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Evaluating Moods of Diners


blakegwinn
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A friend of mine just showed me a Harvard Business School Case Study that Patrick O'Connell wrote about The Inn At Little Washington's operations.

It looks like from the moment the guests walk through the door, their are given a grade on a scale of 1-10 based on their mood and then this grade is put on a chart in the kitchen. The rest of the evening is spent trying to elevate the mood of the guest. He has a system for training his staff to look for clues that the guest is unhappy or uncomfortable. O'Connell says that the guest is not to leave unless their mood is higher (on the scale) than when they arrived. This is achieved by additional courses, samples of selections that weren't chosen, complementary drinks, switching servers, O'Connell inviting the guests back into the kitchen for a tour, etc.

It was a pretty interesting read

My only problem with this theory (as well as some of my more comp happy managers in the past) is that it seems that the unhappy, persistently grumpy diners who are just miserable and make everyone else miserable get all the rewards and perks that are doled out. Where is the kitchen tour and extra course or free dessert for the person who comes in smiles, acts polite, loves everything, quietly pays their check, thanks everyone and leaves? I guess I understand the business aspect of it, the 2nd group are likely to repeat without the extras while you might be able to woo some non-repeat grumps into coming back with goodies but still... This just sucks. I guess it is just sour grapes from someone planted firmly in the 2nd group.

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My only problem with this theory (as well as some of my more comp happy managers in the past) is that it seems that the unhappy, persistently grumpy diners who are just miserable and make everyone else miserable get all the rewards and perks that are doled out.

[Welcome to the moderating world of dr.com!] :)

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My only problem with this theory (as well as some of my more comp happy managers in the past) is that it seems that the unhappy, persistently grumpy diners who are just miserable and make everyone else miserable get all the rewards and perks that are doled out. Where is the kitchen tour and extra course or free dessert for the person who comes in smiles, acts polite, loves everything, quietly pays their check, thanks everyone and leaves? I guess I understand the business aspect of it, the 2nd group are likely to repeat without the extras while you might be able to woo some non-repeat grumps into coming back with goodies but still... This just sucks. I guess it is just sour grapes from someone planted firmly in the 2nd group.
I think your premise may be faulty, though. We were firmly in the second, happy-giddy group as well and were treated as generously as you can imagine. (Note: this was five or so years ago.) We walked in happy, and ordered the tasting menu with wine. On hearing that my brother/dining companion was a sommelier, the server sent out their sommelier (which of course sent bro over the moon). He proceeded to come out about five minutes before every course to talk extensively about what he was pouring, and he even served us several (very special) wines that weren't the menu's listed pairings but that he thought we'd enjoy more ("something special we opened in back just to taste"). When we popped into the garden for a smoke break, they brought us pillows for our seats and ice water. We got a tour of the kitchen at the end, and one of the valets walked us the block to our car holding an umbrella over our heads, while he was rained on comprehensively.

We definitely discerned no discrimination against giddy diners; rather, I think our excitement allowed them to go over the top in hospitality.

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I think your premise may be faulty, though. We were firmly in the second, happy-giddy group as well and were treated as generously as you can imagine. (Note: this was five or so years ago.) We walked in happy, and ordered the tasting menu with wine. On hearing that my brother/dining companion was a sommelier, the server sent out their sommelier (which of course sent bro over the moon). He proceeded to come out about five minutes before every course to talk extensively about what he was pouring, and he even served us several (very special) wines that weren't the menu's listed pairings but that he thought we'd enjoy more ("something special we opened in back just to taste"). When we popped into the garden for a smoke break, they brought us pillows for our seats and ice water. We got a tour of the kitchen at the end, and one of the valets walked us the block to our car holding an umbrella over our heads, while he was rained on comprehensively.

We definitely discerned no discrimination against giddy diners; rather, I think our excitement allowed them to go over the top in hospitality.

You know I am sure you are right I just get frustrated sometimes. I will give you another story. There is a guy we call Mr. Pancakes that comes in about once every 2-3 months he is an older guy and walks in with a snarl. Bitches ALL through his meal. About EVERYTHING. Service, things being overcooked, undercooked, portions not big enough, portions too big.

He is Mr. Pancakes becuase one day at brunch he raised absolute hell because our pancakes weren't big enough. The thing that kills me the most is that for all his bitching about how we cook green beans, the sauce on our meatloaf etc. he gets the same freaking thing everytime, hates it and demands that we don't charge him for it after cleaning his plate. Well sure enough this guy causes such a stink he inevitably gets at least a free dessert everytime. Meanwhile some of my favorites come in all the time ask me about my life, say please and thank you, spend a lot of money, tip well and they don't get any freebies.

I really wish I could and I know it is different at other restuarants but I have no authorization to give away freebies and I don't think you want a tour of our kitchen. With our computer and ticketing system I couldn't get freebies without a manager authorization or breaking the rules. Depending on the manager and mood I might be able to talk them in to hooking up some of my favorites but they have a very small comp budget as it is and they need it to appease the likes of Mr. Pancakes. I give them great service of course but it is so much more intangible than a free dessert or round of drinks every now and again. I just wish I could do more for the customers who, after three years working at the same restaurant, have become friends than the miserable people who are just bad apples all around.

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