The customer, continuous improvement, and steak

Tonight I had dinner with my wife at an Australian themed steakhouse chain in Castle Rock, CO.   While I never expect anything great there I do expect good.  Ultimately the food that was served met the requirements…it was fair for the price I was charged.   This was the second time we visited in as many months and the actual food was on par each time.  What was not on par was the service.  On the first visit we were seated quickly, but the service was horribly slow.

The server on this first visit handled the situation wonderfully.  I could tell that the issue was not with him.  He simply had too many tables assigned to him.  I wrote this visit off and assumed that something had happened with staffing.

On the second visit, tonight, we walked in before the dinner rush.  We had the standard interaction with the maître d and were promptly told that the wait would be about five minutes.  Don’t get me wrong, normally five minutes would be no big deal, but there were easily 20 open tables that were clearly visible.  If we assume 4 tops per table then there was upwards of 80 open seats in the restaurant.  I looked at the empty tables, looked at the maître d, and back again.  She either didn’t notice or didn’t care because she didn’t say a word.  Meanwhile there were at least a dozen patrons waiting to be seated also noticing the empty tables and staff standing around.

The service this evening ended up being similar to the service last time.  While I’ll likely never visit this location again (and will be less likely to visit others of this chain), I did ponder their situation while I had dinner:

  • Was I unfortunate twice in a row?  Two visits are not a statistically significant sample size.
  • Does the restaurant realize they have a problem?
  • Is this part of their marketing?  Do they think that this behavior makes them seem more desirable?
  • How do profit metrics compare against others in this chain?  Is this behavior more profitable than efficient and effective service?  I doubt it, but I’d be interested in knowing.
  • If this wasn’t intentional then what were the root causes that resulted in this?
  • Am I expecting too much?

I enjoyed my par dinner and quietly left.  I didn’t ding the waiter at all on the tip since he clearly had too many tables to manage effectively; thus the situation was not his fault.  While I didn’t raise a fuss I will likely not patronize that location again.  While I lack the data to properly assess exactly what this will cost the restaurant I can tell you definitively that it is north of my $50 every month.  I may not be in a position to fix the issues they are having, but I can help reduce the number of customers they have.

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