It can take a lot to make me cut ties with a restaurant. But two chains’ poor service and failure to follow through was enough.
I don’t expect a lot when I dine out or pick up a takeout order these days. Since the pandemic, poor service has become more common than even average service at restaurants.
The bigger the restaurant (or the bigger the chain), the more troubles seem to arise.
Here, I know, is where people will immediately chime in about low wages and the struggle to get good workers. Yeah, I’ve heard that all before. When I worked my first job, I made a minimum wage that would make today’s minimum look like a fortune. I knew it wasn’t great pay. But unlike a lot of folks these days, I had this little thing called work ethic.
I knew it wasn’t where I was going to spend my life. But I made the best of it while I was there. I took the job seriously. I worked hard and did my best to satisfy the customers, even when I would rather have been somewhere else.
If you’re going to wait on the public — and prepare their food — you have to have some standards. Sooner or later, a restaurant is going to fall short. That’s life.
But it’s how the restaurant — and more importantly, its parent company — responds to those failures that can save a customer.
Two restaurants I used to do business with often no longer get my money.
The first is a fried chicken chain.
This place lost me before the pandemic, so its owners can’t even claim that “The Great Resignation” as an excuse.
It likes to fancy itself a Cajun restaurant that is based right in the heart of Cajun Country. It isn’t.
I have this crazy idea about fast food fried chicken restaurants: If they’re going to be fast food, they need to have the food actually cooked and ready to serve. Otherwise, it’s not fast food.
Seems perfectly logical to me.
My normal go-to when I go to such a restaurant is a two-breast dinner. I get whatever sides come with that. It’s not an overcomplicated order.
I have two expectations.
First, if you’re going to work in a fried chicken restaurant, know the difference between a breast and a thigh. One has a ribcage and the other doesn’t.
Second, have the chicken cooked. If I order food and I have to wait 18 minutes for it to cook, that means they had run out before starting to cook more.
An 18-minute wait is not “fast food.”
I called this restaurant’s corporate customer service number five times over the course of about six months. Each time, their customer service rep promised someone would call me back to discuss the poor service.
No one ever bothered. They lost me.
The second is a popular steakhouse.
I like a good steak. For many years, one of my favorite steakhouses has been one that likes to fancy itself being based straight out of Australia. It isn’t.
From time to time, I’d get a takeout from this place. Given their prices, a meal there for one can run up to $35 or so. For that kind of money, I expect a little care to be taken that everything I’m supposed to have gets packed in my takeout containers. For that kind of money, I really don’t think that’s too much to ask.
But on at least three different occasions, they left something out. The last time, they left out salad dressing for my salad, sauce for the appetizer and butter for the bread. In one order. I caught their error at a stop light on my way home. I turned around and returned and pointed out what they left out. The employee retrieved the items without an apology.
Come on, folks. You made me turn around and come back to get you to finish the job. You can at least apologize. But they didn’t.
I reached out and heard from their social media team. They promised a “regional manager” would get back to me in two business days. After 40 business days — I actually counted workdays, omitting weekends and holidays — I reached back out. The team assured me they followed up with that regional manager a second time and that I’d hear back within 48 hours.
You can guess what happened (or what didn’t happen) next. After a full week — that’s 120 hours — this alleged regional manager never bothered to follow up with me.
What could have been a fairly simple acknowledgment of poor service became a much bigger problem.
Both chains showed me their true colors.
When you offer poor service — and I’m sure no restaurant sets out to do so — you deal with it. You apologize. You respond to the customers who might be giving you a chance to retain them if you own your mistakes.
It shouldn’t take a rocket science or a customer service consultant to explain that to a chain.
Clearly, some of these restaurants think they have such a massive customer base that they can disrespect some of them and there’ll be enough other customers that they’ll be fine.
If they’re lucky, they’ll never find out otherwise. More power to them.
But if there’s justice, their own lack of concern about poor service might just be the thing that puts them out of business.
I’d like to hope they don’t have to learn that lesson the hard way.