Last night we went out to eat a nationally-recognized asian restaurant and I had the worst experience… but believing that all things happen for a good reason, I think that it was supposed to happen that way.
Let me explain…
I have a shellfish allergy and I have eaten at this restaurant chain in other states without a problem.
To be on the safe side though, we told the server about my allergy. Normally when this is done at a restaurant it is no big deal. The server will say “Would you like to see a copy of our allergy menu?” and then I say yes and they bring me the menu and I order and end of problem.
At this restaurant, however, it became evident that the management and staff had no plan for how to handle someone with an allergy — at least not effectively.
The server got another server to come talk to me and he said he would check with the chef and let me know. Then a third person came by, who did not identify herself and asked “Who is the shellfish allergy?” Wow. Really? Not “Hi, I’m so-and-so and your server told me someone here had a shellfish allergy.” Then she handed me the allergy menu and said… and this is a direct quote, “You need to choose your foods from here” and shoved the menu at me.
If this were not bad enough, then the manager (a FOURTH person) came by and said “Who’s the shellfish allergy? I heard you had an allergy and I wanted to see if you had any questions.” Then, for the salad that I had wanted, he said the chicken was marinated in an oyster sauce. Really? It was NO WHERE on the menu stating that the chicken on the salad was soaked in oyster sauce. So I asked to remove the chicken and he suggested a substitution: SHRIMP. The first time he said it I thought he just mis-spoke but no… he doubled down on that offering and suggested it again: “Our shrimp is not marinated in that oyster sauce. We can replace the chicken with that.” REALLY??? And don’t event get me started about the wonton soup — I just did not order that at all.
By this point I had had enough. Four people, two of whom referred to me as “The Shrimp Allergy”, a server that acted like this was a catastrophe and was running around finding all these people telling him what to do, and a manager that suggested I replace my chicken with shrimp… because that is always a great solution for someone with a shellfish allergy. I felt like I had a giant red flashing-bulb arrow over my head that said “THE SHRIMP ALLERGY”.
It was a total bad experience. I was angry and frustrated and even cried a little as I tried to process what just happened. I was made to feel like a freak when all I wanted was a soup and salad.
We figured out that with this particular restaurant’s location near the beach, they had apparently made some adjustments to their menu to meet the desire of the people to have more seafood in almost all of their foods. BUT, and it is a rather important BUT, their menu did not reflect these changes.
The second big mistake is that they did not have a system in place for how to effectively handle a customer with a shrimp allergy, without it being like a “red alert emergency.” They were all scrambling. It just should not have been like that.
So, how do I know this was supposed to happen?
While I was sitting there talking with my husband about the staff’s lack of tact and planning for a situation such as this one, the phrase that kept coming up was CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. And then it dawned on me: Everything that every business does boils down to the customer experience — EVERYTHING.
This restaurant had no procedures in place to handle a customer with a shrimp allergy and it drastically showed. My customer experience was terrible and I know I will not go back to this place again. Further, if I were to leave bad reviews around online like many people do, this one experience could exponentially and negatively impact this restaurant. Just one bad experience is all it takes.
Customer Experience Consulting is just one facet of what NeuHytte can do to help take your business to new heights. If you want to make sure your customers always have excellent experiences, let us know. We can help you plan and implement strategies to prevent a customer EVER feeling like I felt last night at dinner. Maybe I should have left our business card with the manager…