I own an independent restaurant. We smoke our own bbq, make pastries and desserts, make our own breads, etc. Customers, occasionally, don't like something and tell the waitress to bring them something else. This isn't due to anything wrong with what we sent out. It usually involves someone who thought they were going to get something bought in bulk from a supplier. they don't like wood smoked barbecue, wanted pork liver not beef, thought they were getting a snowflake roll not fresh sourdough, etc.
Our menu describes each offering in detail. As a costumer, would you expect to exchange an item for free or not? I find it presumptuous that I make something, tell a costumer what it is in detail, they order it then expect me to eat the cost because they choose poorly. I've never had a chain restaurant offer a free meal in exchange nor have I requested it.
As a diner, what do you expect?
If I ordered in error I would expect to pay for the replacement (although comping it would be a nice courtesy). However if the words you used to describe the product set up certain expectations (e.g. you just said "liver" not what kind, and your offering is the less common one), then I think the responsibility is on the restaurant.
I hear you, but the adage, "the customer is always right" is generally good to go by. Being deferential in this circumstance as long as it does not happen too often, could be a selling point for your establishment in the eyes of that customer well as other potential new ones that the word gets out to.
Too bad, I would like to drop by sometime.
I don't think the customer is always right. I've had enough businesses to settle on the costumer is right when they are reasonable. My experience is a costumer demanding that we abide by that is usually really, really obnoxious and nothing can be done to satisfy them and if you try the bar goes up next time. I take it as an insecurity thing or something.
If a costumer appears to be dissatisfied I'll ask them what they would like me to do and, if they aren't asking something outlandish I'll usually accommodate. If I consider the request unreasonable I'll explain what I can do.
I have no problem comping anything if what was presented doesn't meet my standards but if it's presented well and no fault can be found with the quality I'm kind of at a loss.
I would not see it as an insecurity thing, it is just that customers who have a negative experience at a dining establishment, whether warrented or not, passes information to others that ratchets up the negativity in regards to your establishment exponentially.
I don't claim to be the expert on these matters from the proprietors viewpoint. I just know that word of mouth as a customer lures me to try new places to and it is far more effective than conventional advertising.
If there is an issue with an entree on the menu as misunderstood by too many who want to exchange, I would have waitstaff and yourself sort out what is misunderstood and have the menu rewritten to proclude misunderstanding. Constant negative confrontations with customers over a long term can't be good for business.
I get what you're saying and we have a pretty good reputation for comping meals, no matter how minor the problem. I've just never expected a restaurant to replace a perfectly good plate of food because I was trying something new and didn't fancy it. I just make a mental note not to order it again.
But you're probably right and I'd be happier exchanging it. Nothing horrifies me more than to see food uneaten on a plate as a costumer is leaving. It makes me wonder if we've let them down.
Have you checked your menu to see that it is 100% accurate? Even the best of us can make mistakes in say pricing or spelling etc. If you want repeat costumers ya gotta go the extra mile.
Yes, the menu is pretty clear. I don't have problems with the middle or upper class. I've got some who drive out of the city into the country to eat here. When it happens it's usually a pretty rough looking person. Rude to the waitress from the get go and no tip left even on a heavy bill.
Whenever I go to a new restaurant I expect the unexpected to some extent. I don't really think you can walk into a place you've never been to and expect to get exactly what you're familiar with. If you can't handle trying something a little different then stick to the places you know you like.
I do think it's disrespectful to send something back just because it's not exactly what they had envisioned. Unless the menu was somehow misleading then you did your best in telling them what they would be getting. Aside from having all of the food out to sample I don't know what else you could do... and to expect that of a restaurant would be ridiculous. If someone is that picky they should perhaps stick to making their own food at home so they can be sure they're getting exactly what they want.
I've been to restaurants where I didn't really care for what I got but I don't feel entitled to order something else for free. It is what it is, that's a risk you take when you order a new dish/go somewhere you've never been before.
I think the only time I've ever sent something back was when I got very undercooked chicken.
On the face of it, I'd say the customer is unreasonable to expect a replacement free of charge.
However, it must be new customers that are being taken by surprise, and if they're asked to pay, they may not come back! So you have to weigh the cost of one free meal against the income from possible future visits.
If they're the kind of customer who wouldn't come back anyway, then I would stick to my guns and make them pay - you're the best judge of that. However as someone else said, check the menu and make sure the detail is there - and if a customer complains, train the waiters to point out the wording on the menu. If the customer admits they didn't read it, there's an opening for the waiter to say they can ORDER something else (i.e. pay for it).
Could you head the problem off at the pass by getting your waiters to query customers when they sit down? It would be as simple as asking "Are you familiar with our food?", then either do a general introduction, or give them some detail on each item as they order it.
Sounds like a great little restaurant.
You're probably right that the waitresses should give more info on some menu items. If I'm on the floor I offer a small sample to see if they like something prior to ordering, if I have the impression the costumer is unsure of their choice. Unfortunately we are in a location that previously offered cheap fast food type faire and our problems usually involve people who walked in expecting that menu to still be in place.
I completely empathize as someone who sells tangible objects made to specifications and pre-made items from a "menu" of sorts. Like you, I get customers who change their minds about what they wanted in the first place and then expect a replacement without having to pay extra. "The customer is always right" is nonsense because the emails I get start off with "Oops I'm sorry I made a mistake about..." so even the clients know they're wrong! I completely believe you when you say your menu descriptions are thorough. The problem is clients don't read them.
A lot of your customers may not realize that in the US waiters are paid below min wage and that the tax man expects most of their income to come from tips. If you don't comp the meals then the customer will take it out on your waiters by not tipping them. (You could start adding the gratuity to the bill, but it's controversial) So I agree with Marisa's suggestion that you should get the waiters involved in solving this problem by explicitly telling the customers exactly what they are going to get on their plates.
As for whether you should continue to comp perfectly good food, it depends on how much of your business is from repeat customers. I put up with annoying behavior from clients who I know are going to reorder. But I know restaurants operate on thin margins, so if this is really eating into your profits then you have to put your foot down and charge the customers for what they ordered. If I was in the wrong when I ordered a dish I didn't want, I would expect to pay for it, and it wouldn't necessarily deter me from going to that restaurant again. (In general I don't do it because I don't want a cook to spit in my food, lol)
Anyway, best of luck working it out. I give you a virtual knowing eyeroll.
Thanks for the input. It's always nice to get some support from another business owner. A lot ofpeople, not in a costumer service environment,.can't envision some of the thingswe deal with. I've come to accept the fact that it pleases some people to simply not be satisfied and I do them a disservice by attempting to force a happy conclusion.
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