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I went out to a high end (for Appleton, WI) restaurant recently. We were sat at a nice table in a room that had one other group dining in it and about 8 other tables that were covered in dirty dishes. It appeared as if several larger groups had just left. We had a new trainee backed up with a trainer serving our table. The trainee was personable, but struggled with aspects of the menu, of which the trainer helped fill in. Not bad. Service was observably slow, waiting 20 minutes for reorders on drinks. We were there to socialize though, so once again, it was noticeable but not tragic to our experience. When the trainee took our order, he wrote everything down. Several of us at the table ordered the same entree which was tough to say. There were two types of sirloin so you had to say the full name and couldn’t just say sirloin. We all joked about it as we ordered it.

When our food came out it was wrong the wrong sirloin. We didn’t send it back because, what we received was still acceptable and it was not worth waiting on the correct one while the others at the table all had their food. The sirloin we got was not as good as what we came in for and ordered. Additionally, the entree we received was more expensive that what we had ordered. I was a little upset that the trainer who was at the table as well, didnt also take the order to make sure it was entered correctly, but I was willing to overlook it as we were there to celebrate a birthday and it wasn’t worth fighting over.

About an hour into our meal a busser finally came in to start bussing all of the dirty tables in the room that were unoccupied since we sat down. The trainee disappeared without notice to us. He just didn’t return after the food was delivered. We figured out later, his shift must have been over or something.

The trainer entered the room with another server to help bus while they bad-mouthed the trainee and referred to him as “dingus” to us. The manager then entered the room to help bus. (Where were all of these bussers an hour ago?) While bussing an adjacent table, she asked us how everything was. She then proceeded to inform us that it was “Kick a Ginger Day,” as she made fun of the red-headed busser before pointing out that he was actually strawberry blond. It was awkward, a bit offensive, and we all felt a bit uncomfortable.

After we were finished, the trainer brought our bills. We were not only charged for the more expensive meal we didn’t order but were also charged an additional $8 on each of the entrees on top of that. This was due to the fact the parts of the meal were all charged individually instead of as the combined price advertised in their menu.

I approached the trainer that was serving our table and informed her of the double overcharge. I said I wasn’t angry, as I know it can be difficult to train new employees. I just wanted it corrected. She apologized and said she didn’t think the trainee was going to make it with the restaurant. (All the more reason to double check the order). She switched the price to the cheaper entree and ran the credit card. When I received the bill again we were still charged the extra $8 per entree for the individual entrees instead of the combined price. I went up to the trainer again and explained that I didn’t need the difference refunded but that we were still overcharged, and I wanted to make sure that she made sure the trainee didn’t ring in the order like that for future guests.

Instead of apologizing, she fought back and said that they weren’t running that special right now. I explained that it wasn’t a special and that it was on the menu. She still fought back, and brought another employee in who also said there was not a special going on. I decided it wasn’t worth a further fight as our entire group was leaving. I opted to not speak with the manager that evening because of our previous encounter with her. I wasn’t expecting to get very far with her. So we left.

I stopped in a few days later to discuss our experience with a manager, although it ended up being the same manager from the initial experience. I explained that I wasn’t concerned about the money, but rather that I just wanted the error corrected, so that future guests wouldn’t be overcharged and so that the trainer would train properly. The manager apologized and made a gift card so that I could try them again as i reiterated that it wasnt about the money. She insisted I take it to help her feel better about the situation and so that we would give them another shot. I told her we would be back anyway, and that I just wanted to voice my concerns. She still gave me the gift card which, we will likely use at some point, but she could’ve kept it and I would’ve left with the same feeling of the place and she could’ve saved them some future income.

I was told I would likely receive a call from the GM to discuss things further, of which I never received. I decided to not pursue further, as I had already wasted too much time on it. Semi-ironically, I am spending a ton more time now writing this post about it, but it will help in the subsequent articles.

So many preventable errors on this visit. So many factors leading and building towards a poor experience. They missed the fundamentals of proper training, great service, and damage control and will lose customers, good employees, and lots of money because of it.

In our next few posts, we’ll use this story to look at how to prevent these problems from happening and explain how to repair the issues if they currently exist.