With lockdown ending for us here in NSW, it seems as though some businesses need a brush up or a refresher lesson on some of their customer service principles.

During the lockdown, restaurants have been closed, so it was great to have the opportunity to be able to return to dining out again.

My wife booked online for a local restaurant, and as you do, after booking, she checked the online menu to create some “anticipated excitement” leading up to the evening.

There was a slight hitch…

Jayne said to me:

“There isn’t anything on the main course menu for you.”

Which appeared odd.

Now as you know, I choose not to eat red meat or poultry.

But I do eat fish, and seafood. And gnocchi, and pasta.

And did I say I eat fish and seafood?

This was an Italian restaurant. With an unbalanced menu.

There were no seafood choices on their list of main courses.

To the restaurant’s credit, there were a number of seafood choices on the starter menu. But nothing for pescatarians on the main course menu.

So Jayne phoned the restaurant the day before our booking to see whether there was a workable solution to our impending dilemma.

And the owner came up with this.

He said:

“Yes. I am going to get some fish in for the main course.”

And then he said:

“But I can’t guarantee there’ll be any left by the time that you guys come in.”

Our booking was for 8:30pm.

Jayne asked if there was an earlier sitting.

The owner said:

“Yes there is. It’s at 5:30pm.”

Now let’s get a couple of things clear….

The restaurant was holding a $200 deposit for our booking.

We told them our dilemma, they told us their solution, but their solution was not a solution.

So Jayne cancelled the booking. We ate elsewhere instead.

What the owner should have said, is this:

What the owner should have said, is:

“I’m happy to put a piece of fish aside for your husband if you like?”

Or better still:

“Please don’t worry about anything, I’ll make sure that your husband has two different servings of fish or seafood to choose from tomorrow night.”

And Jayne would have said:

“Thank you so much for being so helpful. We’re looking forward to coming to your restaurant and eating out again, finally.”

Will we be booking again at this Italian Restaurant?

Will we be booking again at this Italian Restaurant?

Most probably not.

Can you imagine how many people we would have told this “feel good” story to, had the restaurant tried just a little bit to accommodate my pescatarian husband?

And now we’re telling lots of people this less than flattering story about the restaurant’s one star customer service problem solving skills.

And yes I know….

And yes I know that a lot of restaurants are precious and the menu is what the menu is…

But there’s no point being precious if you’re serving to a less than full restaurant.

What most successful restaurant owners will tell you is that they have regular long term customers who are happy to eat the same dish on a regular basis, even when that dish has been “retired” from the menu.

And the restaurants know this… because a great customer is a great customer.

And that’s where the gold lies….

As a business owner you do need to be firm in principle, but you will benefit from being flexible in procedure.

Inflexibility, or not stretching sufficiently, could be a business’s downfall.


Dr. David Moffet BDS FPFA CSP is a certified CX Experience coach. David works with his wife Jayne Bandy to help SME businesses improve their Customer Service Systems to create memorable World Class experiences for their valued clients and customers. Click here to find out how David and Jayne can help your business