August 13, 2010
Serranos Pizza and Delfina: Forget What the Customer WantsFor those old enough to remember when America 'stood' for service, delivered great service and listened to and responded to customer needs and desires, you'll also notice where it continues to decline -- even in the world of social media where everyone can speak up.
Airlines, restaurants, hotels. For the traveler, the frequent traveler that is, service can make or break your experience. It's not just about a soft bed, a clean bathroom and great food - it's about your experience and how you feel in those establishments. I often get more hospitable service and 'curiosity' at an old fashioned diner than I do a 5 star hotel.
I had a few 'interesting' experiences over the last few months that left me feeling unheard and more importantly, feel as if my requests didn't matter as a 'paying customer.' I'll mention two, both based in San Francisco.
Serrano's Pizza in San Francisco is a small casual eatery with a few tables - I imagine a lot of their business is take out since they're all about pizza and pasta.
I've ordered from them quite a bit in the past six months. The past 3 times, I asked for more sauce on my pasta since the first time it was really dry. The first time was just a simple request - extra sauce please. The second time, I explained that the last time was very dry and could she PLEASE add extra sauce. (BTW, I had to heat up my own sauce --from a JAR--) to really enjoy my meal. The second order, despite the request, it was too dry, so once again, I heated up more sauce.
Try number 3, the conversation goes into depth. I BEG them -- over five minutes -- to dish up extra sauce. Happy to pay for it; just WANT EXTRA EXTRA SAUCE PLEASE. He says, "well it's hard to fit a lot of sauce with a lid on it," or something to this effect. "Hmmm, put extra sauce on the side."
In other words, whatever you have to do: PLEASE SIR - your PAYING CUSTOMER WANTS EXTRA SAUCE ON HER SPAGHETTI!! How hard is this? You're an Italian pizzeria. You have sauce right? It's not like I'm asking for extra Mexican beans. The order arrives. Annoyed that my repeated plea (at least six times in one of those voices that sounded like I was down on my hands and knees begging) seemed to go nowhere, I decide to call.
He says, "you don't see extra sauce." NO, I say as I open the container and see a layer of sauce sitting on the top of a huge pile of spaghetti. He suggested I go somewhere else and no I'm not joking. Instead of an apology to his PAYING CUSTOMER, I was told to take a hike. Thanks George, I WILL.
Enter Delfina, a restaurant I have always liked - the ambience, the food, the wine. It's also popular and trendy and often, there's a long wait for a table. A friend was in from out of town and wanted to try it out, so on that particular night, we were walk-ins who sat at the bar. Bread came and an appetizer, one which I, the PAYING CUSTOMER, wanted more garlic for......
The bartender looked at me as if I had asked for a dozen free roses rather than a side of garlic. The response? The chef won't do it. Huh? I actually walked up to the kitchen (since it's wide open) to confirm for myself and sure enough, no garlic for a PAYING CUSTOMER who asked for it despite the fact that they had it.
My friend, a male in his thirties from the East Coast, was also in disbelief, and it was clear that he wanted to see me -- his friend -- happy because the restaurant clearly didn't care whether I was or not. So, what does he do? He walks out of the restaurant to a little grocer/convenience store on the same block, and buys a bulb of garlic. When he returned with a grin on his face, we sat there at the bar, both cutting up the bulb of garlic, in front of the bartender and in front of other guests. And so I GOT my garlic, but I got my garlic the hard way. All of it was so unnecessary.
So, what's our take away here? Was their stubbornness and refusal to 'please' a customer worth it? They have essentially created a very disgruntled PAYING CUSTOMER simply because they wouldn't dish up some extra sauce in a container or chop up some garlic on a plate.
More than being disgruntled and affecting our dining experience at the time, I have a negative memory in my 'dining memory bank' that is strong enough to last a lifetime. I'll tell people about the experience so others will hear the ridiculousness of their decisions and so on. And, it sat with me so much that I finally decided to write a blog post about it.
So if you don't care about your customers and what they want, just say so. Say you're about your food and that's it. Come to EAT not have an experience. All I can say is that it's a crying shame to leave such an impression when it was so easy to have the opposite reaction and, a very very different blog post.
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