How the Staff at a National Chain Lost My Business Forever
by David Klemt
An unfortunate and entirely avoidable guest experience debacle guarantees that I’ll never spend another dollar at a particular national American chain.
What was supposed to be a small treat and excuse to get outside for a bit went downhill quickly.
Now, before I begin, I tend to shrug at poor service. Truly, a front-of-house team member has to go pretty far for me to do more than raise an eyebrow.
Given how the past two years-plus have gone, my tolerance has only grown. Everyone has bad days, including restaurant, bar, and hotel staff. In fact, I tend to assume that someone is simply having an off day due to an array of reasons: working several days in a row, opening and closing multiple times a week; having more responsibilities heaped on them due to being short staffed; a seeming increase in abuse from guests; stress spilling over onto the job; etc.
However, that doesn’t mean I’ll always return to be subjected to poor service in the future. What I experienced yesterday falls into this category: I won’t spend my money with this chain ever again.
As stated above, my visit to this national chain (600-plus locations) was intended to be a small treat. It was Halloween, they specialize in a particular type of confection, so why not?
Also, the temperatures have been in the 70s and lower in Las Vegas—perfect for a trip on my motorcycle. So, two treats in one, really.
Okay, so I’m going to do something I don’t like doing here: making an assumption or two. I think, however, I’m basing them on sound reasoning.
Additionally, I don’t like to use third-party delivery. In this case, the order was placed via Uber Eats for pickup using a monthly credit. Zero offense to third-party delivery drivers—it’s the corporations behind the services and the fees they charge operators I don’t support.
So, my assumption is that because the order came in via Uber Eats the staff figured I was “just” a delivery driver.
I’ll concede that this visit didn’t start off on the wrong foot: I received a decent welcome. Since I was picking up the order, I stood at the pickup counter, and confirmation came in before I arrived that the order was ready.
There were three guests waiting when I walked in, and one by one they got their orders and left. I didn’t think anything was going wrong until people walked in after me and received their orders. In terms of this chain, my order was on the smaller side.
After several minutes of being ignored, I was asked if I was picking up for Uber Eats. I clarified that no, I’m not an Uber Eats driver, I was picking up my order placed via Uber Eats.
Another several minutes went by as I watched larger orders get fulfilled ahead of mine. And then I was asked again—by the same staff member—who I was picking up for. Again, not an Uber Eats driver—my order.
At this point, I had been waiting more than 10 minutes. When I was finally given my order, I noticed another difference. Staff members showed guests their orders to confirm the contents before handing them over. My order, however, was taped closed behind the counter and handed to me.
It didn’t strike me that this is how this staff treats Uber Eats driver until I was on my bike. And that’s the problem.
Standards of Service
If this is how staff treats third-party delivery drivers, it’s appalling. There’s no excuse for treating drivers differently just because they aren’t the guest themselves or fellow employees.
Let’s be clear: anyone walking through a restaurant, bar or hotel’s doors deserves at least decent service. There are several reasons for this, and I shouldn’t have to address them. But, hey, we’re already here, so why not address a couple?
First, standards. If your staff is purposely treating a group of people poorly because they think they can do so without ramifications, your standards have slipped or there simply aren’t any. That’s a problem.
Are team members going to get to know regulars? Absolutely. Are they going to have favorites. Of course! And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s what should happen—every front-of-house team member should cultivate their own regulars.
So, yes, some guests will treated differently. There’s a huge difference, however, between subjecting some guests to poor service intentionally and delivering outstanding service to favorites.
Quite simply, the minimum standard of service should be great service. “Decent” sucks; great should be the baseline.
Regulars and guests who staff have rapport with should receive service that’s above and beyond the standard level. Rock star servers and bartenders deliver outstanding service to everyone, regular or first-timer, gracious guest or grump.
Second, your staff shouldn’t be treating third-party delivery workers like they don’t matter. There’s zero room in hospitality for treating people poorly—doing so is in direct opposition to the spirit of this profession.
In fact, they shouldn’t treat difficult guests with anything but your expected standards. Leadership team members should be confronting rude or difficult guests, protecting the rest of the team.
I’ve read and heard about restaurant staff treating third-party delivery drivers poorly. Always, of course, with justifications thrown in: retaliation toward rude drivers, drivers not tipping…pick a reason. Again, if there’s a rude driver, staff should alert leadership and they should handle it.
Look, I’ve made no secret of my view on third-party delivery apps. Their fees and taking advantage of operators, particularly during the pandemic, infuriate me. And it’s easy to point at me and say I’m part of the problem, using a credit to place a third-party delivery. I’ll accept that criticism.
What I won’t do is return to a business with staff who think it’s acceptable to allow standards to slip and treat delivery drivers poorly. Most people seem to take delivery jobs to make ends meet. Hell, some of them are likely service industry professionals themselves working another job or jobs.
The labor shortage isn’t a valid justification for slipping standards or poor service. Dislike of third-party delivery services is no justification, either.
In fact, this chain obviously sees these delivery services as a viable income stream. The fact their staff doesn’t is a problem. If there’s a standard of service for this chain, it certainly wasn’t met when I was there. And if there’s a standard that I didn’t receive, there are several other problems.
Either way, the damage is done.
Image: Andre Moura via Pexels