An Interesting Restaurant Question

This past weekend I was reading Dear Abby and I came across an actually interesting conundrum. The reader asked Abby for her advice about a recent dining experience at a “chic” restaurant (for my Missoula readers think Plonk, Spokane readers think Twigs, and Myrtle Beach/Conway readers think the Bistro). This reader was celebrating a birthday with a large party. The appetizers had already arrived and the entrees were ordered when something happened.

The fire alarm went off. The whole restaurant was evacuated and customers waited patiently in the parking lot for over twenty minutes while the fire department arrived. A small fire had occurred in the kitchen. Upon re-entering the restaurant the reader and her guests had a lively conversation on what type of action should be taken by the business. It basically boiled down to the birthday guests taking one of two sides: The restaurant should comp the meals for all people in the place at the time or, on the other side, a heartfelt apology with other minor concessions would be sufficient.

A real good question! One that had me thinking for a little bit. After contemplating it for about fifteen minutes while driving in my car I came up with my answer: The restaurant should NOT have covered the bills for anyone in the restaurant so long as everyone still received their orders and it was satisfactory. In the long run, the people still received the product they asked for. Just because the restaurant did what they could to keep the diners safe by evacuating them it doesn’t mean that they should have to undergo a night of terrible monetary losses.

What I hope happened was that the manager or owner personally visited each table and genuinely apologized for the inconvenient disruption and updated the customers on what happened. Then, in a humble gesture, I would have advised the restaurant management to offer a free dessert to each person impacted by the fire alarm. Abby answered the question by deferring to one of her restaurant friends in California. This restauranter stated that he would personally apologize to the customers and make an adjustment to everyone’s bill to cover the inconvenience but that he wouldn’t flat out waive the entire check. What would you do?

As we are on the topic of dining out, here are two quick nuggets I witnessed in my own dining out adventures this weekend:

Please Smile: On Friday evening I went with some co-workers to the premiere of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Before the movie we went for food and drinks at the nearby Gordon Biersch. We had a waitress who seemed by all accounts to really hate her job. Either that or she was having an awful day. Whatever it was she seemed very troubled and seemed to have a permanent scowl on her face. About 45 minutes in we had a discussion at the table and agreed that we would enter into a friendly competition to see who could get her to smile first. She returned to our table and our Director of Creative Services made her smile after just a couple sentences. Honestly, even if you aren’t happy please just try to make the effort to seem like you are. People go out to eat because they want to have a nice experience.

Separate Tabs: Last night Sidney and I went to California Dreaming, a popular restaurant in Myrtle Beach. Next to our booth sat a large party of about twenty. When it came time for the crew to take care of the bill we watched mild chaos ensue. The table needed about ten different checks and according to the customers wrong items were put on the many receipts. We watched the poor waitress go back and forth, back and forth as she printed out new receipts to try to make things right. The ordeal kept dragging out and the trips back and forth kept coming. The patient server finally had enough as we watched her snap at a little boy who went up to ask her something in the hysteria of it all. My take away from this disaster is if you must split up a tab a hundred different ways take one for the team and just shut your mouth and pay for the extra side of nachos that incorrectly gets placed on your check.

A look at our meal from California Dreaming. Even with the commotion right by us, we still had an enjoyable time.

A look at our meal from California Dreaming. Even with the commotion right by us, we still had an enjoyable time.


Tomorrow my office is celebrating the birthdays of several of our staff members by eating lunch at El Patio, a famous Mexican restaurant in Conway. It should be a fun gathering but would it be bad if I said I am kind of anxious to see if any blog worthy stories occur during the course of the meal? You can be sure that if they do I will let you know. Don’t Blink.

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