Last night Kitchen Storey and I came to a difficult decision that I hope will spare our marriage, reduce blood pressure, and result in a much happier life. After careful consideration based upon some bad history, we have decided to stop going to restaurants during their opening week. We are done spending good money on an intended experience that always falls through the floor.
And this is frustrating because we love to try new places and because She Who Flies All The Time is on the road, it’s not often that we get into a place during their debut. It’s also really frustrating because almost all of our bad experiences aren’t the result of the food, but the quality of customer service.
What I don’t understand is how restaurant workers, especially servers and bar tenders, who typically move from restaurant to restaurant seem to fall all over their faces during an opening week. Let me clarify that I don’t take issue with food coming out at weird times. That is expected up to the point of ridiculousness (e.g. food not coming out at all). I get that it takes time for a kitchen to develop its cadence.
Good customer service is not reliant upon having a rhythm. You only need to pay attention and check-in with your customers to communicate, set expectations, and do what you can to avoid a bad experience. This is the basic structure of the relationship between the restaurant server and the patron. And yet somehow this all falls to the floor during the first week—maybe three weeks—of a restaurant opening.
I’m sure everyone is nice and doing what they can, but that’s not good enough when we’re dropping a few hundred dollars on, what we hope to be, an amazing meal. Thus was the case yesterday when we went to Wu Chow, a new Chinese place on West 5th in downtown Austin. It wasn’t the white-hot mess that we experienced at Juliet’s opening weekend back in July, but here again, we left the restaurant wanting for a better experience and making excuses.
I love that Austin is growing and with it an ever-expanding restaurant scene, but I’m done paying for on-the-job training for servers, bar tenders, and the like. I’m happy to be a user tester, but not on my American Express. There is nothing special gained by attending an opening other than bragging about it—which would be cool if I was still in grade school.