Friday, May 09, 2008
Worth the wait
Last Wednesday was date night for Jeremy and me. We dropped Miriam off at her friends' house (a pair of sisters near her age. They do fun things like "dressups," jumping on the bed, and social bathing) and went to The Olive Garden. I had a hankering (which may or may not have been pregnancy-induced) for their Zuppa Toscana soup and Jeremy had no objections.
Now, I know we should have called ahead, or phoned in our name, or whatever it is you're supposed to do these days. But in our defense, it was 5.30 on a Wednesday night. I guess we just didn't think the restaurant would be that busy. So when the hostess told us it would be a 25-minute wait, it was a surprise, but not anything we couldn't handle. I was hungry and thirsty, but I figured I could wait half an hour without a problem.
Forty-five minutes later, we were still waiting. And we were starving. And the clock was ticking on Miriam's babysitter. Finally, we were called back to a table. Beverage and sustenance at last! Or so I thought.
We got water soon enough, but the breadsticks were AWOL, even after we had ordered our meals. Eventually, they showed up, but then our soup was delayed beyond all reason. Jeremy finally went back to the servers' gathering area (or whatever it is) to see what the sam hill was going on. And of course, he played the pregnancy card, though it was without my permission (I like to save it for when we really, really need it. Though now that I think about it, we were very close to reaching that point).
The thing is, we felt bad about complaining because we could tell it wasn't our server's fault. Sometimes you just know when they're not doing their job; other times, it's apparent that they're doing their best and other people are causing the problem. In fact, this particular server was probably one of the best servers I've ever encountered - he was so genuine, even if it was beyond his power to be supremely helpful.
In the end, we got our food, made sure our server wasn't going to get into any trouble from our complaining, got a free dessert to go, and made it back to pick up Miriam in decent time (and wouldn't you know it, she didn't want to leave).
The next day, Jeremy called the restaurant to compliment our server specifically by name to the manager. To our surprise, the manager sent us a $20 gift certificate in the mail as a sign of appreciation. I would expect to receive a bonus like that when complaining about a restaurant's service, but really, we just wanted the manager to know that they had a good employee.
That is definitely good business practice. What could have been a negative experience - which I surely would have shared on this blog - turned into a really positive one, and we'll definitely be going back to the Olive Garden sometime soon. But this time, I think we'll call ahead.