Reputation For Sale, Cheap

first_img Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup. Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox. My wife’s birthday was a weekend or so ago, so as a last bit of her gift (a weekend at Schnaus cabin), our youngest son and I took her to one of our favorite restaurants in the Valley.As we sat down and started to catch up on our youngest’s just-finished first semester at college, the “so, what are you gonna order” discussion began.My wife has a get-this-or-else favorite entree at this place. To my knowledge, she’s never ordered anything else in our many visits here over a period of roughly five years.This time, she asked for something else.Turns out that the last time we visited, she ordered that dish and the oh-so-tasty creamy sauce was more watery than creamy and just “didn’t seem like it used to”.My son likes that dish as well, so he ordered it despite her misgivings.Taking PrideBefore long, our food arrives and as our youngest starts to notice things that would have never flown at the fine dining/catering places where he’s worked.Chipped plates, for example. His meal arrived on a plate dotted with chips around the edges. Both mine and my wife’s plates are chipped as well.He tells us that someone with pride in their work would never serve food on chipped plates (this is a restaurant with entrees from $14-29) and that he learned that under an executive chef who apparently was pretty hard core serious about that sort of thing.He also notices that the sauce is more watery than usual and is nowhere near as perfectly seasoned as it was in the past.Later, some bread arrives and it’s burned. Not just a little too brown, but the edges are black like our cat. I don’t really mind because it’s how I prefer this particular type of bread, but he’s surprised they would serve something cooked that way. This is coming from an eighteen year old, not someone with 20 years of high-end chef experience. You might look at it as a teenager whining about this and that, but what you don’t know is that he has a strong interest in cooking, including some line and sous chef experience under some very skilled executive chefs – a couple of the best mentors in the valley in that department. Reflecting ownership“Something’s changed here”, he notes. “Do they have a new owner?”I’m not sure of the timeframe but mention that I recall a change of ownership sometime in the not too distant past. While that might not be the cause of the change in entree quality of this place’s signature dish, it doesn’t really matter because the change reflects on the owner, the manager and the head chef.The chipped plates are a symptom of, “Oh, that’s good enough”.My entrée was excellent, but the overall experience is likely to keep us away for longer than is usual. If this is a typical experience these days, and a mere five percent of diners feel this way each week, what’s that cost this restaurant over time?Good enoughWith times tight, everyone is pinching pennies and hoping dimes fall out. Likewise, it’s expected that service at every business in the valley has ramped up a little (or a lot), since they know that their competition has also turned things up a notch.Given that, what tempts folks to sell their business’ reputation for the price of a six dollar dinner plate, ten cents worth of garlic, a little black pepper and four more minutes on the burner? If you’ve invested several hundred grand in your restaurant, do you really want to sell its reputation for the price of a fast food burger? Don’t teach “good enough” to anyone. Why didn’t the server return the overcooked bread? Why didn’t the server ask the line cook about the watery sauce? Who encouraged “good enough”?Every little thing sends a message about how much you care. How much is your reputation worth? Are you willing to sell it, one customer at a time, for the price of a few slices of bread, a watery sauce or a chipped plate? That night, it sold for less than 10% of our tab. Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com. Emaillast_img read more