When Bad Service Ruins Good Food | Brand Education for Restaurants

Have you every dined out at a restaurant and the food was on point but the rest of the experience was lacking? I often talk with my clients about the value of constancy and the THREE most important ingredients to a successful restaurant. Remember, no matter how good the food is bad service can ruin it.

The Three MOST Important Ingredients to a Successful Restaurant Brand:
  2. Be CONSISTENT with THE CONCEPT (decor, theme & cuisine)
See a pattern? 

As you may know I work with restaurants and I have for a while now. I also work with Hospitality clients including hotels and resorts. Two common denominators between these industries is the importance of consistent service and attention to detail. When it comes to your brand don’t underestimate the value of service, managing expectations and exceeding those expectations every chance you get. With the increasing popularity of social media everyone has a voice and an audience to share their opinions with.

Every misstep is multiplied and travels faster than ever before.

The other night I was dining out with four couples to celebrate a birthday. We often dine out together as a group and share discerning taste when it comes to food, service and ambiance. This was not the first time that we have dined at this establishment together. So it is safe to say that we all enjoyed the food and the experience as a whole in the past or we would not have gone back.

I am not a food critic so it is not my job to call attention to this specific restaurant. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I rarely share criticism publicly, however I am known to be a tad bit critical of food service in particular) My business is helping brands learn and grow from their mistakes. This opportunity screamed at me to write a post and share how devastating bad service can be, and how it can damage a brands reputation in minutes.

No doubt there are levels of service, just as there are varying degrees of dining experiences. I certainly expect less service from a QSR (Quick Service Restaurant aka Fast Food) than I do from a restaurant that is serving a high-end menu and offering a fine dining experience. The price certainly remains a factor, which plays along with managing expectations. However, even within the same restaurant on the same night, diners have different agendas. A well trained wait staff understands the concept of “Reading A Table”, Sarah Nassauer wrote a great post explaining the concept for The Wall Street Journal.  

It is amazing how one employee could not only ruin a meal, the poor service completely consumed the conversation for the evening. 

Back to my disappointing dining experience the other night, our experience was a train wreck from the beginning. Our server was not only sluggish but she looked miserable. Her facial expression was as if her dog had just been run over. She certainly did not help us in celebrating an event, in fact we were in such a festive mood that we even tried to turn her mood around. Needless to say, we failed miserably. We were seated at a table long enough to accommodate 8 people and the conversation was as scattered as the service. However, the only constancy at the restaurant that night was in topic of conversation…this server stinks!

Prepared GInger Salmon on table with glass red wine

Good food is only one of the three important ingredients to maintaining a successful restaurant brand.

It is important to be clear, the food was excellent. The concept is solid and a strength of the restaurant with a nice decor, ambiance and menu selection. Several of us struggled to settle on an entree, as we each had several favorites. Everyone was happy with the food, if that was the only criteria for an enjoyable night out this restaurant would have scored high marks. Unfortunately restaurants are judged on the entire package, while two of the three main ingredients were intact the missing ingredient was incredibly damaging.

The poor service left a bad taste in all of our mouths. 

My goal is to help restaurants not only build a brand but to maintain it for the long haul. We all understand that mistakes happen, employees have off nights and sometimes you get bad shellfish. Things happen.

Don’t make excuses, make apologies.

All factors can’t be controlled, however it is important how a bad situation is addressed. In the case of this one restaurant they have taken the criticism seriously and have been very appologetic and accountable for the mistakes. While I did not go into great detail besides the mood of the server, there were more mistakes made along the way. To be blunt, overall it was a disapointing dining experience were the poor service left a bad taste in all of our mouths. But handled correctly people are willing to give restaurants a 2nd chance.

How do you handle complaints from customers? Are you monitoring complaints shared online?

4 Responses to When Bad Service Ruins Good Food | Brand Education for Restaurants
  1. Robert M. Caruso

    Great post man. I have found that teaching the staff about social media and how to use that knowledge to make more money for themselves at the restaurant goes a long way to improve stable service, food and customer loyalty!

    Great article!!

    Robert @fondalo

    • admin

      Absolutely, Robert you are so right. Service today extends way beyond the walls of a restaurant or physical store. If you monitor Social Media (which you should be doing) you should be aware before, during and after a customer visits your business. Make sure to thank them and find out if they enjoyed themselves.

  2. Lynn Rosenberg

    I could not agree more! Living in Las Vegas, where there are an abundance of restaurants service, quality and consistency are the top reasons for customer loyalty. We have lived here 12 years, and seen many restaurants come and go….our top favorite is a restaurant where the food is always consistently good, awith smiling servers. My husband and I never fail to comment: “the parmagnia is always perfect!”

    • David Schwartz

      Great point about customer loyalty, Lynn. Brand Loyalists expect a certain product and constancy play a huge role in that relationship. Thank you for the comment. Las Vegas certainly has a lot of competition for customers.