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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Taylor

Adventures in Restaurant Management: sometimes it's kind of like detective work.

a table set with two fine dining dishes and wine

A good detective knows that eye witnesses are, at their best, extremely unreliable. Thanks to our highly distractible minds filled with adrenaline and emotion, most people have something called selective memory when it comes to remembering specifics. Each person has a different perception of what went on based on their emotional state at the time. They might choose to focus on the one thing that pissed them off instead of remembering the many little details that could help solve the crime. This kind of selective memory is, as you might imagine, often showcased in restaurant reviews. People forget all the things you might have done right and choose to focus on the one thing that went wrong and their review always reflects that. Here's a few cases (names have been omitted to protect those involved).

Exhibit A: A lady who dined solo suggested in a review that the restaurant treated her like a "second class citizen" because she was a solo diner and that the server "under poured" her wine and "didn't make eye contact" when dropping the food. I personally dropped and cleared several dishes for this woman and attempted to engage with her but she was glued to her phone the whole time. She left that detail out of her review, of course, because it wouldn't have fit in her narrative of being ignored. Still, I did my diligence and spoke with the front of house team to make sure they were engaging solo diners as much as other diners.

Exhibit B: A couple, who admittedly waited for over an hour for their entrees (because they were overwhelmed in the kitchen), left a poor review even after I removed a round of drinks and one food item from their bill, explained the situation, and apologized profusely multiple times. They apparently forgot about that and claimed that no one acknowledged them at all in their review. The plot thickens. Perhaps I was wearing my cloak of invisibility at the time? This clearly was a review based on frustration and I simply responded that I hope were were able to provide them with the great experience we are known for should they chose to dine with us again and left it at that. You can't please people who don't want to be pleased.

Exhibit C: A couple who came to sit at our chef's counter on a very busy Saturday night complained about the food being not worth the money, and mentioned the noise level of the table behind them. Now, I know for a fact that the food was exquisite, as it always is, because the people who sat directly next to them left an amazing review. Using these clues I surmised these folks were so fixated on the noisy table that it ruined their experience, and as a result their review only reflected the negative side. Selective memory at it's finest! Knowing this, I advised my chef not to change the tasting experience based on this one review, which wasn't really ultimately about the food at all.

As a person who truly values my work and the experience that I aim to provide for people, its important for me to acknowledge what is real, honest feedback and what is just plain old selective memory at work. This way I focus my efforts in the right area to effectively grow and learn instead of being hung up on these little flaws in the mastery of service. Because there is no such thing as perfectly mastered service, even if every dish arrives perfectly on time with the perfect flavors and temps and is perfectly paired with the perfect wines. It's always going to be about how the guest perceives their own experience. That is why I strive to connect to the people I serve, instead of just provide them with service.

Ultimately that is what people need. Feed their souls first. Make them feel a sense of belonging, comfort, caring, kindness. It all comes back to that. That is what makes a dining experience truly memorable, in the good way!

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