I was so excited to try a fully vegan restaurant that recently opened. A bunch of my friends posted about loving the food, the menu looked great, and I showed up fully expecting to love it. I met a couple friends there for dinner and we started out with a few appetizers and drinks. The service was great and everything came out quickly though I didn’t love the first few dishes we ordered. They were fine, not great but not terrible and I figured it was a personal preference. We got another round of drinks to sip on as we waited for the main dishes we ordered.
I got a burger with a house made patty, took a bite, and was honestly a bit stunned. It was probably the worst dish I’d ever tasted in a restaurant. I had a friend take a bite and they felt similarly. We were pretty bummed. It was a pay-at-the-counter restaurant so we didn’t have a server checking in. I knew I wouldn’t want the dish remade because I was full at this point in our night and in the moment I didn’t feel it was worth saying anything to the staff. My friends and I made some jokes about the burger and finished the night strong with FoMu ice cream.
The next day, this experience continued to nag at me. I told the friends who had posted rave reviews about my meal and they were all really surprised, I figured my meal must have been a fluke. I have almost 5 years of food service experience and I get that one meal isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of the restaurant as a whole. Erica, my lovely VeganZine Co-Founder, friend, and Boston’s very own Vegan Kween, encouraged that I give the food another chance. Not even 24 hours after my big burger letdown, I was back at the restaurant for a late lunch. I shared my experience with the restaurant owner, who generously comped my re-do meal, and they said the feedback was helpful at improving the consistency of the food.
After a great redemption burger, I began thinking about how helpful it was to speak with the restaurant’s owner. I felt much better and knew this experience would inform how I would handle unsatisfactory meals in the future. Even though I’m typically an assertive person who worked in restaurants for years I still feel self-conscious as a diner. In the moment as a customer who is on the receiving end of bad food, slow service, or another issue it can be intimidating to give feedback or interrupt the flow of the meal. As a restaurant, there is such a variety of people and preferences to account for on a regular basis. The feedback loop can go both ways so that diners and food service workers can interact with understanding and respect.
To kickstart that feedback loop, VeganZine spoke with one of Boston’s most popular vegan-friendly spots; Veggie Galaxy.
Q+A with Kathy and Adam, Owners of Veggie Galaxy
How do you prefer to get constructive feedback from consumers?
Definitely in the moment if possible. We always want to correct the situation, and it’s heartbreaking when a guest tells their server that “everything was fine” and then goes on a review site or social media and shares that they weren’t happy with their meal or service. If they had only mentioned it to their server or a manager at the time, we could have replaced the item that was not right and made them a new one or apologized for the service situation.
What are reasonable expectations for customers to have when giving feedback? Should customers expect a comped meal, a gift card for next time, a sincere acknowledgement from staff, etc?
It depends on the individual situation. If it’s a situation that can easily be corrected, then a simple apology and correction is generally all the guest is asking for. For example, if it’s a matter of a dine-in guest being unhappy with a particular menu item, we can simply replace it with another item. If it’s a matter of service (food taking an unreasonable amount of time for example), then we would be more apt to comp a portion of the meal if not the whole thing. Gift cards tend to be reserved for situations that we were unable to correct in the moment (often takeout or delivery customers) as both an apology and expression of appreciation for productive feedback.
Do you always want feedback, good or bad?
We love getting feedback, but we don’t expect it or feel that every guest needs to give us a review of their meal/experience here. If you really loved a menu item or a staff member’s service, we do love to hear that, so we can share the good feedback with the cook/server/support staff person! And if you were really unhappy about something not being as described on our menu or on our social media, or with our quality of service, we do want to hear that as well, so we can correct the issue. When feedback is given privately and in a helpful spirit, even bad feedback is very useful, and we welcome it and are grateful for the opportunity to improve.
With that in mind, we do proactively seek anonymous feedback from our dine-in guests through a feedback postcard that we drop with every check. The postcard includes a QR code that links to an online three question survey that asks guests to 1) rate their overall experience, 2) inform us specifically what was the best part of the experience and 3) most importantly, what we can do to improve.
As mentioned previously, though, feedback right in the moment is best, so that we can make sure that you get a great meal and experience here and leave happy! Otherwise, we definitely appreciate getting feedback privately and respectfully. An email via our website or an Instagram DM are the best ways to reach us.
How do you balance people’s preferences vs. “actual” feedback?
We all have our individual preferences, and we understand that – – we have them too! Some folks don’t like salt at all, while others find food pretty bland without it. So if we get feedback about a soup or home fries (for example) being “too salty” or “not salty enough”, we’ll have a couple staff members taste the item in question to be sure that there wasn’t an actual error like something being salted twice…but we aren’t going to change our recipe because of that one guest’s feedback.
“Actual” feedback is when something is missing from an item as described on our menu or social media, or it wasn’t cooked properly, or it wasn’t what was ordered. It’s really helpful to get that feedback, and we act on it immediately.
VeganZine Tips for Giving Customer Feedback
- Be respectful, especially in these COVID times. Food service and retail workers have dealt with and are still dealing with a lot of added stress in industries that can already be chaotic. Your experience is important but not at the expense of others.
- Be patient, you are likely not the only customer being helped by the servers and other staff. It’s frustrating when you’re in the moment but take a deep breath and know there are likely many reasons things may not move ask quickly as you’d want.
- Be reasonable, staff can only offer you what solutions they have on-hand. If you feel the situation needs greater attention than you’re being given ask to speak with management or ask other staff what processes the restaurant has for customer service so you know what to expect.
- Be assertive, the situation can only be addressed once the restaurant staff are aware of the issue. Advocating for yourself or other diners in your party is important, hopefully the tips in this article can help!
Bonus tip: positive feedback is also important. Online reviews and customer surveys are great places to shoutout an employee who provided excellent service or a menu item that you absolutely loved. Positive feedback can be as helpful to let restaurants, managers, and other staff know what is going well so they can maintain this standard. We all know how great it is to receive a random compliment or have our work recognized and that happy feeling extends to food service businesses.
Have other tips on being a good customer? Comment below, DM us on social media, or send us an email. VeganZine loves feedback, too!