The night of our 4th anniversary (2 months ago today!), Jen and I celebrated by treating ourselves to dinner at the highly overrated French restaurant, Chez Sophie, inside The Saratoga hotel. We’d heard nothing but good things about Chez Sophie, so our expectations were high — as they should be when you’re paying upwards of $30 per entrée and spending nearly $200 for the experience. We had a great evening together, including cruising to and from our date on the city’s awesome new iRide bus service, as well as enjoying a bottle of prosecco on the patio of the Adelphi.
(How awesome is the embedded photo set above? Tip: Click on the first or second photo, then use your keyboard’s right arrow key to scroll through the rest. It’s powered by pictobrowser and pulls directly from my Flickr account. Thanks, Amit, for the great tip.)
The food at Chez Sophie was excellent and mostly lived up to expectations. The service, however, was terrible. We had no check-back, no water refills, and no wine service. The sommelier/owner even condescended our taste in wine. So we wrote a letter. The response we received was similar to our experience that night: Bad customer service. She also completely missed the point.
Here’s the letter we sent on August 27:
Dear Mr. Parker & Ms. Clark,
On Thursday, July 26, we celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary at your establishment. We were eagerly anticipating the evening, as your restaurant has a stellar reputation, and we always appreciate fine dining. Unfortunately, our experience that evening was profoundly disappointing.
For us, dining is as much about the ambiance and the service as it is about the food. Although we did enjoy delightful food, we were shocked and dismayed by the poor quality of service.
First, we asked for a wine recommendation. Our server, (name removed), couldn’t make a suggestion, so he said that he would “send over the sommelier” to help us. A sommelier, by definition, is an expert in wines, but this “sommelier” clearly wasn’t. Even with the aid of her plastic binder, she took an uncomfortably long time to recommend a wine for us, and in the process, condescended our taste in whites. If, in fact, you don’t have a sommelier on staff, your servers should not claim to have one.
Next, (name removed) returned with a snide remark: “So, are we going to order food tonight or what?” – as if to imply that we had delayed the wine selection and he had somewhere he’d rather be.
Finally, the two biggest gripes for us – both of which should be part of Fine Dining 101:
- Our server did not bother checking back to ask us how our food was. Not once.
- We were left to pour our own wine refills. We waited. And waited. And no one came to do the pours.
After our (more than generous, 20% tip), our bill came to $172 (check #114559/1,2). For that kind of bill, the least we should expect is for someone to keep our wine and water filled, and to check back after the food is served to ensure we’re satisfied – neither of which happened.
Maybe our shoddy experience that night was due to our relatively young age (we’re in our 30s) compared with your other clientèle. Or maybe it was just an off night. Either way, we won’t be recommending Chez Sophie to anyone, nor do we have plans to return.
Please consider this feedback as an opportunity for much-needed improvement in service. Hopefully your future customers will have a better experience than we did on our anniversary.
Gabe & Jen A_nderson
Here’s the ridiculous, 3-page letter we received in response, which completely missed the point of our complaint:
(View larger version – page 1)
Since receiving the reply letter, Alex and I have exchanged emails about how best to respond to the above letter. Below is the draft of the reply I’ve been considering sending (the version Alex “meaned up” — not shown here — was even more biting):
Dear Ms. Parker,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to our concerns about our meal at your establishment. Although other customers may like to pour their own wine, I think you may have missed the point of our feedback: Our table was abandoned.
Regardless of the type of wine service you offer, no one ever returned to our table – not to fill the water, not to ask us how our food was, and not to fill our wine. If our server misread what we wanted, then how should we have gone about informing him that we would have appreciated more water and wine, and to be asked how our meals were? Should we have flagged him down? Grabbed his shirt as he walked past our table without checking in?
That’s the point: We should not have had to ask. Our empty water and wine glasses – which we left empty long enough for a number of servers and staff to walk past our table more than once – just sat there. And what if our food had been bad or my ahi overcooked? Thankfully it wasn’t, but had it been, no one bothered to find out.
We’ve eaten at countless fine restaurants from San Francisco to London to Barcelona, and never can we recall a time that our table was simply abandoned like it was that night at Chez Sophie.
Finally, I may not have experience running a restaurant, so I would certainly never tell you how to do your job, but I do know quite a bit about good customer service (I’m director of customer support for an international software company).
Next time someone complains, you might want to consider not debating the complaint. I think you’ll find you’ll have happier customers – some who may even give you a second chance – if you acknowledge the complaint, apologize, say you’ll do better next time, and invite the customer back again for another chance.
Be it dining or software, good customer service is universal.
P.S. I was shocked to hear from a friend that she was overcharged by your establishment last week by nearly $600 – and that not only did she receive no return call or apology, but she had to call again twice more. There’s no excuse for not reversing an extreme overcharge (or any overcharge) immediately.
Jen doesn’t think I should send this reply since our friend at Chez Sophie will probably want the last word, so this could potentially be endless. I think healthy debate is fun.
What do you think?