Red Robin, Christiana DE–Michael

Server: Michael

Attitude:

  • Michael had a somewhat neutral attitude. He was helpful, but not very engaging, and didn’t go out of his way to connect with us.
  • NEXT TIME put more of your own attitude and personality into the experience and engage with the guests.

Timeliness:

  • There were issues with our order (not Michael’s fault) that we had to wait for. There were also times when we had to wait for him to bring condiments/sides that we’d already asked for–even having to ask twice.
  • NEXT TIME double-check the order before bringing it out. Nobody will slight you for not opening up the burger and tasting the cheese to make sure it’s pepper jack instead of provolone (no, please don’t do that!), but you probably could have noticed that the carrots weren’t steamed and corrected the mistake before you got them to our table.

Attentiveness:

  • Michael kept my glass full the whole meal. Good job!
  • Due to the problems with some of our food, we did a good bit of waiting. Would have sure been nice to have some of those bottomless fries while we waited. And waited. And waited.
  • NEXT TIME pay attention to what the guests are doing, and if they have to wait because the kitchen messed up the order, offer to comp an appetizer (or just bring out more of the bottomless fries they would have gotten with their order anyway!).

Training:

  • We ordered a side of steamed carrots for the kids, but were presented with a small bowl of raw carrots (seems to be a trend at RedRobin…). Michael realized the problem when we mentioned it, and went about correcting it.
  • My wife also had the wrong kind of cheese on her burger, and he took that as well to have it remade once we told him of the problem.

The gratuity:

  • 16%
  • Honestly, the tip was pretty good due more to the manager’s actions than Michael’s (see below).
  • NEXT TIME get a better tip by being engaged with your guests, and by providing them with outstanding service…like the manager did.

Other:

  • Once the cheese was fixed on my wife’s burger, it was a manger who brought it back out to our table. She actually noticed that I hadn’t touched my own meal, and offered to remake it as well so it would be hot. I was stunned! Yes, I was hoping that Michael would make that offer when he brought back my wife’s burger, and I had thought about asking if he hadn’t, but I was in awe that this manager was so proactive as to ask.
  • To top that off, she told us that they would just end up throwing away the first burger they’d put the wrong cheese on, and asked if we’d like to box it up to take home! Sure it wasn’t exactly what we’d ordered, and that was why it was replaced, but it wasn’t bad per se, so why not?
  • I’ve never had any manager at any restaurant act with such a customer-service focus as this lady. After the meal was over, I asked at the front for her business card. Turns out, she wasn’t even the manager at this location! They told me that her name was Heather, and that she was the manager at the RedRobin on Brandywine Parkway. If she runs her store the way she treated us that day, we’ll be frequenting her location more often. Great job, Heather!

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers on Urbanspoon

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2 Fat Guys, Hockessin, DE–Maria

Server: Maria

Attitude:

  • Maria had a great attitude. She was helpful and pleasant, though not overly engaging.

Timeliness:

  • Maria was fast. Granted, I didn’t ask for much, but when I did she was out with it quickly.

Attentiveness:

  • Maria was at my table when I needed her, and gone when I didn’t. Once I sat down she was perfectly attentive. She waited until I’d actually tasted my food to ask if it was good, got me a drink refill before it was empty and noticed almost immediately when I was finished with my meal.
  • NEXT TIME greet the guest as soon as they enter the restaurant (or as soon as you see them), and don’t wait for them to initiate the conversation. As there was no host/hostess station or sign letting me know to either seat myself or wait to be seated, I was a bit uncomfortable just standing in the middle of the restaurant when I first walked in. Having to ask if I should sit or wait to be seated didn’t help this.

Training:

  • It seems clear that 2 Fat Guys does a good job training their waitstaff. Not that I presented Maria with much of a chance to demonstrate this, but her ability to provide such outstanding service speaks to this as well as her own personality.

The gratuity:

  • 182% (of the post-Groupon bill!), or 36% of the total.

Other:

  • The other person staffing the restaurant (who appeared to be a manager) did an outstanding job interacting with the other guests. I’m not sure why he never made it to my table.
  • Whoever is doing the prep work in the kitchen should pay closer attention to how they slice their onions. I love red onion, but I don’t think it needs to be as thick as the burger patty itself.

2 Fat Guys American Grill on Urbanspoon

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Red Robin, Christiana DE–Derek

Server: Derek

Attitude:

  • Derek had a great attitude. He was helpful (when asked), but not very engaging.
  • NEXT TIME put more of your own attitude and personality into the experience and engage with the guests.

Timeliness:

  • When asked for things such as additional condiments or drink refills, Derek was generally prompt in returning with the requested items. He did an outstanding job bringing everything asked for without having to be reminded. The problem here was in the time we had to wait before being able to ask for them (see Attentiveness below).

Attentiveness:

  • Unfortunately, Derek fell prey to one of my pet peeves–I had to ask for a drink refill.
  • He was rarely seen on the restaurant floor, and we had to wait several minutes (multiple times) before he came close enough to ask for what was needed. There were several times when I was about to head toward the kitchen myself to ask for what was needed, and it should never get to this point.
  • NEXT TIME make sure you anticipate guest needs (within reason). Guests should never have to ask for a refill on a beverage, unless they’re hiding the glass under the table and you can’t see it. Also, be present on the restaurant floor unless you have a specific need to be in the kitchen. You can’t be a good server if you aren’t there to serve!

Training:

  • We ordered a side of steamed carrots for the kids, but were presented with a small bowl of raw carrots. Derek didn’t seem to think that they offered steamed carrots (it’s clearly on the menu as a side item), and had to speak with several other employees before determining that it was something we could have.
  • No plates, dishes or bowls were removed from the table until the very end of the meal.
  • NEXT TIME make sure you are familiar enough with the menu to know what is offered. After reading the menu for a few minutes, the guests should never know more about it than the server! Also, tidy up the table as the meal progresses, removing unneeded items and trash (often called ATD, or Attention To Detail).

The gratuity:

  • 12%
  • NEXT TIME get a better tip by being present to take care of the guests’ needs, and being proactive in taking care of those needs (not waiting to be asked).

Other:

  • The manager on duty was cleaning a table nearby ours as I loudly talked with my party about some of our needs (refills, condiments, etc.). I spoke clearly and loudly on purpose, assuming that this manager would be interested in seeing that these needs were met. Apparently he was not, as he finished cleaning the table and walked away.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers on Urbanspoon

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In the beginning

When a server at a restaurant looks at the tip they’ve been given, there are three possible reactions:

  1. That’s nice!
  2. Jerk.
  3. Hmm…yes, I could have been more attentive, refilled their drinks more often and brought out that extra plate they asked for. This is certainly the tip I deserve.

Of course, only the first two are really possible. No server, however observant or introspective, can divine the reason for a poor or mediocre tip. Most of the time, they refer to above reason #2 (Jerk.), and assume no responsibility in the matter.

This bothers me.

I understand that servers aren’t paid minimum wage, and that tips are an essential part of their earnings. I also know that if there’s no motivation to improve–no sense of a need to do something different–most servers will provide only the status quo of sub-par service.

This needs to change.

By providing specific servers with actionable suggestions on how they could get a better tip (next time), it’s my hope that I can improve the quality of restaurant service, one server at a time.

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