Last week we went to a local restaurant. It was 7:10 PM (my wife likes to eat early) and I ordered the quail. “I’m sorry,” the waiter said, “we’re out of that.” Now, the restaurant had been open less than two hours. Did the first twenty people who came through the door that night all order the quail? The place is not open for lunch; where did all those little wobbly birds go? If they forgot to order the quail from their purveyor, why didn’t they take it off the menu or, at least, say something before I had my heart set on munching that little bird?
Not long ago I was in another restaurant that had a very impressive wine list. It was impressive because of its breadth and the quality of its selections. It was also impressive because it had today’s date printed right at the top of the list. That would assure the customers that the list was right up to date, right? Wrong. I ordered an obscure wine I had never tasted. The waitress went to the wine cellar or the wine closet or wherever they kept the wines. About ten minutes later she returned. “Looks like we’re out of that one,” she said sheepishly. WTF?
Here are two occasions – and not the only two – where the restaurant failed to deliver on the promise of the menu or wine list. Happens all the time, you say. Well, that doesn’t make it right. It’s very disappointing when a restaurant tells you via the menu or wine list that they have something when, in truth, they don’t.
Maybe I’m being a real prig here. But, if you think about it, a menu or a wine list is a form of contract between the restaurant and the customer. They are a promise to deliver something of value. By not being able to deliver something that is promised, they have damaged the trust that exists between buyer and seller.
As I have pointed out before: the relationship between an eating establishment and its customers is very much one of intimacy. Someone comes into a restaurant expecting to ingest what it has to offer. There is a lot of trust involved in this intercourse. If that trust is damaged in any way, the customer’s experience is diminished. And the restaurant’s reputation takes a hit.
A restaurant that is consistently “out of“ this or that is sending a strong negative message to its customers.
By Anthony Dias Blue