Sunday, November 14, 2010

Should I Have Been Comped?

Friday night I went out to the Chessecake Factory to eat dinner. When we arrived we were quoted (that's the word they use, quoted) a wait time of 45 minutes. We walked around the mall then came back and were being led to our seats at 44 minutes. So far, so good. If you've never been to the Chessecake, they run the place like a well-oiled machine. That's what they pride themselves on: efficiency. So anyway, when I saw we were being led to one of those table-things where you have to sit on top of total strangers, I told the small hostess girl that we would wait for a booth. While we waited another 15 minutes, samples of free cheesecake were being passed around. It was great. 15 minutes later we were being led to a private booth by another of these hostess girls. It was busy, but they got us seated.

Now, going into Chessecake, you expect the place to be run like a drum. You don't expect over-the-top-good food, but they make a big display of dotting the i's and crossing the t's. So if that's your thing as a business (chain or otherwise), you better get it right, right? We both ordered sodas and an appetizer of crab wantans. A few minutes later we ordered burgers as entree--medium. After 30 minutes of filling up on the free bread, a young man who was not our waitress delivered our burgers--under cooked. I told him that they had forgotten the appetizer. Two minutes later, our waitress came and apologized for the miscue, and offered to bring the wantans out with our burgers or have them wrapped up as a snack. We politely declined, because nothing sounds worse than having wantans with cheeseburgers, except maybe having them as a late-night snack. But I joked that we would take them "on the house." The waitress laughed as if I was not serious (which I was) then went to refill our sodas. After dinner we ordered cheesecake slices to go. When the bill came, we were charged for everything we had gotten, right down to the sodas.

I ask: Shouldn't a place that prides itself on being robotically efficient have comped us something because of their mess up, albeit a small mess up? The sodas or even the cheesecake maybe? Instead of offering to comp something on the bill, when I went to pay, the waitress again tried to upsell the wantans as a late-night snack, and thus charge me for them. Of course this isn't a big deal, but I really expected some manager-type with the earpiece, you know the type I'm talking about, to come over and offer dessert on the house or something. But nope, charged for everything, even the sodas.

My point: If you are all about robotic perfection, because (honestly) the food there is nothing to get excited about, be ready to go overboard when that perfection isn't met. I don't care about bells and whistles. I care more about product than presentation. That's why you'll never catch me in a Friday's or Chilli's, because the atmosphere is fun but the food sucks. The next night we went to an Italian place in Lansingburgh called Verdile's. The wait was insane, the place looked like a dumpy diner, all the servers were men (which is REALLY weird), and there weren't even tableclothes on the tables. But the food was great, and that's why I'll go back. And if they had forgotten an appetizer, no big deal, because there was nothing about this family-ran joint that said it's a robotic system. Mistakes happen. And, I promise, they would've comped us dessert or soda refills.

Should I have been comped?

Brian Huba


  1. I imagine it's hard for the chain restaurant employees to offer comps because they are big machines and employees are probably not allowed any wiggle room. Sadly the chain restaurants take a big chunk out of business for the small independent restaurants, which continue to disappear as people flock to the chains.

  2. I once had an entire soda accidently spilled on me at Cheesecake. Nothing was comped...not even the spilled soda! I thought for sure we'd get a free slice of cheesecake, but all that I got were wet pants...