don’t mess with your patrons

I’m married and have two kids.  Therefore, my social life is reduced to quick discussions in the elevator (or just staring straight ahead and not saying anything), handing money to the cashier when I get lunch, and exchanges around the dinner table about which food is yucky and which one is yummy.  Well, yes, once in a while I go out for a happy hour, networking event or play a show, but for the most part, I’m home with the family.  That’s not meant as a complaint, or a sympathy ploy, it’s just to set the stage.

My wife and I go out together about once every quarter.  I’m not sure why that is the cadence, but that’s just how it happens.  We go out seperately when there is a work function, rarely together.  So on the occassion that we went out a few weeks ago, it was a pretty big deal.  I told her on Thursday we were going out Saturday, got a sitter, and that was that.  We thought we’d start at Richardson’s Canal house in Bushnell’s Basin since I had a $50 dinner certificate courtesy of my fast feet (and other races that same day that drew my age group people away) that needed to be spent before March.  Neither of us had been there before and we are very picky about where we eat.  The plan was to just go there for some wine and an appetizer then head into the city to another spot, 2Vine, Good Luck, or Max’s at Eastman Place.  If you’re local, read that list and decide how picky we are.  It’s probably easier to say, we’ve found some places we like and don’t venture out much.  Sort of like people who listen to the same radio station all the time and don’t want to hear a band playing originals that they worked hard to write. 

We walked into Richardson’s and looked around. It was early and empty.  The coat check person asked if we wanted to leave our coats, we like to keep them since they have all our stuff (wallet, keys, passport, homing device, bug spray, anti itch cream, etc.)  so we said thanks but no thanks.  (Does that ever get old?)  The place has a rustic feel right down to the bar where we settled and were greeted warmly by Geoff.  In fact, Geoff really made that part of the evening work for us.  He recommended a bottle of wine, did not give us any attitude when we said we were just going to have some appetizers and then go elsewhere, and gave us just enough attention.  We would up having three dishes, crab cakes (for me), Caesar salad and eggplant raviolis.  Along with the bottle of wine, we doubled the gift certificate.  I’m not sure if it was the lack of expectations or just the friendly service, but we had a great time there.  Geoff wound up with a nice tip from us, well deserved and he wished us a nice evening.  Then things got interesting.

While we were there, we called Good Luck (full), 2Vine (too long a wait) and Max’s at Eastman place.  A quick aside regarding Max’s.  They have three restaurants and now a grocery type of place in the area.  Max’s chophouse on Monroe Avenue (had a fantastic meal there one night sitting at the bar), Max’s at the Inn on the lake in Canandaigua (had a horrendous meal there on the patio where they turned off the lights, I assume to keep us from actually seeing what we were eating), and Max’s at Eastman place (where we were heading since they had room).  We like the bar area at that Max’s because they have tables where you can eat and it’s a bit less stuffy versus their dining room.  Plus, we like going out wearing nice jeans and shirts, not suits and dresses.  The server approached.  You know you’re in trouble when you have to warm up the server.  I’ve always felt, if I’m coming to your establishment, or at least sit in your section, you should always be happy to see me or at least pretend you are.  Exceptions to that rule would be the following:  if we dated at one point and left on bad terms, you are allowed to be sullen.  if the last time we were there, you waited on us and we made a complete mess, threw up on your shoes and tipped you 2%, you’re warranted some apprehension.  That’s it.  Two exceptions.  In this case, it seemed we should be greeted with a smile.  I won’t bore you with the details of the rest of the meal, I’m not a food critic inclined to wax poetic about the Bearnaise sauce on the petite fillet or the tiny portions that were passed off as entrees.  No, I’m above that.  What I was not above was the bill.  The normal entrees were around $17-20.  We got the special (they “forgot” to tell us the cost of those).  $30.  Sure, in NYC, that’s an appetizer.  Not in Rochester, NY, my friends (does that get old either?).  $30 for two small pieces of meat…really. 

We topped off the evening by squeezing out of our parking space and popping over to Abeline so my wife could see the place.  Small room, good service, ’nuff said. 

Okay, where was I going with this again?  Last I checked, the economy sucks.  There may be a few people out there loving life right now, but there are a number who are rather miserable.  Spending is down, and part of spending is going out for the evening and dining.  Wouldn’t you think now would be the perfect time to really focus on the customers who come through your doors?  Wouldn’t now be the time to shave a little off the price of the special knowing that they’ll like it and want to come back.  Plus, don’t you make enough money on the $9 tiramisu?  Isn’t now the time to put on that happy face knowing the check is going to be high even for two people and you’re probably getting a nice tip?  Now this is where I could be missing the boat.  Maybe people are still going out, but they are not as generous in their tipping.  That could be the reason for the sour face we got.  And by the way, how does the nose piercing through the side of the nostril not bother you?  It’s not the diamond on the outside, it’s the clasp on the inside.  I can see it when I’m sitting and you are standing and it looks like you have a silver…ah, never mind now I just sound old.

Service is important now, restaurant, plumbing, salon, help desk, internal sales support, banks, insurance companies…need I go on?  I’m happy to do my part for the economy, but it would be a lot more fun if I felt like I was getting a good effort in return.  So thank you, Geoff.  Well done.

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