There is nothing that scares the bejesus out of a restaurant manager more than a letter of complaint, well that and hard work. I mean a guest ranting and raging and frothing at the mouth over the lethargic lettuce or the penne in their pasta (ha!) is far easier to deal with than someone who has taken the time and effort to put bic biro to a page from their kids school jotter. In most cases a manger will roll over and play dead if that's what it takes to satisfy an unhappy punter and whilst we waiters will scoff at their, perceived, lack of spine it is almost always the right thing to do. After all it is our job to make the guests happy.
Or so I'm told, constantly.
For managers and working staff, hehehe, alike a letter of complaint is like a case of genital warts - you don't want to talk about it and you really want it to go away as quick and as painlessly as possible. Now normally what happens is that the manager investigates, the waiters prevaricate, the chefs remonstrate (and generally mess themselves) the process eventually ending in someone being warned about future conduct or quality of work. Pfft.
The manager then has to pen a big sad faced letter saying how sorry we all are that we didn't meet our usually high standards during their recent visit and that we all promise to really try harder next time. Shucks. The letter is signed, bunged in an envelope along with a voucher for a meal for two and posted. That's normally the whole thing put to bed.
The process is normally the same no matter what the complaint or wether the complaint was really justifiable. I mean I have lost count of how many times over the years I have threatened to leave if, "that lying fucker gets a voucher" only to end up serving them again a few weeks later. It hurts but it's the right thing to do. It rarely matters if you are right as winning an argument with a customer over semantics and details isn't going to win you any friends. You gotta keep them happy, that's the bottom line and we all know it, from the staff to the managers.
Well nearly all of us know it.
This story of a letter of complaint sent by a woman, Marilyn Fletcher, in England to a restaurant made me dribble down my shirt with laughter. It's from The Daily Tory.
By all accounts Mrs Fletcher hadn't been a happy bunny by the time she and her family had left the Manor Restaurant in Waddesdon Manor, a National Trust property and home of "the finest Rothschild wines available". The food wasn't up to it and the service was said to be even worse. And that's what she wrote in her letter to the catering manager, one Simon Offen. But Simon wasn't gonna just take her word for it and say sorry, which is what he should have done. Oh hell no Simon had other ideas. Ideas like scanning the CCTV footage to see exactly what had gone on.
Probably didn't want to do that as Mrs Fletcher took her complaint and Mr Offen's response right up the food chain to the head of the National Trust Dame Fiona Reynolds. That cant be good can it, I mean having an actual Dame as your boss? Mr Offen dismissed her complaint and said he had "watched and listened with interest to the video recording of her table" and then added, "You sat at your table at 14.31, at 14.41 whilst the staff in your room were running about, you stormed over to the cash desk to make your point. At 14.44 your order was taken."
Now this may very well be true but it's not going to make Mrs Fletcher and her family and her friends and their friends and their friends friends rush to his restaurant now is it? You see he thinks he had won the argument by being able to quote exact times and what have you. But he didn't win anything. He had lost sight of what he is meant to do, make punters happy, make them leave happy, and give them a reason to return and not with a writ either.