The less-than-festive holiday lunch service

A friend and I scheduled a special holiday lunch at one of the finest San Francisco hotels. Unfortunately, the service we received was less than we’d get at a take-out restaurant. Let me share the story and then examine what could have been done.

* We arrived at our reservation time and there were two parties ahead of us in line, neither with reservations. We waited over 10 minutes for them to be seated in the half-full restaurant before we could even state that we had a reservations.

Wouldn’t it be grand if there were two lines at restaurants, one for folks checking in with reservations and one without. Shouldn’t those who had the foresight and took the time to make reservations be given priority service?

* We waited 10 more minutes for our server to arrive. We gave her both our drink and lunch order, stating that we had already waited a while. She was apologetic and said they were short handed today. We smiled and nodded.

The customer doesn’t really care why they are getting bad service. They should still get adequate service, even if it is not the best the establishment provides with a full staff.

* The meal came promptly and was delicious. I found a piece of metal in mine, like from a Christmas ornament. I put it aside, and since it wasn’t disgusting, ate around where it had been and watched carefully to make sure there wasn’t more. I was engrossed in the conversation with my friend, so decided to point out the metal when the server returned. She didn’t.

No foreign object should ever be in food, but usually the server checks back within minutes of the dishes being served to make sure everything is to the customers’ liking. We didn’t see our server again until we were finished.

* When she finally arrived to clear the plates, I gave her the metal and said she should show the chef. She apologized and said she’d show the manager immediately. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded. “Because you didn’t ever check in with us.” “You should have waived me over,” she countered. I wanted to say, “I was focused on my friend, not on tracking you down.” But I didn’t.

Service staff should never make the customer wrong for their not doing their job.

* She left and told the manager about my find. She was back within minutes to say they were comping our meal and would like to comp dessert and coffee if we’d like. We took her up on the offer and thanked her politely.

They should have comped my meal, and it was generous of the manager to comp my friend’s too, as well as dessert.

This is a grand old hotel, with a beautifully appointed dining room. Too bad our experience of their service was way below par.

Have you audited your customer service lately? How do your staff respond when something is wrong with a meal? Do they make the customer wrong? I can help your staff respond appropriately to customer mishaps. Call and we can discuss it.

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