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It Took Only a Few Failed Guest Experiences to Lose My Restaurant Patronage

Botched orders and unaccountable management quickly killed my enthusiasm for the new restaurant down the street.

Several months ago, I noticed a “coming soon” sign on a recently vacated restaurant less than a mile from my home. The new tenant was going to be a ramen and sushi bar, so I was excited to try the food as soon as they opened. But that didn’t happen for a few more months.

In fact, whenever I drove past the vacant space, there was no sign of activity. Nobody moving furniture in or out, no construction crew and no owners in sight. I’d learned from past experience that when a restaurant is so slow to open, the new owners may have no idea what they’re doing or are already experiencing money flow problems.

Still, I held out hope that I was wrong because I love ramen and was eager to expand my circle of favorite ramen restaurants. Eventually, there was a sign posted on the door saying the restaurant would open the next week. But that week came and went with no grand opening.

The new restaurant information was readily available with a smartphone search, so I gave them a call. “We’ll be open next week,” the person answered. But the next week came and went and the restaurant remained closed. Finally, I drove past one day and they were open. I couldn’t wait to try their ramen and other noodle dishes.

The first time I visited, I had a great experience. One of the owners took my takeout order and was friendly and helpful. The food was delicious. I planned to eat there often. However, that was the last time I’d have a good guest experience at this restaurant.

The next time I got takeout, I had a pleasant chat with the friendly employee who took my order and was happy when I left. Then I got home and found that the dish wasn’t what I ordered. I called the restaurant to let the manager know, only to be told “The cook must have made a mistake.”

No offer for a new meal. No apology. Just an unconcerned attitude and no accountability or concern for offering a positive guest experience. This put me off but I tried to order one more time, a couple of weeks later. This time, I got one of the owners on the phone so I let her know about my last experience.

“You must have ordered the wrong dish,” she told me. So, it was my fault, not the fault of the person who took the order or cooked the dish. She didn’t apologize or offer to throw in a spring roll for my troubles. There was no accountability, no interest in finding out what happened or how they might correct these types of mistakes to keep customers happy and returning.

I didn’t order that day. Instead, I vowed to pay no more money to restaurant owners who didn’t grasp that good customer service and a willingness to fix issues is what gains loyal customers. They seemed to think that good food alone was enough, even if it wasn’t the food that I ordered.

So, what could this restaurant have done to keep my business and even gain my loyalty? Here are three things the owner could have done to stop this situation from going south.

1. Listen to my concerns

When I called about the incorrect order, the person who took my call didn’t seem to understand that I was frustrated by getting home to open a dish that I didn’t order. He just wanted to get on and off the phone as quickly as possible. If he’d listened with concern, I would have felt valued as a customer.

2. Practice empathy

Both the manager and the owner showed zero empathy for the frustration a customer must feel when they have no choice but to eat a meal that isn’t what they want or drive all the way back to the restaurant and get a newly prepared, correct dish.

Even one “I’m sorry this happened” or “I’ll find out what happened and fix this issue for future orders” would have been enough to convince me to give the restaurant one more try. Instead, the owner blamed me, falsely assuming I’d ordered the wrong dish.

3. Take action

The owner showed no interest in finding out if the cook was trained improperly and mixing up other orders, too. Instead, she acted like none of this was a big deal.

I used to work in restaurants, so I’m understanding when it comes to human error. However, what drove me away from this restaurant was not being taken seriously by management. Now when I drive by, there are never more than just a few cars in the parking lot, even during busy lunch hours.

I’m guessing I’m not the only customer who gave up on trying to get management to take a look at their restaurant’s problems so they could nip them in the bud. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if that space is soon vacant again, with another “coming soon” sign in the window and the former owners having no idea why their restaurant failed.