Saturday, October 23, 2010

This Week's Top 5 Most Irritating Customer Comments

I'm back from a week-long hiatus to share five exchanges that got under my grill during the week. Unfortunately, these questions and comments are pretty routine. Here they are in all of their non-existent glory.

5. "So, what's good today?" Okay, I pride myself on honesty, especially with my regulars. And no cook is perfect despite best intentions and sometimes we swing and miss (outside of a Keller establishment, of course). But this question just bugs me. Of course, as a customer service professional and face of the cafe, my response is always "Everything" followed by a long roll of the eyes that I hope the customer sees. No cook appreciates the presumption that some of the food is good and some is not, especially when forced to engage the presumption. The question is also a waste of time. If a customer is interested in hearing suggestions... ask! Offer some information about yours tastes or palette. There is nothing useful or charming about asking "what's good today." When your line cook hears it too much, the food may be good but the attitude will sour quickly.

4. "Can you make me a small salad fresh to order?" On face, this sounds reasonable, right? Wrong, especially when I have a line extending to the door and I've been pulling teeth trying to herd my cattle, I mean customers, down the line. Every time our lunch service features an entree accompanied by a fall, spring or winter salad, at least a dozen customers request something off menu. Don't get me wrong, I'm sympathetic. But not with a line. Keep it moving people, especially after you get shot down. Don't stand and try to argue your case. The line cook cares about one thing - clearing the line and restocking before the next wave. Oh, and one more thing... the pre-made salads are just as "fresh" as anything I could make from my mise en place. In fact, they are kept cooler and exposed to less air.

3. "Oh, I'm so glad I got here before the crowd. What's ready? Can you toast a bagel?" This string of questions is a pre-service special. Here's some context. There is a limited amount of prep space in our well-stocked and organized kitchen, so I do my prep work on the line. Every morning I work with a sense of urgency to finish my sidework, restock my mise en place, clean, prep panini and tarts and help the lead cook when I have time left over (which is very rare). So imagine how frustrated I am every time an early customer presumes the absence of a line means that I have time to help them early? Customer service before service is a serious trade off. Add on the dash of naivete from the customer that thinks my time is their time and I'm not busy, and you get a ticked off line cook.

2. "What kind of cheese do you use in for the grilled Vermont cheddar cheese sandwich?" I don't even need to touch this one.

*** The final exchange is more than a simple question - enjoy ***

1. Today, we served a butternut squash and apple puree soup, which most people simply in their orders as "butternut squash." It works, no arguments here. But this shorthand became an issue with a customer that didn't read any of our menus before ordering.

Customer: "Would you be willing to give me the butternut squash instead of the side salad or chips? Please, that's what I really want."

Des (my line cook partner on the weekends): "Sure, David will get you a small butternut squash."

David: "Small butternut squash" (passing a small cup of soup to the customer).

Customer: "I didn't order this. I asked for a side of the butternut squash."

Customer's Embarrassed Friend: "That is the butternut squash; it's a soup."

Customer: "Oh, well I really just want roasted squash. Can I have that instead?"

David Thought Bubble: If not for your ability to pronounce panini properly, I would roast you more than the squash that we don't have available in my next blog post.

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