One of the things that sets a good restaurant apart from a bad one is how it handles a complaint from a customer. Good restaurants take complaints seriously; bad restaurants do nothing about the complaint.
I made a complaint this week when I went with my wife to Hisar Meze Bar, a Turkish restaurant in East Dulwich. The evening started well with an excellent plate of lamb’s liver and decent if not outstanding borek (filo parcels with feta and parsley). However, a trip to the gents set alarm bells ringing. A clean and well maintained toilet is usually a sign of a good restaurant. This one was neither clean or well maintained.
We had both expected the sish lamb to be extremely tender. Lamb is, after all, a speciality in Turkish restaurants. But when it arrived it turned out to be incredibly fatty. We called a waitress over and asked for a sharper knife. Actually, I was going to ask for a hacksaw. She returned with a new knife, but never thought to enquire why the knife on the table wasn’t sharp enough.
But it wasn’t just the sish lamb that left me regretting we had paid £28 for the two dishes. The salad appeared to have been dumped from a great height on the plate. It had been put together with little thought about presentation. I located a large white object in the salad. My wife suggested this might be a horseradish. The chips were dry and pale, probably because they had been sitting in the kitchen for ages, and the yogurt (£2.50) tasted of nothing.
I pushed my plate away, having only eaten a few morsels.
‘Is everything okay?’ asked a waiter.
‘The lamb was very fatty,’ I said.
‘Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll tell the chef,’ he replied casually.
Ten minutes later another waiter asked if everything was okay.
‘Not really,’ I said. ‘The lamb was so fatty. I told your colleague that.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ he said with no real concern, and wandered off. He obviously had the same script.
Neither waiter returned, the chef never appeared, and we weren’t offered an alternative dish or a reduction on the bill.
We paid up, didn’t leave a tip, and decided we wouldn’t be returning to Hisar Meze Bar ever again.
Good restaurants understand that you can turn a complaint into something positive if you take a customer’s complaint seriously and do something about it. If you do this, the customer is likely to go away feeling disgruntled and ripped off. An apology with no action means nothing.
Bad restaurants just want to take your money and don’t understand that a restaurant is about creating an enjoyable experience for the customer, who has decided to spend his or her hard earned money in your establishment, not somewhere else. A really good experience means good food and good service (and not lip service). Good restaurants know this.