Having worked many years in the service sector, I have learned at least one thing. Your customers have options and you need to try really hard to make your business THEIR option!
As the wrap up of the HKS mid career year continues deep into its second month, an intimate group of 45 or so descended upon the Living Room in Boston the other night.
I have spent much of this year organizing dinners with my classmates. Its been a great way to get to know as many of them as possible. It’s also been a great way to get to know some of the better restaurants of my newly adopted hometown.
These dinners have run the gamut from four people at the best Japanese restaurant I’ve ever been to, to 35 people having BBQ and booze in large quantities in a basement. It’s been a great experience all around and each dinner was fun and easy to organize. That is until the other night.
With so many of my classmates staying in town post graduation we decided to have one last dinner. As of a week ago we had 50 people wanting to join. I wondered where could I make a booking for 50 on short notice. After a bit of research, I came upon the Living Room.
When I called I was greeted by a friendly and accommodating person. After about a minute I was informed that they indeed could accommodate 50. I should have questioned what kind of place could accommodate so many on such short notice but I was happy to have a place.
Then things got more and more difficult:
The next day I was told that we must use a prix fixe menu. No big deal thats normal for a large group
The following day they told me we needed to preselect our appetizers and our desserts.
The day after that we were told that we all had to have the same dessert.
The day before the dinner I was told that I had to guarantee the maximum amount, that i couldn’t add anyone that I hadn’t already confirmed and I was liable for the maximum number.
It seems that the manager, John wanted to be totally riskless with a group that was going to fill his restaurant on a Tuesday night. I balked and we came to something of a compromise.
The dinner was actually quite a success. The company was as always excellent. Great conversation and laughs. The food was pretty good even if some of us didn’t get exactly what we PRE ordered. The venue was kind of cool. The best part about it is that it has its own ATM.
Why was that the best part? Well, John had a bit of an issue with us paying with multiple credit cards. The story was that the “system” couldn’t handle it. Now we’ve had groups in excess of 30 at least five times and this has never been an issue. It usually involves me managing the process but heck everyone has a skill. After about 20 minutes of trying, John looked at me and said, “If I had known that you were going to try to pay with more than one credit card I would have refused the reservation.” He said this to someone who just spent $3,000 in his restaurant on a night that otherwise would have been virtually dead. We than began the pride of HKS Alumni to the ATM.
I can only wonder what he would have done if a party of 20 had walked in without a reservation!
Its a shame that I felt compelled to write this negative review about what was essentially a good meal at a reasonable price.
Moral of the story is that the Living Room needs a new manager.
PS: Kudos to Amy who was pleasant and helpful regardless of what her boss did or said.