Monday, June 6, 2011

You Went Out to Dinner and Got Glutened. Now What? (Part One)

We GF folks take a risk every time we eat out; it's a gamble and sometimes we lose. When you get glutened, what do you do?

Do you go in and see the manager/owner, send an email, write a piece of snail mail, post a public review on Yelp, say something on Twitter or Facebook, or kick it old school and make a phone call? So many choices these days!

Personally, I prefer to email if they have a website and contact info. From having worked in many restaurants, I know that it's a busy life and hard to catch the manager/owner during true "down time". I also want to make sure my complaint reaches the right person, that it isn't lost in the chaos of a busy day. This way the manager/owner can process my email and (hopefully) respond well. If there isn't an email link or I don't receive a reply, I tend to make a visit to the establishment during off-hours, i.e. before the dinner rush M-F; I try to avoid weekends.

I recently got glutened at a restaurant I have successfully eaten at many times before. It was bad. Really, really bad. I've come to know the owner after many visits and so after a few days had passed (when my symptoms had subsided and I was less emotionally stressed), I emailed to let him know about the incident. His response was, for me, the gold standard:

He called upon receiving my note and left a voicemail when I missed his call. He then immediately wrote me an email. Both messages expressed the following:

(1) I am SO very sorry that this happened.
(2) What did you eat and what day/time did you come in? (He wanted to follow up with the staff on shift that day and to investigate where the breakdown occurred.)

And, (KEY item):

(3) THANK YOU for telling me.

He thanked me for telling him about a problem at his restaurant. How often do you get thanked for pointing out a problem? Not often enough, I'm sure.

This owner's response was pitch perfect. I will be back to eat there. Soon.

I realize that my relationship to the owner, i.e. being someone he knows by name, may have impacted his response. I will still hold his three-step apology/inquiry/thanks up as ideal. If eateries want to offer GF food, they need to ensure that it is truly GF, do their best to ensure consistency, and respond appropriately when they fail to do so. 

But what if you don't know the owner/manager? And - GAH! - what about the bad responses? (Most of us have some doozies to share.) Or if you just don't feel comfortable talking to a restaurant about being glutened? More on all of that tomorrow and Wednesday. (There's a lot to explore on this general topic; want to give all facets their due.) For now, comments and suggestions definitely welcomed!

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