Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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How Many Chances Does a Restaurant Get?

May 5th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Once more for Jade Kitchen

I posted on Facebook that I’m going back to Jade Kitchen, a fairly new restaurant in Northwood – an evolving section of West Palm Beach.

A previous visit at lunch left me with a bad taste in my mouth for it. A fellow food writer and I decided on the cheery streetside cafe with sidewalk seating and a new American menu. He had been for dinner recently and was raving about it so I agreed. Here’s our tale:

It was seasonally busy

We arrived to a bustling scene of waiters and a busboy scurrying around a lot of busy sidewalk tables – a beautiful winter day brought out the masses.  All the empty tables were still filled with the previous diner’s remains. Clearly the service was behind. But we were hopeful they’d catch up soon.

We were greeted after a couple of minutes standing, and asked whether we’d like to sit inside or out — outside was beautiful and too hard to resist. “We’ll just be a minute clearing,” was the host’s line.

It was more like four minutes, but we waited.

Then the real wait began

Finally seated against a window, we watched as a table with a toddler and infant attached to parents were seated behind us. Then, and an older couple in front of us, and a four-top to our right. All of these diners were brought menus, water and a promise of “We’ll be with you in a minute,” while we waited to even get a menu, a set-up, or be acknowledged.

After watching this parade and seeing the last of the seated having their orders taken, we got up, shaking our heads without a word or backward glance, and walked the half-block to Cafe Centro, where service and our meal were just great.

Once burned

Two unhappy customers, both with food readers. (They couldn’t know that, but a good lesson: Treat every diner like a possible restaurant writer, and you’ll never lose.) What would it have taken to get them to at least just give us one small heads-up:  “We’re slammed today, so please bear with us” would have gone miles for a little good will.

But today, I’m giving them one more try — I’ll grant that every restaurant can have a bad day or night.

I’ll go back today and see how things go then report back this afternoon.

Question of the day:

How many chances should I give a restaurant before I say “never again!”?

 I’m not living in Opp, Ala., with only six restaurants to choose from. Within a two-block radius, I have Cafe Centro, or This Is It Cafe where I could get great, consistent service and a fine meal at either. Or drive 1.7 miles to one of the dozens of restaurants on or around Clematis Street for the same.

What do you other diners think about all this?

Tags: Talking Tables

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ksteinhoff // May 5, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    My wife says I lack patience. That’s particularly true when it comes to dining (if you could call the places I frequent “dining).

    If I show up and there is a long line outside, then I calculate whether (a) it will take me longer to go somewhere else, (b) will someplace else be equally busy, (c) do I have a particular craving for my first choice?

    If I elect to stay, then I don’t complain about the wait unless it’s exceptionally longer than estimated.

    If I sit down, I expect someone to take my order in a reasonable amount of time.

    If they have delivered my drink or anything and then disappeared for anything approaching 10 minutes, then I’ll go to the register, ask for a manager and ask him/her how much I owe for what I’ve received and explain that I would have spent a lot more with him if someone had bothered to take my order.

    His/her response will determine whether I come back again. Either way, I’m walking at that point.

    A place gets one chance with me. If I’m not happy, I’ll ask for the manager on the way out the door. If I’m REALLY not happy, I’ll look for a corporate feedback card and explain why that establishment will NEVER get my business again.

    I’ll send Jan a copy of a letter I sent to one hotel chain. I’ll let her decide if she wants to post it.

  • 2 Ben // May 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I am stickler for good service and cannot tolerate slackers. However, everyone deserves a second chance… check it out, I have heard great things about their food.

    BTW, if you need a dining partner, I would love to join you.

  • 3 ksteinhoff // May 6, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I ain’t a lawyer; (I swerved to miss one when I took my driving test and the tester said, “There are some things it’s OK to run over”), but I see a dining experience as being a contract between me and the manager.

    He/She is supposed to provide safe, good-tasting food at a reasonable price in a reasonable period of time by wait staff that is competent, somewhat pleasant and attentive.

    My part is to pay the bill and not steal the silverware.

    If the manager doesn’t live up to his/her part of the bargain, I’m still legally obligated to pay. I am NOT obligated to go back. I AM morally obligated to pass on my unsatisfactory experience to everyone I know.

    Doing a smug Happy Dance when I drive past the eating establishment and see that it’s out of business six months later is optional.

  • 4 Jan Norris // May 6, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    From others who commented via Facebook:

    Cecily Mathis, West Palm Beach: “ONE chance.”

    Ken Steinhoff (www.palmbeachbiketours.com): I give every dog one bite. If the food is bad or the service is lousy and I don’t get any satisfaction from the manger, the joint goes on my cold-day-in-hell list.
    I believe in voting with my feet.

    Joyce Reingold, writing from Palm Beach: I think that’s a tough but fair policy. Because hopefully, if the food’s good but the service stinks, the manager still has a chance to make things right. If it falls apart there, too — adios!

    Hilary Carmichael, Okeechobee: Depends on how I like the restaurant to begin with. If it’s one I’ve liked in the past I’ll give it another chance. If it’s a first time for me and service or food is not to my liking, I don’t come back at all.

  • 5 jordan // May 7, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    I think we have all been there, and it really is a shame that these experiences are so common in South Florida. Palm Beach/Ft. Lauderdale/Miami would be an amazing food region if we could get our act together with service.

    My thought – there are so many restaurants here that restaurants should not count on second chances. But, if I have heard good reviews from friends or the media, I will give almost any restaurant a second chance.

    If the restaurant does not have much of a good reputation, I will probably not go back.

  • 6 Amen // May 26, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    I normally only give restaurants one chance unless a friend, coworker or respected foodie say otherwise.

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