Hey Lady! I can’t find “Service With a Smile” on the menu

There’s a certain quasi-Australian chain of steakhouses…

Put yourself there, for a moment. Or put yourself at your own full-service restaurant chain. I walk in with a friend, hot and feeling a bit odd, probably waited too long to eat. It’s pre-dinner rush on a weeknight. Sometimes this place is awfully busy, so I’m skeptical in spite of the early hour, but Friend wants to go.

It’s delightfully cool inside, and when my eyes adjust I see there’s no line; the waiting area is completely empty, as is a good portion of the restaurant. Whew. I wait a minute for the host, who appears to be writing something at her station, while two servers stand next to her, silent.

Host: [Without looking up, in an unmistakably nasty tone] “How can I help you.”

Me: “We’d like a table?” (I feel less sure now, but what else would we have walked in for?)

Host: “For how many?” (How many do you see?)

Me: “Um, two.” (I’m starving but feeling very uncomfortable. Her tone is making me want to leave, but Friend seems okay.)

Host: “Name?”

I give my name, which can only be for one reason. I’m puzzled, so I ask how long the wait will be.

Host: “25 minutes.” (I look around, quizzically, at the nearly empty restaurant.) “But it should probably be less.” [She stares.] “Are you going to wait?”

Friend is already seated and waiting, so I say yes. She hands me a buzzer. After ten minutes I realize I’m too irritated to enjoy the evening if we stay, and we’re still not seated anyway. Not a soul has come in since we did, and there are now three servers with the host behind her station, all talking quietly together.

We left. Frankly, for the first five minutes I tried coming up with scenarios to help give them excuses for the rudeness and the odd behavior. For the last five I was convincing friend that anyplace was better than this place, because I had that aha! moment:

I don’t believe they do have some odd problem going on, and now I don’t care. If there were something wrong, she would have made the excuses herself instead of leaving me to imagine them for her.

Note to steakhouse with catchy jingle and lots of advertising: Customer Service. You’re doing it wrong.

Not a word or an action or even a tone were right.

Did you ever have an Experience where you wondered if you were on Candid Camera, because it was so absurd?

I hope I won’t have another for a while.

Lest you think it’s just these Pennsylvania chain places, Seth Godin had a similar Experience this week. Check it out.


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson