Food service…is that an oxymoron?

If you’re anything like me, you hate being a pain in a restaurant. Yes, I expect to get what I paid for, but I’ve been let down so many times that it has become force of habit for me not to be disappointed. I just expect that if I order certain things, they will probably suck.

What a horrid way of looking at it, huh? But, it’s what I’ve grown accustomed to in certain restaurants. And it’s always terrible when the server asks you how your meal is, and you really want to tell them the truth. But you know if you do, they will disagree with a look, but patronize you with their words. Then they go tell a manager who comes out and questions you like there’s something wrong with you.

And that’s the reason when a server asks how the meal is, I just say, “Great.” Funny thing is, I don’t even let others at the table answer, I just say great and move on. Until recently. I was eating at Stoney River Steakhouse, and I ordered the roasted chicken. Yes, I know, a dangerous choice since it will most likely be dry chicken. But this is a nice place, so maybe it won’t be. Nope…it was dry. Really nice flavor, and the rest of the meal was fantastic. In fact, their lobster raviolis were outrageous. But…the chicken was dry.

When our server came by and asked how it was, I said, “Good.” She replied with, “Just good? Not great?” Uh oh, now I’m in trouble. I didn’t want to say it. In fact, I tried to stop myself, but what came out was, “Yeeeeeah.” CRUD! Here we go. She was surprised at my response and asked if the chicken was dry. When I said yes, she said she would get a manager out to see me. DANG IT! Why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut like I was eating food and just nod when she asked?

I said to her, “Please don’t. Everything is fine, and the meal is really good. You don’t need to send the manager out.” ‘Cuz you know he’s gonna come out and treat me like I’m the one wrong. She came back in a bit and said that desert was on her. Whew! No manager, no guilty feeling. Until…the manager came by. He asked how the meal was. I said, “Good,” thinking he will be happy with that and move on. Instead, he said, “Good, not great?” AHHH! “Everything was really good. Seriously. You don’t have to worry about it. I don’t want you to comp us anything.”

He then said something that blew me away. “No really, we want to know how it was. We want to know how the food is instead of you not saying anything, and then you don’t return. We want to fix it and make it right.” Wow…WOW! That’s not normal. A restaurant manager who actually cares. Not just about the customer, but about their continued patronage. Now that’s a guy who gets it.

The crazy thing is that this kind of customer service is what we teach all the time in EntreLeadership. But it’s really nice to see it in action!

Question: When have you experienced good service like this?

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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

5 thoughts on “Food service…is that an oxymoron?”

  1. My wife and I recently ate at Knead Dough Pizza in Hendersonville, TN. We got the bruschetta appetizer and about halfway through it we found a round piece of plastic mixed in. We told the waitress and she was horrified. She got the manager. We told her we didn’t want anything other than to tell her she may want to check the rest of the bruschetta in the back. She did that, but she also called the guy that made it at home to see if he could figure out what it was. They finally figured out it was the flow regulator that fell out of the balsamic vinegar bottle. She took the time to drop everything to figure it out and report back to us. Of course she comped the bruschetta… and kept her customers in the process! Thanks Knead Dough!

  2. It’s refreshing to hear that a restaurant really wants to move from “good to great” (Hey, that’s a great title for a book….hmmmmm….maybe I should think about that?)

    Good is average – good is ok – “GREAT” and “AWESOME” is what we should be striving for.

  3. Chris, I am exactly the same way. I don’t why though. Even after serving tables for 8 years, I’m that way. I even worked in places where management handled situations in a “wow” fashion. Regardless, I need to start being honest with servers and management and at least give them the opportunity to make it right, which may be bring me back. Otherwise, I’ll probably never come back, tell others about the sub-par food and cause them to never go. I guess this is the reason why managers ask “good not great?” It’s actually a critical question for long-term business success more than it is even customer service.

  4. You nailed it exactly, Chris. I’ve come to expect mediocre service and food in restaurants, and never say a thing about it. In the tiny town where I live, there is one really GREAT restaurant. We leave the other restaurants for those who are just passing through. No one tells the truth to the owners or managers because we all know each other. (My gut instinct is that most cooks are scary, so managers and wait staff are afraid of them!)

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