A few weeks ago I asked where all of the good customer service guys had gone? I lamented the lack of a customer-service oriented mentality in south Italy and wondered how businesses could remain open with the attitude they have towards their customers.

Well today, I have that answer.

Rachael Ray’s Delmonico steaks with balsamic onions and steak saucephoto credit: Gudlyf

But before we get to that … I have a back story.

There is a steak house in Beaumont my family frequents as often as possible. They have great steaks, great sides and according to my cousin, Angelique, great fajitas-although I leave my Tex-Mex to the professionals.

One day seven or eight of my family members met there for lunch. Since my husband and I had a lunch date a few hours later with friends, we skipped the meal. We didn’t, however, skip the company and we joined them towards the end of their meal for a chat.

It was about that time my mother noticed a hair (eek!) in her plate. She didn’t complain, just pushed it back and continued talking. The ever-attentive server noticed, asked her about it and immediately apologized and offered to bring her a replacement dish.

She was finished anyway, she said, and insisted she wasn’t upset.

A few minutes later, the manager appeared.

“I’m so sorry, Ma’am (we are in Texas, remember!),” he said.

“Are you sure you don’t want a replacement?”

When she refused, he made another offer.

“We’d like to offer you all desserts-on the house!”

Well my family never met a dessert they didn’t like and they were thrilled with this customer service gesture.

“And what kind would you like?’ He asked, looking at my husband and me.

“Oh no. We didn’t even eat here,” I said apologetically. “We just came in to see them for a few minutes.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “You are here now. What can I bring you?”

And that dining moment-at The Cattle Company restaurant in Beaumont, Texas-became the standard by which we measured all other customer service experiences.

And no one has ever matched them.

Until now.

Fast-forward three or four years and 6,000 miles to last Tuesday, November 17-the night of our 2nd anniversary.

We chose Carn & Vino in Catanzaro Lido-and if that name sounds familiar to you, it is because I’ve written of them before.

The restaurant has more elegance and class than any restaurant I’ve been to in southern Italy and the chef is among the most creative I’ve seen-anywhere.

But Tuesday night, I did not choose wisely.

Among the list of primi plates was a cocoa pasta dish, made with Gorgonzola cheese and topped with shredded black truffles.

Although I wasn’t sure if I liked truffles, with their strong, earthy scent and matching flavor, I thought I’d give it a try.

Now I know.

I don’t like truffles.

I picked at the plate and with the antipasto we’d shared and the quickly-diminishing bottle of wine, I was fine.

The owner stopped by the table.

“You didn’t like it?” He asked me.

My husband jumped in to help. “It was really just the truffles. They are too strong for her. She just didn’t choose well.”

Thanks, honey … .

The owner took my plate.

A few minutes later he returned.

“The chef is making you something else,” he told me.

“Oh no,” I insisted. “I’m ok. I’m not even hungry anymore.”

About that time, my husband asked him about the dessert options.

He chose homemade tiramisu. I chose panna cotta with frutti di bosco topping.

We finished our desserts and proceeded to the front of the restaurant.

“The desserts were compliments of the chef,” the owner told us.

We chatted briefly with the chef, thanked him profusely and left.

In the car my husband looked at the receipt and noticed that not only had the chef offered dessert, but the owner had removed my plate from the bill.

We were shocked.

We had finally found a restaurant whose customer service rivals our favorite steak house back home in Texas, and we found it in the most unusual place.

In another favorite steak house … in our new backyard.

Have you had any good customer service stories lately? Please share!

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Comments

  1. You know, actually we had something a little similar last summer. I had taken a group (teacher and students and teacher’s husband) to a little bistro in the Marais. The teacher’s husband had only arrived that day, and when his meal arrived, jet lag hit, and he found himself absolutely unable to eat. He felt a little faint, etc. and just couldn’t imagine the idea of trying to tackle the steak.

    The server (a woman, in this case), noticed, and asked if the chef could do something else, etc. We said no, no, no, and explained that it was nothing to do with the food, that he simply hadn’t realized he wasn’t hungry, it was our fault, etc.

    Still, they took the steak off our bill.

    And this in Paris (in the Marais, no less, tourist central) where people say all that restaurants do is take advantage of tourists! (it was clear we were loud Americans). . . . it was soooo nice.

    So glad you had a good experience somewhere close to home!

    Wow! That is impressive, Kim. I’ll have to get the name of that place for my next trip.

  2. These are such great stories, Cherrye. It never ceases to amaze me how so many people (businesses) don’t get it. When we speak to innkeepers about service, we remind them that a “complaint is a gift,” because it gives a business owner the chance to improve and make an impression that last far longer than simply a good experience. It becomes the WOW factor. And, even when there is no complaint, the ability to detect something wrong and anticipate a problem before it materializes is what service and hospitality are all about. Kudos to everyone who ever fixed a problem and made it the best word of mouth marketing they could ever hope for!

    Spoken like a true professional, Peter!

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