Archive for August, 2019

What You Need to Know About Cantilever Bases

Most restaurant furniture is relatively easy to install. You may need to attach a booth to the wall or screw a table base to the floor to prevent it from being moved around. But generally, adding furniture is a simple placement issue, rather than an installation issue.

Not so with cantilever table bases.

A cantilever is a horizontal bar that is only supported at one end. When a table is atop a cantilever base, there are no legs. Instead, the tabletop rests on the cantilever, which is attached to the wall. They are often used with booth seating, where guests are sliding in and out of the seat.

There are several reasons why you may want to consider cantilever bases for your restaurant, and a few why they may not be the best choice for you. Here are all the details!

The Benefits

Cleanliness

How annoying is it to get a vacuum or a mop under tables when they have four legs or a wide base? And how hard does your cleaning staff work to really get under there? If they’re like many, there may be an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to cleanliness under your tables. 

So if you had tables with no legs at all, wouldn’t it be easier to make sure there were no errant crumbs or sticky spills attracting bugs? 

Cantilevered tables with no legs leave plenty of room for a broom, ensuring your staff can find every last Cheerio.

Comfort

No one likes a banged knee when they’re just trying to slide into their booth. Removing table legs from the equation keeps bruises at bay. And no one will be stuck in the unenviable position of having to sit with one leg on either side of the table support.

You can also seat more customers at a table when there are no legs to contend with, making the most of your restaurant real estate.

And since the table is securely attached to the wall instead of sitting on a potentially uneven floor, guests won’t have to deal with an unstable surface. No one likes when their fresh pint sloshes over onto their plate due to a wobbly table!

Appearance

A cantilever has a clean, modern appearance. It will bring a light airiness to your space, rather than the heavy weight of a table with large legs or a wide base. 

It is especially fitting in a retro or mid-century modern style restaurant. The balancing act of cantilevered furniture first gained popularity in the 1930s, and stayed popular through the 1950s and 1960s.

Affordability

Cantilever bases are small — meaning they don’t use a great amount of material to build. So they are affordable. A good heavy-duty base will cost less than $85.00, with some variations depending on the finishes and weight of the steel. 

But keep in mind that there will be installation costs for these bases…

The Installation

“This all sounds great!” you may be thinking. “I’m going to transition all of my tables to cantilevers!”

Well not so fast.

First of all, you can only use a cantilever where there is support for it. So it has to be against a wall. But because the base is attached to the wall instead of the floor, they require significant support if they’re going to hold up. If you try to attach a cantilever to a basic sheetrock wall, you’ll end up with a damaged wall and potentially injured customers!

Cantilevers are usually only used in new construction.  With a new build, the contractors will be able to build in the appropriate support to make sure that your table holds. After all, think about how much weight the cantilever will have to hold: the tabletop, plates of food, handbags, elbows, and even small children!

A brick or masonry wall can be sufficient for holding up a cantilever table base. Your installer will need to use special brick or masonry screws that hold tight to the wall to make ensure the weight doesn’t rip it right out of the brick. But with proper installation, it will hold.

You can also attach cantilevers to a stud wall, but it has to be a load-bearing wall. A “curtain wall” will not be sturdy enough to hold up the table. And even once you’ve confirmed that your wall is load-bearing, you’ll probably need to add extra blocking between the studs. “Blocking” refers to adding small pieces of 2×4 lumber between wall studs to build out a solid surface. When done correctly, blocking can create a sturdy enough foundation for your table base.

This weight factor should also be considered when you’re purchasing your table base. Look for at least 18-gauge steel, and 2×2” tube steel, like our options at East Coast Chair and Barstool. Anything smaller could bend under the weight of the tabletop.

And make sure to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Your base will have a maximum tabletop size that is safe for use on your cantilever base. For longer tables, you may need a pin leg — a single leg that you’ll attach at the far end of the table for extra stability. It may seem to defeat the purpose to add a leg, but remember that you’re only adding one, and it will be centered at the end of the table. So it still won’t be in the way of customers’ legs, and staff will be able to clean around it.

Remodeling and retrofitting

So once your restaurant has been built, is it impossible to add cantilever table bases?

No. But you’ll have to open up your walls to verify that you have enough support for them. It can quickly turn into an expensive and time-consuming job. And you’ll have to close your restaurant while the work is completed. 

Also, keep in mind that moving this type of table requires them to be removed and re-installed — opening the walls up again. So make sure you know exactly where you want them before you put them in! 

Plus, if you rent your space rather than owning it, you may run into some push back from your landlord. You’ll have to abide by the terms of your lease when doing any remodeling work!

Conclusion

Cantilevered tables can make a great addition to your restaurant’s layout. They’re practical, attractive, and affordable. So if you’re just getting started on your restaurant construction, they’re definitely something to consider. 

And if your restaurant is already built, just make sure to really consider the pros and cons before you start tearing your walls apart!

How to Transition Your Menu for Fall

The weather is just beginning to cool, and already people are yearning for cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, and that crisp nip in the air. While we still have a few weeks before the weather turns, it’s time to start thinking about revamping your menu for the fall. 

The general theme? Heartier dishes. When people are cold, their bodies have to burn more calories to keep their temperature up. As a result, many people feel hungrier during the fall and winter than spring and summer. 

Plus, without trips to the beach on the horizon, people tend to be a little more lax with their meal choices. 

So bid a fond farewell to perfect peaches and crispy asparagus, and say hello to gourds and squash, fall apples, and the wonderful world of root vegetables. 

Appetizers

Let go of the cool, light apps like spring rolls, gazpacho, and hummus. Instead, set the stage with a warm, cozy starter. Gulf oysters are in season year ‘round, so a grilled oyster app is a good option. Or gooey baked brie with a warm baguette. If you do want to keep a cold starter on the menu, try to stick to seasonal fall ingredients. Eggplant is available all year, so baba ganoush might be a hearty dip to consider.

And the soups! Who doesn’t love a warm bowl of soup or chowder on a cool day, served with a warm slice of crusty, homemade bread? French onion with savory beef broth, thick baked potato soup, and classic minestrone all make wonderful starters. Just keep portions small, or no one will want to order entrees. 

Salads

Just because the summer salad season is coming to a close, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for salads on your menu throughout the colder months. Just bring a heartier approach. 

Swap out the watery greens for more fibrous options, like kale or spinach. These greens will hold up well to heavier toppings and dressings. 

Instead of only raw veggies, add some warming roasted root vegetables to your salads. Roasted beets, butternut squash, and sweet potato will add a filling bulk. You can also beef up your fall salads with hearty grains like farro, quinoa, and couscous. Pearl couscous does particularly well in salads, because of the larger grains. 

For sweetness, look for fruits that are in season in the cooler months, like Asian pears. Certain apple varieties like Braeburn, Fuji or Pink Lady are also at their peak in the fall. Dried cranberries are another popular fall fruit that will provide little pops of sugar. And they all go well with some crunchy fall nuts, like walnuts, pecans and pine nuts.

Sides

With so many delicious root vegetables in season, fall sides are abundant. Half of a roasted acorn squash drizzled with maple butter is hard to beat. Pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy, salty pancetta are another favorite. Or you can sauté fall greens like Swiss chard or spinach for a light side option.

Any roasted root vegetable will create a good base for a fall side, from basic potatoes and carrots to parsnips, turnips, beets, and squash. 

But fall sides aren’t limited to veggies. A gooey pasta side-dish will stick to the ribs as well. Bring a fall flavor into the mix by making a pumpkin sauce. Or update gnocchi for the season by substituting sweet potatoes for regular potatoes. 

Entrees

Any protein can be turned into a fall dish with the right preparation and accouterments. 

When cooking, think long slow-roasting and braising for the richness of flavor that we’re craving in cooler weather. Duck confit, roast chicken, lamb shanks braised in red wine — all great fall options. 

Pork stuffed with apple and walnuts is a classic fall combination that you can play with. Mushrooms are most plentiful in the fall, and they are a great addition to pan sauces for steak and pork. 

For seafood, cioppino (a warm and hearty seafood stew) is a lighter option that guests may appreciate. Cod, salmon, grouper, and flounder are all fish that are widely available in the fall as well. Fish is a great addition to your menu all year, as it can easily be tweaked to fit the season with the right sides and herbs.

Warming spices and flavors

Pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg aren’t the only fall flavors out there. Mint, parsley, and rosemary are all fall herbs that you can work with on your menu.

And there’s no need to stay away from citrus on your fall menu. While we often think of citrus as a summer fruit, some varieties are actually best in the fall. Valencia oranges are in season from April to December, while Navel oranges don’t ripen until November. Lemons are in season year-round, and Mexican limes ripen between August and December. 

Spicy food may be a good addition to your fall menu. It can be too much to eat a spicy dish on a hot day, but when the weather is chilly that capsaicin can provide a welcome flush. And consider warming spice blends from around the world. Curries and Indian spices like garam masala have a little heat that will warm your guests up from the inside out.

Desserts

It’s time to retire the ice creams and sorbets and instead get baking. Fall is the perfect time for pies, cakes, and crumbles. 

Apple, sweet potato, pumpkin, pecan and buttermilk pie are all fall pie staples. Other fall flavors like cranberry, ginger, and carrot can be used in desserts like cookies and cakes. 

You can also skip the fruits and veggies and go heavy on the chocolate. Cakes, bars, and trifles with chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter are the kind of dense fare that does well in the fall.

If you do want a cold option, you could try to incorporate a fall flavor. Orange or lemon sorbets are light but include fall-appropriate citrus.

Cocktails and Coffee

While some wine drinkers are purists following strict rules about what to drink based on their food selections, many others are seasonal drinkers. These types tend to prefer chilled whites and rosés in the summer, and room temperature reds in the winter — regardless of what they’re eating. So make sure the red wine selection is up to snuff. You’ll want plenty of merlots, cabernets, and pinot noirs to keep the chill off. 

If you have the space for it, consider adding some warm drinks to your cocktail menu. Irish coffees are simple, and just require a coffee pot within easy reach of the bar. If you want to get a little more involved, you can make hot spiked cider, or mulled wine. These can be put in an air pot for easy service. 

Bourbon and whiskey are also popular when the weather gets cold. So consider adding fall-inspired whiskey drinks like a Cranberry Old-Fashioned or an Apple Cider Manhattan.

Experiment with fall spices in your drinks like nutmeg and cinnamon. There are even pumpkin-flavored liqueurs that you could use for a boozy take on the famous coffee drink. 

For non-alcoholic options, try to add some herbal teas, hot cider, and even hot chocolate to the menu. 

Descriptions

Since you’re updating the menu anyway, spend a little time thinking about your descriptions. Menu seasonality is important to a lot of people. So if you’re using lots of seasonal fall ingredients, play that up on your menu. Even better if you are able to use some local ingredients! 

People are looking for comfort and coziness when the weather gets cool. Can you bring that feeling to your menu? Emphasize rich and creamy textures. Try peppering in snuggly words like “warm” and “toasty”. Try to position your food as the perfect cap to a chilly day. 

Conclusion

Since fall is the most popular season with Americans, it’s worth it to try to capitalize on these short-term flavors!

Transitioning your menu from summer to fall is a shift, but it doesn’t have to mean you start from scratch. With the editing of some of your sides and flavor profiles, you should be able to pivot much of your menu to one more appropriate for cool weather. 

Swap out some apps and desserts, and you’ll be all set for fall!

The Windsor Style Throughout History

There are no styles of furniture more associated with Colonial America than the Windsor style —  specifically, Windsor chairs. 

Airy yet sturdy, Windsor furniture is characterized by its delicately turned spindle backs and sculpted wooden seats. These pieces have straight legs that splay out at an angle, usually connected by an H-shaped stretcher for stability. And the back of Windsor chairs usually reclines.

Of course, like most things that America popularized during the 1700s, the Windsor chair has its origins somewhere else. 

The Windsor’s Origins

The chair’s roots trace back to the English town of Windsor, as long ago as the early 18th century. According to legend, King George II was out fox hunting when he was surprised by a downpour. He took refuge in a nearby cottage, where he found a crude chair with a spindle back. The king liked it so much that he had his royal furniture makers create his own for Windsor Castle. And thus, the trend was born. The truth of this story is debated, but it’s a good one nonetheless.

By the 1730s, Windsor chairs had come to Philadelphia, where they quickly spread to the rest of the colonies. Windsor furniture exploded into a booming industry. But as usual, American craftsmen weren’t content to simply adopt the English way of doing things. Instead, they made the chair their own.

To start, American builders removed the central “splat” that was common in the English version. This splat was a flat decorative piece of wood arranged in the center of the chair back, with spindles on either side. 

The Americans preferred a simpler look, with spindles making up the entirety of the chair back. They also made the legs narrower, and introduced the continuous arm, which was made of one solid piece of bent wood that curved along the back of the chair. 

Nails were generally unneccessary for the construction of Windsor furniture. Rather, the unseasoned wood components were all fitted together, and as they dried, the holes shrunk to create a tight fit. 

Types of Windsor Chairs

The American Windsor evolved into several basic styles, with hundreds of variations.

Bow Back

The bow back is framed by a single piece of curved wood that connects directly to the seat. Spindles of different heights follow the seat perimeter and connect to the bow at the top.

Low Back

The low back chair ends at about mid-back height, instead of extending up to head height.

Comb Back

The spindles on a comb back Windsor chair are all the same height. They connect about half-way up the spindle to a “center rail”, and at the top to a broad “handle”. This termination point gives the back the look of a hair comb

Hoop Back

The hoop back Windsor has a center rail that divides the spindles horizontally. This center rail curves past the spindles to form arms. 

Fan Back

Like the comb back, the fan back chair has spindles of a uniform height that meet a handle piece at the top. But the fan back has no center rail. Instead, there are two heavier turned stiles on the outside of the spindles to create stability. 

Writing Arm

The writing arm Windsor has a small desk piece attached to the right arm of the chair. This convenient addition made a comfortable place to write letters without requiring a large desk. Some writing arm chairs also had a small drawer beneath the desk where people could keep paper, pen, and ink stand. 

American Windsor furniture was usually made of several cheaper types of wood instead of one expensive hardwood. So they were painted to hide this mismatch. Common colors were red, yellow, blue, and especially green and black. They were sometimes decorated more extensively, with flowers, vines, and pastoral scenes. 

Windsor Chairs in History

The hoop back Windor chair in particular is practically synonymous with the American Revolution. This style shows up in paintings of the Second Continental Congress, as they were the chairs used in the Philadelphia State House in 1770s. They were made by Philadelphia furniture maker Francis Trumble, one of the era’s most prolific chair makers.

And they were popular at home too. Records show that Windsor chairs were owned by the likes of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. 

But they weren’t limited to indoor use. Some of the early American uses of Windsor chairs were in gardens and patios. 

In fact, the Washingtons were such fans that George Washington had 27 of them on the portico at Mount Vernon. And Martha Washington even had a Windsor high chair for her grandchildren, whom she raised

Thomas Jefferson also wrote the Declaration of Independence while sitting in a Windsor chair. He had a special revolving version that let him spin in his seat — the first example of a swivel chair!

The style was popular beyond just chairs. Settees for two or three people, rockers, high-backed or low-backed bar stools, and small side tables were all made in the Windsor style. Small tables would have three legs instead of three, and would be just large enough for a candle or cup of tea.

Part of what made these pieces so popular was the interchangeability of their components. Starting in the 1800s, manufacturers made spindles, legs, and seats, and shipped them to furniture makers for assembly. This partial mass-production made them affordable. 

Farmers and tradespeople could also make their own Windsor chairs, using turned spindles and legs that they could buy pre-made, and fashioning their own seats at home.

They were also a popular export particularly to Canada, Nova Scotia, and England.

The Golden Age of Windsor chairs lasted until about 1860, when they fell out of fashion during the Civil War and Restoration period. But the Colonial Revival of the 1910s brought them back into vogue. Another resurgence occurred in the 1980s, and they’re still popular today. 

Windsor Furniture Today

The general design of Windsor furniture makes them a comfortable classic. Collectors pine after Colonial Windsors in original condition. Unfortunately, many were stripped of their paint in the mid-1900s, when bare pine was in vogue. And many more were painted over, as their original finishes chipped and cracked. But a chair with its original paint could be worth $5,000 to $12,000 today! 

There are new versions as well, built both on a mass scale and hand-made by artisans. The art of the hand-made Windsor is still alive, with prices for a new custom piece ranging from $500 to thousands of dollars.

Windsor bar stools in particular are having a moment, with the current popularity of the large kitchen island. They provide a comfortable backrest, while their delicate spindles don’t hinder sightlines between kitchen and living space. 

And there are variations on the style, too. There are metal versions, brightly colored options, and sleek mid-century-inspired styles on the market as well. Check out our steel Windsor chairs and bar stools in powder-coated black or weathered iron!

Conclusion

The Windsor style has been a mainstay of American furniture since before there was an America. It’s hard to think of any other style of furniture that has been popular for so long. After enduring for nearly 300 years, it could easily be around for 300 more!

What is Tavern-Style Furniture?

Although the tavern was once a mainstay of American social life, it gave way over time to the cocktail bar, the restaurant, and for a while, the speakeasy.

But there are still some watering holes throughout the country that stick to the traditional tavern style. Some have been in business since the 1780s like Massachusetts’ Warren Tavern, while some are brand new! 

If you want to bring the tavern vibe to your town, here’s what you need to know.

A little history

Although the terms are used somewhat loosely these days, a tavern is not the same as a bar. A bar traditionally sells alcohol only, but a tavern sells both alcohol and food. 

Of course, we may think that sounds a lot like a restaurant. But the classic tavern was more of a waystation — a place for weary travelers to get some rest. In fact, they often had rooms to let as well. The food was not generally the reason that people went to taverns.

Taverns were often the social hub of rural America in the 1700s and 1800s. It was where neighbors met to share news, conduct business, and unwind after a day on the farm or in the office. So the American “tavern-style” has become connected with the furniture of the time. 

Although electricity and central heating are now commonplace, the modern tavern still emulates the taverns of the Colonial days. Lots of dark wood, low lighting, and heavy furniture make for a cozy gathering place!

Tavern-style tables

Since taverns were the local meeting place, tables were generally long and rectangular, with room for groups to congregate and dine together. 

American settlers and farmers had little time for delicate wood carving. So the furniture in the local tavern was generally simple, sturdy, and practical. And it was made with the most abundant resource of the time — wood.

For the modern tavern, rough sawn or distressed wood can create the appearance of age, or reclaimed barn wood can be used for an authentic patina. Pine and oak are common wood species for tavern-style furniture, although you could use a wide variety of hardwoods. 

Tavern-style tables have a simple rectangular plank top, usually sitting on four individual legs. Legs may be connected by two braces, which are then attached to a “stretcher” that runs the length of the table. 

While the more high-end taverns may have had turned table legs, the rural taverns would often be more rustic. Square post legs, like those on this hardwood table, would have been more common out on the frontier. 

Tables may also sit on an X-shaped base connected by a stretcher where the “x” crosses. This provides extra stability for those raucous tavern nights! 

Tavern-style seating

To add to the cozy feel of the tavern, look no further than the wood booth. Sliding into a booth, customers can settle in for a long evening of cold beer, hearty food, and good stories. 

The tavern booth, like the table, is usually made of simple wood planks. The seat may rest on four legs, like our single tavern wood booth. Or, it could have a rectangular box as the base, like our urban distressed wood booth.

Booths can be made of rich hardwoods, polished to a high shine. Or for a rustic tavern, they can be made of distressed or reclaimed wood. 

One common feature of just about all tavern-style booths is their high back. This creates an enclosure where guests can have some privacy while they’re enjoying their meal or drink. After all, important events can occur in taverns. The Boston Tea Party was planned at the Green Dragon Tavern in 1773!

The tavern bar

In most taverns, if the proprietor was going to splurge somewhere, it would be on the bar itself. Tavern back bars can be works of art, made of gleaming hardwood and carved with intricate designs.  Shelves need to be robust in order to hold heavy liquor bottles. And some are backed by mirrors, to make small spaces feel bigger.

Of course, not all tavern bars are so complex. A sturdy wood shelving unit, loaded up with whisky and spirits is all a tavern really needs.

To sit at that bar, you’d have to pull up a stool. Tavern-style bar stools would traditionally be backless — a simple square seat atop four legs. For a little more comfort, you could get a stool with a cushioned and upholstered seat, like this version from Regal Seating.

The tavern is all about the community. It’s a place for people to gather, whether they live down the road, or are just passing through. So keep it snug and intimate. You never know when someone will need to plan their next rebellion against those redcoats.

How to Turn Upset Customers Into Friends

It’s a typical Wednesday night at your restaurant, and everything is chugging along smoothly. Ticket times are good, there’s a small wait at the host stand, and that new busser is working out really well.

Then, a server comes to you and says, “The guy at 403 is really mad.”

Oh dear.

There is no company in the world that has happy customers 100% of the time. It’s impossible. But what separates the good from the great is how they deal with unhappy guests when problems arise.

Making it right isn’t just a good PR move — it makes sense financially too. Word-of-mouth is a big factor in your sales. 81% of consumers trust their friends’ and families’ recommendations over anything else. 

Plus, it costs up to 25x more to get a new customer than to retain an existing one. So it’s important to know how to turn an unhappy customer into an advocate instead of an enemy. Here are some tips you can use to do just that!

Introduce Yourself by Name

When you first walk up to the table of an unhappy customer, all they know is that you represent the place that messed up.

So start off by humanizing yourself with a proper introduction.

“Hi, I’m Jim, the manager. I heard there was some trouble, and I wanted to see what I can do to help.”

When we know someone’s name, it makes them more of an individual and less of a cog in a machine. Instead of seeing you as a representative of the business, they’ll see you as a person who may be able to help.

It’s amazing how often managers forget this step! 

It’s also a good idea to ask the customer’s name. As Dale Carnegie famously said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” 

But don’t overuse it. Maybe address them by name once during your initial conversation, and once more when they’re leaving. Overusing someone’s name can come across as insincere and patronizing — the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve!

Really Listen

When an upset customer tells you their story, don’t be thinking about how you’re going to respond. Just listen. 

You may think the main issue is that their steak was cold. But the issue may actually be that they told their server about it, and she didn’t seem to care. One is a simple matter of reheating or firing a new steak, while the other is an issue of bad customer service. Those are two very different problems.

So let the customer tell their story, and really listen so you can get to the root of the issue. 

Occasionally, it happens that the meal went wrong from the very beginning. The host was rude. Then the menu was dirty. Then the drinks took forever to come out. You can’t go back and fix all these things, but you can listen with sympathy. 

Sometimes, people just need to vent. So let them get it all out before you start offering solutions.

See Things Through Their Eyes

Your POS system went down, and no one realized it for 15 minutes. Now you have missing tickets and a seriously angry mom whose hungry toddler is having a meltdown. Plus, now she’s going to be late picking up her older child from ballet practice.

Put yourself in her shoes, and try to empathize. She’s not upset because she has to wait. She’s upset because the delay is causing a chain reaction that is going to affect her whole day. 

The POS system going down is obviously not your fault. But try explaining that to an 8-year-old who has been waiting by herself in ballet shoes after all the other parents have come and gone.

What would you want in that situation? Probably anything edible and portable that you could give the toddler, so he would calm down and they could get going. What you certainly wouldn’t want is to hear a bunch of excuses as to why the wait would be another 15 minutes.

Everyone is fighting their own battles, and we only see a little piece of it. So keep that in mind next time someone seems to be overreacting to a problem at your restaurant. A little empathy goes a long way!

Project Confidence

Throughout your interaction with the upset customer, you want them to feel like you have things under control. You are the person who can solve their problem and make everything right. So take control of the situation and assure them that they’re in good hands.

This means taking decisive, quick action. If something came out cold, you snap up that dish and get it to the kitchen lickety-split. If the server was rude, you go chat with them right away. 

Take control! Instead of asking what they would like you to do to fix the problem, offer solutions. If something was too salty, tell them you’d be happy to have it re-made, or you can get them a different dish right away. Don’t put the onus on the customer to come up with a fix. 

Get on Their Side

It can be tempting to see an angry customer as the enemy. Is an undercooked burger really something to fly off the handle about? This lady is being totally unreasonable!

That may be true, but it’s also the wrong attitude to take. Remember, we’re trying to see things through their eyes! 

Once you understand the problem, get on their side. Help the customer to see you as their advocate. This undercooked burger affects them, but it also affects you. While you may not appreciate being shouted at, you should appreciate an opportunity to improve. 

You don’t want to throw your kitchen or their server under the bus, but you can still create a little team of two. Try something like, “Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! I’m going to go get a new burger started for you, and chat with the kitchen about keeping an eye on temperatures. I really appreciate you letting me know, so I can make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Now you’re a dynamic duo. You have a mutual understanding about the unpleasantness of undercooked burgers, and together, you’re solving the problem.

Always Apologize

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the goal of “making it right” that we miss a crucial step — apologizing. 

It’s a simple acknowledgement that something went wrong and the company fell short. Even if it wasn’t really your fault, apologize anyway. 

If Appropriate, Take Something Off the Bill

Some restaurant owners and managers discourage comping food. They may be afraid that customers will abuse the policy. Or they may worry that managers won’t be able to judge when a comp is appropriate.

But look at it this way — what’s worth more to you? The cost of that appetizer, or not getting reamed on Yelp? 

Losing one star on Yelp or Google can result in a 5% reduction in revenue. So it may be worth the expense to take something off the bill if that’s the best way to make someone happy. 

In general, you’ll have a good idea of when someone is genuinely unhappy, and when someone is just trying to score free stuff. If they eat the whole meal before complaining, raise a fuss but don’t allow you to bring out a replacement dish, or show you a hair on the plate (which looks suspiciously similar to the customer’s own hair), you’ll know their game.

But in a normal circumstance where the restaurant really did make a mistake, a simple comp can be enough to show a customer that you take their complaint seriously and want to make it right.

Follow Up

Once you’ve listened, taken quick action, and given them a discount if appropriate, circle around one more time.

Thank the customer again for giving you the chance to fix the problem. And if they seem happy, ask if they’d be willing to share their email address. A nice note from the owner the next day, again apologizing for the error and welcoming them back to the restaurant, will leave a great impression. That “above and beyond” attention is the kind of care that people remember.

Conclusion

Your customers are your greatest marketing tool. They tend to remember either really good or really bad experiences, and share them in person or on review sites. So it’s up to you to turn each mistake into an opportunity. 

Make sure when your restaurant’s name comes up, the story isn’t about the error, but about  how you went to extraordinary lengths to make it right. That’s the kind of service that will earn you a customer’s loyalty and friendship.