When you get treated awfully at a restaurant, it’s frustrating. Exasperating, actually. I mean, what the hell are they thinking?
You get angry. You fume in your seat. You snap back at the server. Then, you storm out, leave a paltry, pathetic tip, and vow never to return.
That is, unless the restaurant immediately captures your attention upon exiting, reaches out to you, apologizes profusely, and offers to make amends, to remedy the situation.
This happened. When I brunched at Boundary Stone, I was pushed over the edge. And then the lovely lads who own the joint reached out and soothed me.
This, my friends, is a story of how to handle a customer’s bad experience. Restaurateurs, take notes.
Now, I don’t consider myself a bad diner for servers. My rule in life is: If you want to be a real person, you must wait tables at least once in your life. So you can taste what it feels like to be that server that gets treated rudely and never tipped, and, thus, be a more decent customer and all-around human being. So, with painful memories of waiting tables at ghastly Florida restaurants behind me, I am generally kind to busy wait staff. I’m mostly forgiving. I always tip well.
I guess it all started with an eye roll. Granted, we were a big party for such a small restaurant. You have to slide open Boundary Stone’s heavy wooden door to reveal, well, an alleyway with a couple tables on one side of the restaurant and a few booths and a bar on the other. It’s a small space.
Knowing full well that they didn’t take reservations and that we would be a big party for this small restaurant, we got there early, happily grabbed some tables, pushed them together, and made do. The waitress—let’s call her Emma, because that’s her real name, as I found out later, and I am totally OK with calling this girl out—stood watching in disgust. Such open disgust that she rolled her eyes multiple times at our table-maneuvering and actually clucked at us. Yes, she clucked. Then, eventually, she threw the silverware at us.
After we had gotten ourselves situated, we realized that we were directly under a heat lamp. As I wasn’t feeling well (later, I realized, this was the beginning of what would be a brutal seven-day flu), it was quite uncomfortable for me to be shivering, then sweating, under this enormous heat lamp, so we did some more reshuffling. Then there was more eye-rolling.
It went downhill from there. The service being so atrocious, it just made the mediocre brunch food completely unpalatable to me. The entire experience was rather sad, in the end, because I have heard from multiple locals in the neighborhood that they absolutely love the place.
After we left, my angry tweets were immediately followed up by the owners. My friends had written emails to the restaurant, as well, explaining the situation. Those were also immediately followed up by owners. I will let my Bitches take it from here …
Hi Boundary Stone folks,
Thanks for replying to our complaint on Twitter. Not sure if Becca has reached out to you separately, but thought I would share my perspective on the experience.
We were part of the group of 10 who came in for brunch yesterday, and I was the one who called in advance and was the first to arrive. Everybody on your staff who I interacted with throughout the day was very friendly and helpful, with the exception of our waitress. She was incredibly rude and had an attitude from the very first interaction, rolling her eyes, chastising us, making us feel like a burden on her time, and at one point even yelling at a member of our party when he asked for cream for his coffee. Every time she left the table, my tablemates and I looked at each other in disbelief at her complete lack of courtesy.
I know large groups can be difficult, but I personally went out of my way to make things easier, letting her know how I wanted to rearrange the tables and assuring her we would take care of it so she didn’t need to go get help, then even passing out the water glasses and silverware she had left on a nearby table (she returned while I was in the middle of doing this and neither assisted nor acknowledged my help).
At the end of the meal, I collected all the credit cards, sorted them for her, brought them to her, and let her know that we wanted “$20 on these, $40 on this one, and the rest on this one.” She laughed at me, told me to hold on, and went to wait on another table (note that this was after she had stopped and acknowledged that I wanted to show her how to divide the check).
Like I said, I know large groups can be difficult, but I have been to many other places with groups of a similar size and have never had a server display anything near level of rudeness and disdain for her customers. I appreciate you reaching out, but after that experience, I doubt many in our group will be interested in returning anytime soon.
Here’s another that we sent …
I attended brunch at the Boundary Stone on Sunday. I was pretty disappointed by the attitude displayed by the waitress through every interaction we had. As an example, I asked for milk for coffee and received a heated “you are asking for a lot of things” in response. I’ve been to Boundary Stone several times and really enjoy the restaurant. The attitude really concerned me and I’m sure that your other customers would not want to be responded to in similar ways for simple requests.
Thankfully, we got nearly immediate responses to our tweets and emails:
I am very sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your experience at Boundary Stone on Sunday. We strive to provide to every guest the best possible service and experience. We were quite busy that day and I had thought we did our best to accommodate your large party. I have spoken with the server who waited on you that day. She was quite apologetic, and realized that her tone and attitude were not appropriate or in line with how we operate. Were there any other concerns that you or those in your party had? Were the food and drinks up to par? I did stop by the table and ask how everything was going and your group appeared to be happy. Again I am sorry you didn’t receive the hospitality you should expect coming here. I hope you will give us the opportunity to show you that is not how we do business. Thank you for your email . Please let us know if you have any other concerns.
Thanks, Colin. The food and drinks were OK… to be honest, I was a little bit nervous about asking Emma for anything. I didn’t want to get yelled at by a stressed out waitress. We all have problems in life, you know? I appreciate your reply.
And we heard back again:
Again my apologies, just OK is not how we pride ourselves on our food and drink either. You absolutely shouldn’t be getting attitude from a service industry professional anytime, anywhere, period. We are in the business of Hospitality. We certainly do all have problems, but they aren’t supposed to come to work with us. Next time you’re in introduce yourself. Hope to see you soon.
Now, people. I appreciate these responses. I really do. It went a million miles for me. So, I will be back for brunch at Boundary Stone. And, yes, first, I will make sure not to sit in crazy Emma’s section. I will probably seek out lovely Colin, instead. And next time, I’ll pay more attention to the food, because I won’t be fuming in anger.
The Bitches say: F for now. For the horrible service, over which we couldn’t possibly judge anything else. We’ll be back, though.
116 Rhode Island Ave. N.W.