I received a direct email from a very unhappy person this morning. Here's the background:
1) we don't take reservations for parties of less than 5;
2) we were CRAZY busy from about 5:30 onward, and the first nine diners sat at the counter so the bar was full from the moment we opened. We had plenty of seating upstairs until about 7:30 pm when some reservations arrived and we quickly filled up there too;
3) if there's a wait, we try out best to estimate the wait time but it is STRICTLY an *estimate*. if there is a wait of 30 minutes or more, we encourage patrons to grab a drink nearby and we call them when their table is ready. we have to do this because there is no waiting area at the restaurant. we also encourage patrons not to call or come back before we call them BECAUSE IT MEANS THERE IS NO TABLE AVAILABLE YET. and showing up and calling does not seat you any faster (although calling can give more current information about the wait, to help you plan - this is fine!). also hovering over a table does not get you seated any sooner either.
4) i am always available on the floor as the GM to discuss any concerns or frustrations with the food or service.
so, with all that said, here's the email:
I am writing to express my very deep and sincere disappointment at the extremely inconsiderate treatment we received last night at your restaurant. It was not our first visit and we all knew before arriving that the downstairs seating is very limited
[there were about 10 seats available on the 2nd floor when these three patrons arrived but they insisted on waiting for counter seats -- where we only have 11 seats and 9 or them were taken.]
However, after waiting futilely for over an hour and a half, needless to say we gave up.
[this party left to get a drink. we called them to provide an update as soon as we realized that the initial estimated wait time was incorrect. we offered table seating again, which they refused. again. the point of us calling with an update was to give them the option of continuing to wait or to change their plans. we did not call them to tell them their table was ready but they returned anyway and hovered over diners at the counter].
Again, we understand perfectly well that there are only a small number of spaces at the counter downstairs. However, for at least 30 minutes of the time while we were standing in the front waiting patiently, there actually were 3 spaces free at the counter -- the only problem was that those seats were separated by a party of 3 men who sat at the corner and showed no signs of leaving. I don't think it would have been too much for the hostess (who frankly was utterly incompetent) to ask if they might move over one seat to allow the 3 of us to take the open spaces.
[this is partially true. we could've made people move down in order to create three seats in a row -- however, all diners were well into the middle of their meals and i thought it would be disruptive to ask a bunch of parties to move over.]
Instead, the hostess ignored us completely and seated a couple who arrived well after we had already been standing there for 45 minutes.
[i dispute this wait time]
Then, when the lone woman at the left end of the counter departed, the hostess was able to immediately seat another lucky couple who had just arrived.
During the entire time we stood there waiting, we were only offered 2 (!) small glasses of water -- which honestly tasted as though the glasses had not been properly cleaned. Maybe sometime around the 45-minute mark, I believe after the first "lucky couple" had been seated, one of the waitresses offered to take drink orders for us.
[i approached this party multiple times to explain the situation, including apologizing for the unexpectedly long times -- we had multiple parties dining for almost three hours last night -- and offered them a table upstairs as well as a beverage and they refused.]
It would have been more appropriate if she had instead offered us a round of drinks on the house for our patience. [this is my main question for you -- if you want to be sat at a particular table and refuse all other available options and it turns out that you have to wait for longer than we estimate or than you would like, do we owe you free drinks???]
Or if you might have offered us some small snack -- edamame or something -- while we stood there like idiots. [from my perspective, if it's your choice to be a passive-aggressive idiot, should i offer you free food in the name of good service?]
Though I know you were busy preparing food for your customers, there is no way you could have missed the 3 of us standing there waiting in vain to be seated. Shame on you, Seki-san. [honestly, i know i should write this complaint off as baseless based on this line alone....anyone who expects for the chef to handle front of the house matters in the midst of our peak dinner hours is completely off-base. i dont know why this guy addressed his email to my dad instead of to me, the GM.]
I must say that the greatest insult of all came after we had left for the second and final time, when your completely useless hostess decided to call us once again to let us know that the party of 3 men were paying their bill. Did she honestly expect that we would rush back? [this was actually me calling. it was not to be insulting but i figured they like to know that we did finally have seats available. i wasn't bitchy or catty. i can, however, understand how it came across that way...] By this point, it was nearly 2 hours after we first arrived at your restaurant, and no doubt half of the menu offerings were already gone.
Although I am copying my friend on this e-mail message, I can only speak for myself in saying that you have lost me as a customer. We were treated like utter garbage by your hostess, and also by you. As the owner of the restaurant, it is your responsibility to treat customers with respect, which was nowhere in evidence last night. And a look through some of the reviews that you have received on Yelp, clearly we were not the first customers to feel that they were treated poorly by the service staff there. Frankly, you should all be ashamed of yourselves, and you in particular Seki-san need to re-evaluate the way you and your staff treat customers.
SO, I would genuinely welcome your feedback. my main question is highlighted above....this is really the first direct complaint i've encountered regarding our service. I'm very new in my capacity as GM so I have A LOT to learn and obviously want to implement best practices. i'm more than happy to offer complimentary drinks or food if we make a mistake. but i'm not sure how i feel about doling out free food or drinks just because a patron is unhappy for reasons beyond our control....what do you think??? or should i have asked diners to move during the middle of their meal to create three seats even while a long list of diners were in line?