Posted by: drewdice | March 1, 2011

No Guarantees?

So, let me paint the picture.

JoAnn and I had dinner at Volt in Frederick, Maryland, over a year ago. We are fans of the show Top Chef, and decided to try Brian Voltaggio’s restaurant – local celebrity, good chef, good reviews. The food was great, as was the service. While there, we learned of Table 21, an exclusive option at the restaurant – you eat in the kitchen, right in front of the chef’s station; there are 8 seats available for this, and it is an opportunity to watch Brian in action. Reservations are not easy to get for this 21 course tasting experience. In fact, we made reservations for JoAnn’s 2011 birthday in Februrary of 2010 – a full year in advance.

As the date got closer, the restaurant confirmed the reservation (November). At the beginning of February, we called to reconfirm the reservation and ensured that they knew this was for JoAnn’s birthday. We had 4 people going to dinner, rented a limo, so there would be no issues with having some wine and champagne to celebrate JoAnn’s birthday, and on the 25th, off we went to the restaurant.

After arriving at the restaurant, while enjoying a beverage in the bar, we got wind that Brian, the owner, the Top Chef, and the reason we made the reservations a year in advance for this occassion, was not in the restaurant – he was attending a celebrity barbeque in South Beach.

Wwhhhhhtttttttttt! Did you hear that? That was the wind being sucked out of our collective sails. Are you joking? We made the reservations for the most exclusive part of their restaurant, and were not dropping a small sum of money and time to spend JoAnn’s birthday at Volt. I get it. He is a celeb. He is in demand. Schedules change. Believe me, the restaurant GM gave me the entire song and dance. Not the issue. How about a bit of proactive service, though, and call your customers who make these exclusive reservations to let them know in advance! It is not as if this were a top secret mission to South Beach where Brian had to be flown out, undercover and unnanounced, nor was it an urgent request that was raised the morning of the 25th.

You know what the GM told us? Sorry, when you made the reservation, there was never a guarantee that Brian would be in the kitchen. He is on most nights, but not tonight.

What? Did he really say that? Yes, he did. Did he offer a drink on the house? No. An appetizer? No. An “we really appreciate your business and are so sorry to have disappointed you on this special event”? No.

From a sales and service standpoint, and connecting performance to an organization’s mission, this is a huge disconnect for me. The food at Volt is very good – not the best I’ve ever had, but very good. But, my friends, if your front of the house and management service falls down, and the biggest attraction you have (the celebrity chef) is not packaged and represented right, you do not have a sustainable model!

So, sorry, Volt, and sorry Brian. Big let down. (I should say that the staff did call Brian, get him on the phone, and JoAnn was able to speak with him approximately 1/2 way through our meal – kind of cool, but way too little, much too late).

Another example of poor execution of what is probably a good business strategy.

What’s your story?

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