Burger, Fries And A Customer Service Surprise

BurgerMy sister ventures out to Los Angeles to pick me up from the airport on a Friday evening after I arrive back from a two week vacation in Europe. I’m full of jet lag and ready to eat dinner and go to bed. She’s frustrated from traffic and wandering around trying to find me.

And, we have a 2 1/2 hour drive home.

We stop for a meal at a restaurant right off the freeway.

The waitress seats us. Leaves.

We wait almost 10 minutes before anyone returns.

We order water, burgers, fries and a slice of pie (to go).

There are only a couple of other patrons in the restaurant dining.

We wait over 15 minutes for our water. When it’s finally delivered, it is without a smile and left without any other questions.

Our burgers and fries arrive, delivered by someone else (not our waitress). We eat and then we wait for our to-go pie so we can hit the road.

No waitress. We have no clue where she went. We flag someone else down, who packs up our pie. They bring it back to us, drop it off on the table and leave before we can say anything else. We raise our voice slightly and ask them to help us with our check. They nod and walk away.

We wait over 10 minutes for our check.

Finally, our check arrives. We have to pay at the register. The supervisor is making his rounds to a couple of other customers. He reaches our table and asks how the service was today.

We share with him our experience of mostly waiting for our beverages, food and check.

He says, “Yes, we’re trying to improve on that.

Silence. He looks at me. Then to my sister. I look at him, then to my sister. My sister looks to me then him.

I say, to break the awkward silence, “That’s good that you are trying to improve...”

He smiles and nods, with pursed lips. Obviously nothing further to say or do.

Should this be a surprise?

We pay our check then hit the road.

You can clearly tell that this supervisor was not empowered to take any responsibility for the situation. He’s aware of it, has probably heard it from many people, and has a canned verbal response of how to react. Or, perhaps he’s just scared. My sister did look pretty tough in her oil covered diesel mechanic outfit as she came from work to the airport.

I suppose I’m not sure what else I’d like to hear from him. It was a fluke I was at this restaurant and more than likely will never return, so what do I really care?

However, should supervisors and managers have better answers for situations like this? How do you handle it?

I suppose I would have liked to see a discount on our bill or even throwing in an extra slice of pie to bring home for another family member.

Resolving problems with creative (simple, inexpensive) solutions that leave a lasting impression on the customer is KEY. This organization failed to train their team to put a focus on this. 

How would you have responded? What would you expect in return?


Jenny Dempsey is currently the the Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn.com. She's the co-founder and regular contributor over at CustomerServiceLife.com. She's also a self-care coach for customer service agents and leaders at JennyDempsey.com. She is the mother to a toothless rescue cat named Chompers. Avocados and veggie tacos are the way to her heart. Hanson fan for life.


  • I am always amazed when NO ONE takes action to correct a problem. Why do people just go through the motions? Nothing will get fixed unless we all take action. The situation you encountered was not an isolated incident, it is happening everywhere, RIGHT NOW. Fortunately, it keep you and me in business. xo

  • Jeremy Watkin

    Great post, Jenny. The more complex the problem, the easier it is to pay lip service to wanting to improve without actually improving anything. It’s not always easy but a great reminder that we need to always be problem solvers and process improvers. BTW, where did you eat?

  • There are many potential explanations for the supervisor missing the big moment.

    * The solution could be beyond his control.
    * He could be fed up with a crappy job.
    * He might have created the problem and doesn’t know how to fix it.
    * He might not have the skills to listen to and act on customer feedback.
    * Your sister might really be intimidating. (Probably the least likely, right?)

    I’m sure there are many other reasons. But, it sounds like the supervisor had given up a little bit. That happens, but when you start to give up, you’d better get moving.

  • What strikes me about this story is that delivering a positive (or even mediocre) service experience would have been pretty easy to achieve. Check in, smile, ask questions/offer additional help.

    From your description the restaurant wasn’t busy and the staff didn’t sound especially overworked. If they were struggling to keep up that would be a different story (not excusable but more understandable). To me it sounds like a culture/morale issue with a lack of training and/or clear expectations. Tough situations can be tough for people to get right – but you have to nail the easy ones!

    • EXACTLY! It’s not too hard to just offer the mediocre service experience to customers. You’re right – my guess is that they definitely have a lack of leadership as well. :/ Thanks for your comments, Jeremy!

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