39 Comments

    • Food Woolf
      5/12/2011
      Reply

      Dorothy, I’m a freelance consultant so MY restaurant is one that’s constantly changing!

  1. Very insightful and so true!! It’s strange when folks go out to eat and then get uptight about everything. Isn’t it supposed to be an enjoyable experience – for all?

  2. 5/13/2011
    Reply

    As always Brooke you open my eyes and expand my horizons. We will never be happy if we don’t make it a priority. Thank God for health, sunny skies, love, connectivity and food. All of it in it’s simplicity & complexity :) Can’t wait to see you this weekend!

    • Food Woolf
      5/13/2011
      Reply

      Can’t wait to see you! Thanks Marla!

  3. 5/13/2011
    Reply

    Lovely. The pictures and the handwriting are great additions to this.I don’t know why I love those aspects so much, but I do.

    • Food Woolf
      5/13/2011
      Reply

      Tenaya,
      I’m glad you like the handwriting part. It might be my favorite part of the story too! Thanks!

  4. 5/13/2011
    Reply

    This is why, no matter what type of establishment you’re running, you must always have a case of Sutter Home and a box of Franzia on hand.

    • Food Woolf
      5/13/2011
      Reply

      You are hysterical…And all sorts of brilliant.

  5. 5/15/2011
    Reply

    This is a perfect example to share with the people I work with. We too are in the service industry and there are never enough beautifully written examples of how to delivery exemplary service.

    You’ve done it again. :)

    • Food Woolf
      5/16/2011
      Reply

      Thanks Fran! Good to know this one hit home!

  6. Hi Brooke!! I am very embarrassed to see the date of this post AND the date I am actually commenting on it!! Another well written piece and an excellent reminder that some of the best things in life can be found OUTSIDE of our small circle of choices!!!
    Personally I love it when servers(?) offer to introduce me to something new – as I see it, they know their restaurant and if they are eager to share what they love about it, I am all too happy to oblige!!!

  7. Frontine LeFevre
    6/4/2011
    Reply

    As a food insider you might know that it’s Fettuccine not what you wrote.

    • Marceeahh
      1/27/2013
      Reply

      Right, well … the point is (in case you missed it): They have neither.

  8. This is an exceptional post. A question for you: How do you determine the cases where there are going to be quickly diminishing returns serving narcissistic customers like this? When is it better to just cut your losses, do the best you can to get them in and out of your restaurant, and make sure they never come back? There are limits to the of service a person can give in a restaurant or service job–better to expend it on customers who care and who will come back.

    Dan @ Casual Kitchen

    PS: Nice use of “illusive”–a word that (until today) I’ve never seen used in a blog post, much less used correctly.

  9. […] people like me need to know who our customers are and what they want and must ensure that our restaurant delivers a high quality product (great tasting food, wonderful […]

  10. Why the devil did I not see this earlier? You totally (expletive) nailed it. Small wonder this piece has been nominated for an award. Good girl.

    xo,

    Michael

    • 4/5/2012
      Reply

      Michael,
      thank you for the kind words. They mean a lot–especially since you understand down to the heart of the matter. xoxox,B

  11. Susan
    4/5/2012
    Reply

    Nice job BB

  12. AdriBarr
    4/5/2012
    Reply

    Wow. What a terrific piece of writing, and an even greater piece pf psychology. An absolute spot on joy to read. And where is your restaurant?

    • 4/5/2012
      Reply

      Adri,
      Thanks for the compliment! This piece was written while I was working as a consultant at an award winning Italian Pizzeria in LA. Now I’m working at a brand new pizzeria and bakery in Santa Monica!

  13. Luky Luttmann
    4/6/2012
    Reply

    The lack of conduct can’t be taught because it’s too late for rude people.
    great job, great insight, great writing as usual.
    congratulations!

    love,
    Luky

  14. 4/7/2012
    Reply

    I clicked over here from Saveur’s shortlist and I can see you’re a good writer with an interesting perspective. What a shame, then, that you lost me when I got to your third blatantly disparaging use of the word ‘housewife’. Let me ask you something. Did she tell you she was a housewife, or did you just assume? I can see why you’d be frustrated with her and customers like her, but why perpetuate outdated and sexist stereotypes?

    • 4/7/2012
      Reply

      Ruby, thank you for coming by to read. I am sorry you were offended by my use of the word “housewife”. My intent was not to use the word in a disparaging way but as an adjective to describe the woman. I will gladly take your feedback as an indicator that I could be more thoughtful when choosing my words. Thank you for stopping by and offering your perspective.

  15. johanna
    4/8/2012
    Reply

    i found this both funny and honest–love it!

  16. 4/20/2012
    Reply

    I am not the author, Ruby, but I used to work as a host at an Italian wine bar in Beverly Hills. To call the women in the story “Beverly Hills housewife” is a very specific term, and not sexist or stereotypical in the outraged sense you’d like it to be. Every single day at the wine bar, rich women in their 50’s and 60’s with armfuls of shopping bags and the inability to facially emote due to extensive plastic surgery would come in, usually in the afternoon (i.e. when others are normally at work) and do exactly what the author writes about in her piece – demand something we didn’t have, complain about something that was out of our control, make wild, untrue claims and generally be the worst kind of customer you could ever imagine. I have in restaurants worked all over the country and Beverly Hills remains the worst customers I’ve ever encountered, mainly due to these Beverly Hills housewives. These were women who were married to doctors and lawyers (they would talk loudly about their husbands at their meals) and spent the majority of their day making others miserable. The term “housewife” is not meant to demean actual hardworking, stay-at-home mothers here; in this context it literally means a wife who has nothing to do but spend lavish amounts of their spouses money and take her boredom out on people she considers to be servants and pleibians. Don’t be offended by the term, it’s a real thing.

  17. 4/24/2012
    Reply

    Gosh I loved this story. You so totally hit the nail on the head. I love your poignant writing and how you described the sternness of those unfortunate diners. Breathe deeply and often!

    Thanks for putting a great smile across my face and sharing a tale too often the case.

  18. 4/24/2012
    Reply

    Oh, and I found you through the Saveur competition, too. :)
    My blog is nominated for best single food photo, should you care to check on it and share the love around. Have a beautiful day!

    • 4/26/2012
      Reply

      Melina, thank you so much for coming by! Congratulations on the nomination. What a beautiful photo! You should be so proud!

  19. 5/25/2012
    Reply

    Yessss! You hit it on the head! I’ve been a server many a times. If you’ve never worked in a restaurant you may never understand!

  20. […] Service 101: Help Me Help You “We lost them because they refused to step outside their small circle of choices and try something new.” This is such a beautiful essay, from a restaurant manager (or owner?) about the difficulties of the service industry and our impossible expectations. One more section: “Will we ever reach the imagined ideal of that thing we want so much? Probably not. Will we ever find the holy grail, the perfect sandwich, the best margarita, the sacred spot, the wonderful mate, or the greatest vacation spot? Perhaps. If we are lucky enough to find that greatest thing once, why is it we continue to seek it out in exactly the same way, in several different places?” […]

  21. 7/20/2012
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing your point of view on the “impossible to please”. Kind of sad characters in a way – it’s not the lack of generic wine that’s missing from their happiness…

    I look forward to reading more from you!
    -Jade

  22. Niki
    8/23/2012
    Reply

    I am so glad to know that IS possible to find (abroad) an Italian restaurant without “fettuccini Alfredo” and “spaghetti with meat balls”. They make me sick.
    By the way, this lady is the perfect nightmare!

  23. wietog
    9/4/2012
    Reply

    Well, unless you KNOW how long a customer has waited, you really shouldn’t assume that they have expanded the actual time in their heads. People sense your disbelief and it offends them. Sometimes, it’s difficult to put EVERYTHING that’s previously occurred into a brief response. Any number of things could have happened prior:

    – The guests could have had reservations yet were made to wait.

    – The women could have felt slighted if one of your staff ignored them while doting on younger/more attractive females (I can’t believe how often this stupidity occurs in restaurants – especially high-end ones – because it is very rare for the attractive young woman to be the one paying/tipping.

    – The guests could have had a hard time finding your location, parking and/or were given the “bad seats”. Restaurants usually have some obviously “good tables” and should strive to make them all that way, if they can.

    – They could have been ignored upon seating. You HAVE to make eye contact with new guests and bring them something – anything – if they have to wait to order. The table needs to be set properly. The menus should be out. Water should be immediately offered. Bread or crudites ought to be set down (ask first). And if possible, a drinks order should be taken ASAP.

    – If there is any unusual delay – busy restaurant, large parties, short-staffed, kitchen disaster, 86’ed items, etc., something MUST be done to rectify the situation. A free glass of wine. An amuse bouche. A discount. It’s up to the restaurant to manage the flow. Even if the circumstances are out of the restaurant’s control, the customer must never be privy to the reasons, nor made to suffer for them. I can’t tell you how often a server has relayed the woes of the restaurant to me as though their incompetence would engender more understanding from me. Highly unprofessional.

    – If a customer requests something fairly standard in the area (wherever that may be) let’s not slam them for not being aware of how precious your offerings are. Especially if they are older. Even if they seem well-t0-do and cosmopolitan. A smooth, seasoned server would know to present something to the customer AS THOUGH THE CUSTOMER HAD REQUESTED IT. For example, “Certainly. You must appreciate the round, luscious flavors of a balanced Chardonnay. I’ll tell you what, while we don’t stock actual California Chardonnays, we offer a wine that just may become your new favorite. Would you like to sample some?” Then you bring out two tasters (promise less/deliver more) and continue to encourage the guest by appreciating THEIR appreciation. “This is an Italian Greco – perhaps you’ve tried it before. What do you think?”

    While many customers seem easy going, most will still have their bad days and will get edgier if they sense that the servers are annoyed with THEM. As a host/server/restauranter/etc., it’s up to YOU to charm them back down to their happy place. Putting the onus on them is only going to exacerbate the situation and frustrate you more. It’s part of your job.

    • 9/5/2012
      Reply

      Natasha,
      thank you for your comment. My post does speak to the idea that it is important for people in restaurants to have compassion for their guests. I apply compassion to my work every day. I believe that we are all responsible for actively pursuing our own happiness–through our actions of service to others. I am curious. Why would my suggestion that customers have compassion for the people who serve them make you uncomfortable?

  24. Melanie
    1/8/2013
    Reply

    Very well written. Thanks for not trying to oversimplify a rather complicated situation.

  25. kimberlee
    1/8/2013
    Reply

    have to agree with ruby, while I can empathize with the situation … it is also seems you had already summed up the group before you started. some of your adjectives are a bit condescending and/or judgemental, probably intended to make the story ‘pop’. Likely they never caught on to your disdain, being the sort of clients they were. But reading about your inner condemnation doesn’t exactly make me want to rush out the door to visit your establishment (not that I could since I am in the south of France! ha). Sometimes these sorts of stories can come back to bite us, just like the heat of the moment FB and twitter rants we hear about. You could have well made your point sans the jabs. Maybe less entertaining for the readers, but way more inspiring for future guests.

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