Dealing with complaints

22 09 2006

When a customer complains in a restaurant, a few things can happen – and I’ve probably experienced most – from downright rudeness to ignoring you to taking an amount off the bill. Ultimately, the memory of the meal is overshadowed by how the complaint was dealt with; it also determines whether or not you’ll return to that establishment.

Today a group from work had lunch at The Olive Tree in West Perth to farewell one of the team who is moving on to another job. I ordered the Chicken Caesar Salad which was some $5 more than the regular Caesar. I expected about half a chicken breast’s worth of chicken on the salad. Some places give you more, but about half is usual. It took a while before I found my first piece of chicken (and this was NOT a large bowl), and it was about the size of teaspoon. Hmmm… So I started looking for more chicken and decided to count how many pieces I found as they seemed to be lacking in quantity. Five. Five lousy small cubes of chicken. And for that I was expected to pay an extra $5.

So I complained. Not loudly, not aggressively, but I complained to the waitress who came to take my chinaware. She said she’d get the manager (yeah, right!). But a few minutes later the manager arrived. I told her the situation, she apologised profusely, explained that there is usually a large amount of chicken in the Chicken Caesar, and asked what they could do to make up for this. Before I had a chance to reply, she offered a complimentary bottle of wine to the table, which we could either drink now or take away. Well, I don’t care where the wine comes from, there’s a pretty good chance it’s worth more than $5, so I took up her offer straight away… and scored a bottle of Margaret River red for next week’s Friday afternoon drinks at the office.

Would I go back again? Certainly! She handled the complaint with aplomb, with no hesitation or excuses. And ultimately that’s what a good experience – a good service – is all about.