It’s Just Good Business

Ok, no one died in awesome cannon fire, and there wasn’t even anything really bad (in the end) about what happened. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. There was such an astounding amount of good business on my recent trip to the Formula 1 USGP last weekend, that I just can’t seem to get it out of my head.

Every night that we went to dinner, someone had something happen, or something that we couldn’t get. And, instead of the usual “Oh, sorry, I’m new,” excuse, we had managers go above and beyond to make our experience better. As a former restaurant slave, in a boutique restaurant that had strict service rules, even I was impressed.

FRIDAY: We went to a bar in downtown Austin, that is adjacent to a formal dining area: Sullivan’s Steakhouse. We had been there once before – last year, so we were familiar with the menu…and then realized they’re trying to revamp the whole restaurant and bar, so that menu was gone. We ordered from a moderately pricey and fancy menu – braised beef ravioli, scallops and bacon, gourmet burgers….

Photo courtesy restaurantweekaustin.com

After a decently long wait, our server came back with some bad news: Somehow, the runner had screwed up and dropped four of our five meals at another table – and the other guests had already started eating them. The kitchen was already in the process of cooking second dishes, but it would be another 20 or so minutes. Sigh. Ok.

The manager came over, and brought us bread to munch on, but also offered to buy each of us either a salad or dessert – including the one person who got his dinner on time. We opted for a salad, but just as the manager went to punch in the order, our dinners were dropped off. He told us we could still have the salad if we’d like, but dessert was still an option, so we went with that.

The food was really good – and then dessert was fantastic. We each got something different, and barely shared – yes, they were that good. We got another surprise at the end of the meal – the manager had also bought us a round of drinks. We had $50 worth of dessert and $40 worth of drinks, all comped. We left a huge tip and a note thanking them for their fantastic service.

SATURDAY: After being tired and wanting to take it easy, we opted to find a place to eat, somewhere between Austin and New Braunfels, which is where we were staying. We narrowly missed going to a Hooters-esque place (I’m told the talent is waaaaaaaaaay better in Texas), and ended up at Texas Land and Cattle.

Photo courtesy of experiencearlington.org

There was an hour-long wait, but we managed to get five seats at the bar as soon as we walked in, which worked out well. Our bartenders were adorable – young, gay, social – the kind of bartender your’e supposed to be. We ordered our meals, and PJ asked for a 9 ounce sirloin. I, sadly, got a salad (yes, salad at a steak house), but it was supposed to have a mid-rare sirloin on top.

Our food came out, and while everyone else was happy with their meals, my steak was well done, and PJ’s looked…well…tiny. The kitchen had cooked a 6oz and not 9oz steak. The manager came out, took one look, and sent out a second 6oz steak, with all the fixings, for PJ. This one was a bit more on the rare side, so he ate it and gave me his original mid-rare steak for my salad. It all works out in the end!

We also got a recipe for The Best Margarita in the World, from the cutest bartender in the state:

  • 2 parts Patron Blanco
  • 1 part Patron Citronge
  • Splash of orange juice
  • House Margarita Mix

SUNDAY: This was less bad, but we went to a bar and they didn’t carry several whiskys that I wanted to drink. Nor could they suggest a substitute for me to try. What kind of bartender are you?

MONDAY: We had several delays in our flights trying to get home. We decided with all this extra time, to sit down and have a meal. We all ordered burgers, except one person, who ordered a grilled chicken Caesar salad. First, they sent out a plate of browning and wilted lettuce. Then, they sent out the same plate, with chicken on it – no croutons or cheese. Third time’s the charm, after some profuse apologies.

We waited for our check, and the server let us know that the manager had taken the salad off the bill. Yet another meal comped on our trip.

All in all, it could have been worse. We could have had horrible service, nothing could have been comped, the food could have sucked….it was a great trip, and the level of service really was impressive. It gives me hope that perhaps not all has been lost, and there’s still an art to it.

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