted. Pretty simple, huh?
     
  13. 30A Skunkape

    30A Skunkape Mr. Small Box

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    I have heard it said that the key that keeps chain restaurants like PF Changs, Macaroni Grill, Outback Steakhouse etc going is the customer service experience. Lets face it, the food is not that great but they coach the servers into delivering an experience that is sometimes lacking at the independent eateries. Americans go for style over substance, it would seem.
     
  14. SneakyPete

    SneakyPete Beach Lover

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    I didn't mean to make it sound as if most restaurants or businesses here acting this way. Most staff I've encountered seemed happy to provide great service, and maybe that's why the ones that don't stand out! But as these examples/comments prove, it only takes one bad experience to leave a bad taste in your mouth. There are a lot of things a reasonable person can forgive or overlook. Rude staff and unsanitary conditions are where I draw the line.

    As to the chain restaurants, the consistent training methods and corporate policies do tend to mean that the staff is uniformly professional, but there's no reason an independent restaurant can't do the same thing (train employees well and provide written policies and procedures), and many do. Sometimes the chain restaurant is a safe choice simply because you know what to expect when it comes to menu and price. These days, with money being tight, an unfamiliar restaurant can seem like an expensive mistake waiting to happen. For that reason, I really really like it when restaurants put their menu with prices on their website. If I'm planning on going out with a group, I can make sure it's a place that has something that will appeal to everyone's palate and wallet. I much prefer to support independent restaurants, and a good (simple, easy-to-navigate) website makes that easier.
     

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