Is the customer alway right? Or is it ok to say no to a customer when they demand too much?

As a firm believer in doing whatever it takes. Going above and beyond expectations. When is it ok to say, "I'm sorry, but we just are not going to be able to meet your expectations tonight." I love to make unhappy guests smile, but sometimes do we have to draw the line and cut our losses. Maybe after the 5th redone entree, or the 3rd "wrongly made" bar drink.

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Gotta agree with all of this but speaking from the customer side, customers do have a right to expect a certain level of service from those they view as providing it. I had a great example of non-service today- my NY Times came missing two sections (most importantly, the Dining section!) so I called to request a replacement copy. I was told my account was cancelled. I pointed out I'd paid by credit card and was told the charge was rejected. I said "wait a minute," pulled my last card statement which showed it went through, and pointed this out. I got profuse apologies and a promise to send the replacement. I was out much of the morning and came back to find - guess - NO PAPER. I called again and was told they'll send it with tomorrow's. Talk about lousy service from the one of the world's most respected newspapers. I cannot imagine treating my readers that way.
So the way people respond to other people is really a two-way street.
I agree with everyone's thoughtfull comments. I believe the restaurant industry as a whole does a great job in customer service. That is how you build the business and what the business is truely about? Building repeat customers through great service and great food.
I think that anybody that has been in the business long enough (as an owner) can rattle off some really interesting stories regarding customers that are NOT right. I agree with an earlier message in this thread that almost all customer disuputes can be resolved in a manner that pleases the guest, if this were not the case than I think the operator is doing something fundamentally wrong. However, my post is not about those cases, but rather the rare cases where the inheriently evil guest gives you the honor of walking through your doors!!!

1.) We had a group of women one night that stressed the importance of there being no garlic in one of the guest's entrees as she was extremely allergic. We take such requests very seriously, and were careful to use all freshly cleaned utentsils involved with the preparation of the meal as is standard procedure when we get an allergy request. After the table had nearly finished their entrees (after being asked how everything was several times) one of the women called a manager to the table in horror. An entire, unpeeled, whole piece of garlic was sitting in the middle of the plate of the woman with the allergy. You would think we would be horrified, however, we don't carry whole, unpeeled garlic in our restaurant, but rather, buy containers of minced garlic. There has never been a whole garlic clove within the four walls of our kitchen, ever.

When we brought this to her attention, she blushed, and her friends all looked down at their plates. We asked her politely as possible to pay her bill and to please not return. On their way out, one of the friends stated to us that "She does this everywhere she goes to get us a free dinner, she brings the garlic in her purse. We told her to please stop but she refused. We're sorry."

Was the guest right in this circumstance?

If you want more stories, let me know. I promise you that you will think I'm making them up!!!
It's amazing that someone would try to do something so blatant - and disgusting.
The gall of people !
Hello All,

Being new to this forum I guess it would be proper to say hello.. As far as the lady with the garlic - please - I work in the fast food industry - and we all know of the story of the finger in the chili - yes there are times that the customer is NOT right, but as I stress with my staff - please allow a manager to handle the call/customer/guest so that it is handled in a professional and proper manner. As you did, I have done, asked a guest not to return after blatantly causing a stir for no reason.
Some really great points made all across the board. In my opinion there are many components at play in these scenarios. Getting another face involved after the first remake is unsatisfactory is key though. In all of the for instances the order of events is always the same.
Guest reads or hears Menu choices (sometimes from previous experiences)
Guest relates order to Server
Server relates order to Kitchen or Bar
Guest receives Order
Server Checks Back
Best case scenario.... all is well

Complications tend to arise in the following area
Menu not known well enough by staff members
Staff members not asking the right questions of guest...
-If the steak isn't prepared right, are we asking "what the guest looks for in a steak, Color tenderness, flavor"
- The same for Wines of Cocktails that are disagreeable
- If it is a drastic change to a menu Item, Is there something similar to what they are asking for that can be more easily modified to avoid huge changes, or a slowed pace in the kitchen
The question to be asked in my opinion is not" is the guest right or Wrong, and when do you cut off a guest"; but rather have we taken all the steps necessary to allow the best experience for the patrons.
There will always be special circumstances. On a very notable occasion I had a unique opportunity to kindly ask a group of patrons to perhaps seek another establishment in the future, since our service was not up to there expectation. Yes the spent $2000 on dinner(party of 10) Yes they brought in about $25,000 in there own wine. Did we hit all of our points to the "T" absolutely. THe moral of the story here, sometimes its ok to say no to a guest. If we take the proper steps to ensure a great experience then it will undoubtedly involve a set of boundaries. These boundaries are here to Protect the guest, the staff members and the restaurant as a whole. For example I would not walk into French Laundry and Demand Thomas Keller for a burger. Or tell him that I did not like his Tartar.
Boundries
This is not a hip shot but rather a preplanned set of events. WE can encourage the "rightness" of the guest, but there are limits.
I dealt with a customer *(and I use the term loosley) in travel. He had purchased tickets by phone and came in a week or two later to say he didn't get his"senior discount" (was about $11).

He bitched and complained, and my boss, at the time gave him a check for $11.

A few days later, I saw him driving a new Jaguar. I thought "Has he spent his $11 yet ??"
It certainly makes you wonder -sounds like the auto execs who arrived in DC with their hands out while traveling in private jets, doesn't it? Are we heading for a "class war" in the country as the divide between haves and have nots (or at the least, squeezed) becomes more pronounced?
It does seem absurd to complain about a few bucks when you obviously have lots to spend, but it is probably how he became rich in the first place.... I mean, this person probably takes every advantage he can.

The scary thought is that the same animal instinct of "hunting and gathering" and providing for our own personal means is in all of us. Most of us have our limits, but some stampede into Wal-mart on the day after Thanksgiving to save a few dollars without regard to the life of others. There has to be a balance of when to complain and fight for what is correct in price or value, and when to just not worry about paying a little extra in order to truely apprectiate the feelings of the workers that provide us with goods and services.
I think most people do see that there are limits. But circumstances of the past almost decade - since 9/11 - do seem to have frightened a lot of people into a "me first" position. That stampede at Walmart is more than a little horrifying.
I agree you can't make everyone happy, but we can do better.

We can blame Marshall Fields who said "Right or wrong, the customer is always right."
I personally think that customers who have scammed restaurants have made restaurant managers skeptical to the intent of all customers who complain. I've seen managers run and hide too often leaving servers to blame the kitchen. Servers give up on getting a good tip, and avoid the table.

Handling customer complaints is an art that many in our industry could use some guidance. Knowing how to satisfy a demanding guest can keep from redoing a 5th entree, or 3rd wrongly made bar drink.

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