I Write Letters: Don Ricardo's = Grumpy Time

Mom is traveling today, so we decided to go out for dinner last night.  She picked Don Ricardo’s, a (previously) totally fine place to eat in our village.  It was not fine.  Here is the text of the letter that I wrote the management this morning, describing our evening’s dining experience:

To whom it may concern;

I am writing to inform you of the experience that myself, and my family had while dining at your restaurant last night (Saturday, May 12th).  My mother has to travel today (Mother’s Day), and as a result, my wife and I took her, my step-father, and my step-sister, out for diner last night as an early celebration.  Content to let my mother choose the venue, she selected Don Ricardo’s.  My wife and I have eaten at your restaurant before, and found the food to be good, and the service to be amenable.  We made a reservation for 6 pm more than 24 hours in advance.

My wife and I arrived before everyone else.  Speaking to the hostess, I indicated that we would not need a table for six people, as I had originally indicated, since we were only going to be five that evening.  When the rest of the family arrived, we were brought to our table.  This is where our experience began to decline.  The table that we had was an octagonal table that five people were somewhat crammed around.  This would not be a major issue, except that the placement of the table, in the first dining room of the restaurant, was such that we had three occupied tables within a foot of three sides of our table.  The fourth side of the table, where I sat, extended into the lane of foot traffic more than any other table in the dining room.  Since my mother is somewhat hearing impaired, and my wife is eight-and-a-half month’s pregnant, we asked if we could sit at another table.  After all, we had made a reservation the day before.  The wait staff indicated that this would not be possible, even though there were clearly three tables that were unoccupied in the patio-style dining room that was beyond the one that we were seated in.

Initially, we were willing to put up with the inconvenience, but after 10 minutes, the dining experience became intolerable.  One of the tables that we were nestled against had a party of very loud, very young children, making conversation impossible.  My wife was uncomfortable with the lack of room.  I kept getting nudged by diners and wait staff, as they walked past the table.  My step-father indicated to the hostess that perhaps it would be appropriate to move us to one of the still-unoccupied tables in the patio area.  This did not occur.  Finally, after our waiter came to take our order, asking us what we wanted, before walking away after the hostess spoke to him, we decided to leave.  I informed the waiter that we were going to leave, at which point, he indicated that the tables that we had been previously told were not available in the patio area could be made available if we would reconsider staying.  We were not interested, and I offered to settle up our bar tab (two beers, two cokes, and one unsweetened iced-tea).  The waiter told me that our bill was $40.  When I asked how that could be, it was discovered that we had been charged for two frozen margaritas, which no one in our party had ordered.  That corrected, I was offered a bill for $20, which I paid, and we left.  

I am not writing this letter to complain about the hostess or wait staff, who seemed very nice and professional.  But for whatever reason, the system of meeting the needs of customers at Don Ricardo’s broke down in our particular circumstances.  The idea that five people could comfortably fit at the table where we were seated is misguided (particularly when one of them is quite pregnant).  It is unfortunate that it required our wanting to leave before accommodations could be arranged.  I do not work in the restaurant industry, but it is my understanding that business works best when the needs of customers are met prior to their wanting to leave your establishment.  I’m not sure what it says that the hibachi restaurant next door was able to seat us at a table for six, without a reservation, when we left Don Ricardo’s, but I don’t think it’s a good thing as far as your restaurant is concerned.  And while I have no problem paying for the beers and sodas that we began to drink, I would suggest that the appropriate course of action for Don Ricardo’s to take in our circumstance, would be to refuse to take my money.  After all, it wasn’t our fault that we were leaving.

In a village full of restaurants, I don’t think that Don Ricardo’s can afford to have situations like ours occur with any frequency.  I hope this letter helps you address the problems in your system so that no other diners have an experience similar to ours.  

Very truly yours,