What to do?
All right, I’m going to answer this one because the exact situation happened at a restaurant I worked at a few years back…
“Related topic: I'd like to know -from your perspective - what I should have done in this story.Location: upscale steakhouse near Hartford, CT. Price: Apps, Drinks, Entree's, Desert & tip ~ $120 for 2 people
My wife got a babysitter and went out to celebrate something or other. Since we were dropping $25 on the babysitter and $100+ for dinner, we only do this every couple of months. Hey - living in New England is expensive! Anyway, we go to one of our favorite restaurants. It is a nice steakhouse near Hartford, CT. You do occasionally see kids there, but mostly it is couples or groups. Anyway, we are about 30 minutes into our meal (steaks had just arrived) when the FIRE ALARM starts going off. The assistant manager (I think) comes around and tells everyone that it's ok, it was just a malfunction but they have to wait for the fire department to arrive. He then opens some of the emergency exit doors. Now it is early April and about 45 degrees outside. The draft from the outside air is starting to feel cold (my wife puts her coat back on) and the FIRE ALARM IS STILL GOING OFF. They do no evacuate the building (it was just a malfunction, he said). After 20 minutes of trying eat and have a conversation with my wife (with the FIRE ALARM STILL GOING OFF!), I give up and we put on our coats and go outside to the patio to get away from the noise. After about 10 minutes on the patio, the fire trucks show up and 2 minutes later the alarm is off.
We go back inside and finish our (now cold) meal. The assistant manager comes by again and closes the doors and offers a personal apology, but nothing more. How should I have handled it?If I get an actual response, I'll let you know what I did.Thanks!”
First off tip the server still, regardless of what the manager did or did not do.
Secondly, the manager sounds like an idiot. Open the doors when it is cold out? Its bad enough that there are sirens blaring. I don’t understand why he would open the doors if it was just a malfunction.
As far as the alarm still going off, most businesses don’t have the option of turning alarms off, either security, the police or fire department have the ability, surely for insurance/legal reasons.
It has nothing to do with turning off the alarm from the inside, you pretty much have to wait for the authorities to show up.
So after all of that, the restaurant has a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Pretty much at an upscale restaurant you will be dropping minimum $50 a head, before tip. If the management comps everyone in the house not only will that cost thousands of dollars, it could cost him his job. If there is no compensation they risk having every customer in the joint not returning. The old management saying that goes a dissatisfied customer will tell ten friends and they won’t patronize the business could be applied as well, though I think that one is mostly bullshit in the company manual.
On the other hand you do deserve compensation for the inconvenience. I have always been a proponent of compensation that can guarantee the return of a customer and not a straight out comp, such as free drinks next time or a free appetizer on your next visit, something along those line. In this case compensation on your current visit seems in order. I would do a combination of both.
If I was a manager in this case I would personally visit any tables that I could and authorize my
staff to grant 50% discounts on entrees and appetizers, that way the business could at least cover product cost or defray the cost at the very least. As well I would personally hand out my business card to each table and apologize, on the back of the card I would sign my name grant some kind of discount/free item for the next visit.
That way the guest is covered and feels all warm and toasty about a manager sucking up to them and the business is covered as far as any loss and the customer is more likely to have a return visit.
As far as what happened at my restaurant, the alarm went off for about five minutes, we were mostly empty due to a holiday weekend and most customers were fairly understanding. Except for one.
They were a name dropping friend of the owner and decided they were the owner by proxy.
They demanded the manager pay for everyone in the restaurant and set them up with drinks (They weren’t even eating, just having cocktails).
Management promptly ignored their demands and stated that our management, not they, were in charge and would decide on the proper response.
Name droppers threatened to tell their good friend, but like most name droppers they didn’t do shit.
We bought drinks for each table and all was good, name droppers sulked in front of their pink martinis and weren’t comped shit.