Watch Your Attitude

So many restaurants spend money on publicity and then practically chase customes away by the owner's attitude. Stop to think, please, who is really more important, your customers, your chef or your own cost-saving ideas? True, you have to keep your chef happy but not if he refuses to cook what the customer wants and you, Mr. Restaurateur: what good is saving a few cents here or even a dollar there, if the customer never returns?

No names here to protect the guilty, but if you recognize your- self, you're guilty! Awhile ago a friend and I had dinner at a restaurant I had passed. (Thankfully not a client.) It was French and it seemed charming. The owner greeted us, seated us at a nice table and we looked around. On a Saturday night, the place was practically empty.

We ordered and my entree was not as well done as I had ordered it. No one approached us to ask how we liked dinner so I kept quiet and ate it since it was obvious things were not running smoothly in the kitchen or the dining room. After dinner and over coffee, I was smoking a Gauloise, the owner came over (by now we were the only diners left), asked if he could join us and smoked with us. I told him about my entree not being well-done enough and, to my astonishment, he said, "it's lucky for you the chef has left for the night because he would kill you if he heard you say that." I asked,"who's more important, a customer or the chef?" and the owner replied, "the chef, of course."

When we left, I told my friend if the restaurant lasted more than six months, I'd be amazed. Well, I passed by about six weeks later, and, you guessed it, they were closed.

A few years earlier I passed another seemingly charming restaurant. A friend and I were looking for a place for dinner and decided to try it. The owner approached us immediately,seated us and explained that the restaurant had just opened and didn't yet have a liquor license. So, he was pouring a glass of wine for everyone free of charge. I had a small glass and we looked at the prix fixe menu. Among the appetizers was fresh fruit although I had something else. With my entree I asked for another glass of wine. The owner refused even though 1) my friend hadn't had any wine at all and 2)this was jug wine and a glass cost him 25 cents tops.

We enjoyed our dinner (the food was good) and laughed over the owner's attitude. When time for dessert, I said instead of the desserts, I wanted the fruit listed under the ap- petizers. Again, the owner refused, saying I couldn't have two appetizers. I was so annoyed I told him he knew nothing about running a restaurant and shouldn't even be in a business dealing with people. For spite I ordered cake and then didn't eat it, but smashed it with my fork so he couldn't serve it again. With his attitude, I'm sure he would have! P.S. Within a month he, too, was out of business. I doubt he even had time to get a liquor license. So here we have two restaurateurs who knew nothing about pleasing customers. Why did they even go into business when they were so penny-wise and pound-foolish?

One time I was in a well-known steakhouse. I ordered the steak and explained that I only eat meat when it's very well- done. "The chef won't make it that way," the waiter said in a huff. I asked to speak to the owner and asked him whether he was concerned about his diners' pleasure. He said yes, but...and I decided not to order steak and never to return.

As a publicist, I have often been in a client-restaurant when a waiter missed an opportunity to please a customer, usually because the waiter didn't care. I would immediately rise from my table, speak to my client who would rectify matters and the diner was happy and likely to return. Truth- fully, no client of mine would ever act like the aforementioned restaurateurs.

Too often restaurateurs forget this is a service business and you have to please your customers.

Miriam Silverberg is founder and owner of Miriam Silverberg Associates, a publicity firm in New York City and has extensive experience working with restaurants. She can be reached at [email protected].

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