We decided to go into restaurant row in the center our town to eat an enjoyable meal at a very popular and trendy place (we’ll call it Restaurant A for now). On that particular day, the sun was out and the day was marvelous, so we were hoping to sit outside to enjoy the weather. Naturally, a restaurant that attracts so many people didn’t have an open seat in (or outside) the house. And, the waiting line ran upwards of 30 minutes long.
That just wouldn’t do. So, we immediately glanced at the dining establishment next door (we’ll refer to this place as Restaurant B for now). I did a double take, because I thought my eyes deceived me. This seemingly trendy establishment had almost every outdoor table open and very few diners were inside, as well. Although the lunch hour was still young (maybe 12:15), it seemed very strange.
We were torn. Restaurant A is a known quantity. Great service, very good food and just an all around great dining experience. Restaurant B had only been open for a few months. But, it had a good look to it (sans the fact that no one was eating there) prime real estate (next to A and on the nicest street in Montclair). So, we threw caution to the wind, and walked 10 yards to this new comer to ask for a table outside.
In total, we had six of us that day. We couldn’t see any tables that would fit our larger party, so we waited patiently outside for someone to greet us and get us seated. After 10 minutes of waiting and watching waiters walk by us (doing almost nothing), I asked where the Host was because we wanted to be seated. She finally appeared after another 7-8 minutes (no one quite knew where she was) and we were off to the races… or so we thought. We asked this seemingly friendly hostess to put together a medium and small table so we could fit six comfortably and that’s when she said, “sorry I can only put two smaller tables together (which fit four) because we’re expecting a very busy lunch hour.” My wife and I kind of chuckled. You had to be there, but that was pretty funny because Restaurant B was literally empty and had the capacity to probably sit 30 tables.
My wife is no shrinking violet. So, I sat back and watched as she said something to the tune of, “Excuse me, but there isn’t anyone here… at all. Don’t you think the restaurant can take care of us by just combining a medium and small table together to fit us all… or we will be squeezed in.” Once again, the hostess said, “We just can’t do that. We’re way too busy….”
I’m not sure I ever experienced a situation so ridiculous before. There was literally no one at the restaurant (while Restaurant A had at least 6o guests sitting outside with another 15 huddled around the side waiting for a table). Anyways, we were hungry and although we were peeved at how idiotic the bad customer courtesy was, the Moeds sat down and ordered.
You’re probably wondering with anticipation what went wrong next, right? Sorry to disappoint, but the food wasn’t terrible and we didn’t get food poisoning. It was simply OK. Clearly, not at the level of Restaurant A, though. But, what was interesting is that throughout the hour long meal, only 5-6 tables filled up. So, unless a giant party canceled at the last minute, the hostess’ lapse in smart customer service really made little sense.
The thing that really put us over the top though was when we received the check. I experienced another first. The waitress threw in an automatic tip (no big deal, we had a party of 6). But, the tip that she personally wrote in was for 30 percent of the meal. Whoa… what kind of restaurant allows for that? My father was picking up this meal. So, he asked our waitress what gives? She apologized and came back with a new check that was fixed with a… 25 percent tip. Can you say over zealous?
We paid it and quickly left. This waitress made her money, but Restaurant B (also known as 32 Church) will never be frequented again by anyone in my family. So, in the end, what small amount was gouged from interested customers will be lost in any future sales that 32 Church could have received from us. And, that’s the morale of this story.
Every day, thousands of “32 Churchs” go out of business because they simply can’t see how short sided their views of business and building customer loyalty are. On the flip side, there exists very few Raymonds (known as Restaurant A in this story), who have the staying power to last and flourish year after year because something in their DNA consistently offers exactly what customers want and need. I’m not quite sure why the management of 32 Church doesn’t have a clue. But, if I was a betting man (and at times I am), I give this restaurant no more than six months before it shutters its doors for good.