Arriving just after noon, we found the place busy (a great sign) and were offered the option of sitting at the bar or a high top near the bar. We are normally people who opt to belly up to the bar, but chose the high top on this day, we’re not sure why, but it was our key mistake. We proceeded to sit at our table for more than five minutes without anyone coming to the table. I almost suggested walking, but there we were, hungry and off our planned route. Eventually a server came by and asked if anyone had taken our drink orders. We said, “No” and she offered to get us drinks “while we figure out who your server is.” The bar was swamped by this time so it was not surprising the beers didn’t fly out to us, but by the time they arrived, they were headless…
The beers were delivered by the server who was “just getting us drinks” so we weren’t surprised when she didn’t ask us for a food order. We continued to sit and after a few minutes, we placed our menus on the edge of the table to signal our readiness. A few minutes later, the host stopped by and asked if we were finished with the menus to which I said, “Well, not really; we haven’t placed a food order yet.” The host set off to get our server – who turned out to be the same person who got drinks “while we figure out who your server is.” She took our order and we waited.
As the wait was dragging on, our server came by to say the food would be up soon. By this point I had about an inch of beer remaining in my glass, but missing the chance for an easy second sale, she left without asking if I wanted another. By the time our food arrived, my glass had been empty for several minutes. The server plopped our food on the table and turned to leave, turned back, grabbed my empty glass, then tipping the glass back and forth between her fingers asked if I wanted another one. My beer was delivered a few minutes later by the bartender who then asked my wife if she wanted another. She ordered the house root beer and it was promptly delivered. Our food was very good, but my wife’s sandwich had been delivered without the side of mayonnaise she’d requested. About halfway through the meal and no check in with the server so my wife asked the host who quickly went to the kitchen and returned with the side.
Plates empty, drinks dissipating, the check arrived, my wife put her card in the folder and we waited; eventually the host noticed it had been sitting there for some time and said she’d take care of it. When the server came back with the card and receipt, she alerted us to the presence of a survey explaining they have a new manager who is seeking feedback on their service. My wife filled out the survey, but none of the questions touched upon the issues we encountered so in the contact information section I wrote, “Please see back” and proceeded to write a note about our experience and signed it with contact information. My wife left a small tip and a note as to why – she is a true educator in that regard, hoping to turn this into a learning opportunity for our server. We left the table, I dropped the survey into the box near the host’s station and we headed to the restrooms before hitting the road again. As I waited for a minute for my wife to come out of the restroom when our server came up to me and said, “I just wanted you to know I wasn’t trying to ignore you.” A little stunned, I said, “Um, what?” Then holding the receipt where my wife left her note said, “I wasn’t trying to ignore you. We are doing a team approach. That’s what the new manager wants, so I wasn’t trying to ignore you guys.” I responded by saying, “It turns out I know about this business and what I can say is that your systems need improvement” and I walked away. My wife saw most of this exchange and chose to hold back. We were both astounded that I was confronted in this way.
I should have asked to speak to the manager, but we’d been there for 90 minutes on what was supposed to be a quick stop for lunch and just wanted to get out of there. The high top opposite us was waiting for their first drinks when we arrived. By the time we completed our meal and payment process, the second group at that table was finishing up. Our table should have turned in 45-60 minutes; it didn’t.
Our server was very concerned that I not think she was ignoring our table. I didn’t; I thought she was poorly trained. What we saw here was a system breakdown. Somehow our server didn’t know our table was in her section and once she realized it, didn’t show much effort to save the experience for us. I can say that I probably won’t be returning with my wife if I’m in the area again. Our food was good and if someone were to ask about the place, I would share our story of slow service and advise the person to sit at the bar.
Perhaps the key lesson is this: Good customer experiences go a long way toward keeping a place in business. If the product is available elsewhere (as this brewery’s beers are in that area), the experience is the only thing that drives a person to come in and pay more for a draft from the tap instead of drinking a bottle or can of the beer at home.