Today I present a restaurant review disguised as another rant on social media support. I was talking to a friend at the bar last night who runs a business that’s built on customer service. One of the points he made is that you can take your time with positive feedback, but you have to nip negative feedback in the bud. This is especially true, he contends, for social media.
A funny thing happened a few weeks ago. Melissa wanted to take us to Barcelona Wine Bar in South Norwalk. We were looking to go at a busy time on a Friday night. They’re a pretty busy restaurant. A reservation seemed pragmatic.
Easy enough. I called their reservation line. It rang for a long time and then said press 10 (sic) for reservations. So, I dialed 10 and it proceeded to ring for a while, and then play a message telling me to press 10 for reservations. I tried this cycle a few time, no joy. Tried a different phone. Asked a friend to call and try the same thing. No dice.
Whatever, Barcelona’s a modern restaurant, surely I can arrange reservations via their website?
No such luck; I could only get a reservation for 5:00 or 9:30. In fact, I quickly determined that it was impossible to get a reservation between 5:30 and 9:00 for the next four months. Ugh. We made other arrangements and I bitched about the experience on twitter:
@BarcelonaWineBa Do you really have no availability at 7 on a Friday for months, or is your website just broken? @BarcelonaWineBa Also, I keep pressing 10 on your sono number, it rings, and it tells me to press 10 again. Going somewhere else tonight.
The twitter account quickly replied and suggested I send them an email to sort things out. This seems like a dream come true; I have issues, I complain about it, and I get a resolution!
@atubbs We're very sorry for the inconvenience! Please email us at yada-yada, we want to make sure you're taken care of.
So I emailed them, explained the troubles I was having, and asked for a reservation for the following Friday at 7. Their PR contact was quite helpful and apologized for the trouble. She gave me the names of the managers and asked me to ask for them when I went for my reservation; they would show me a good time and comp me some tapas.
I certainly didn’t need that, but that’s really going above and beyond to make things right, and I had a warm fuzzy feeling about the whole experience. Neat.
We showed up at 7 on Friday (believe me, I double-checked the details in the email I had from the PR rep). The front of the house had no record of our reservation. Professional, she didn’t point that out, and started making motions to seat us. I mentioned the name of the manager and that were told to ask for him when we arrived, so she went and fetched him.
The manager introduced himself, clearly didn’t know why we were there or why we were talking to him, and asked what our last name was. He escorted us to his “best table” (it was nice, right by the window, if a bit warm by the register).
I’m not going to go into things in detail. We had some weird wait staff confusion between our waitress and the wine steward. The latter at first said he was our waiter, but we could even get a bread refill out of him, ultimately. There were a lot of goofs with pacing; we received our cocktails a third of the way through our tapas course and our bottle of wine once all the plates had been served. Water wasn’t regularly refilled. Dessert wines came with sticky dessert wine poured all over the stem and bases of the glasses. Cheese and charcuterie after dinner came with no plates or silverware. Nothing ended up being free, discounted, or comped.
The food, cocktails, and wine ranged from good to exceptional. The service and pacing were pretty bad.
So, I emailed PR afterwards and let them know how the meal went and how we were a bit surprised that after all this fuss we still didn’t end up having a reservation and whatnot.
We got a long voice mail from the manager a day later and a follow-up email from the PR rep explaining that there was a big confusion on their part. They offered to give us a dinner for free and show us an amazing time. That’s not really my speed and I won’t take them up on the offer. It’s not that they’re not trying hard now, it’s that this is all far too late. It’s tricky nipping this stuff in the bud, but I’m not the sort to give somebody two chances to right a wrong. There are just too many other good restaurants that care enough to get this stuff right the first time.