Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Memo to Self-Styled "Hottest Restaurant in Town": Counterfeit Buzz Is Not Buzz

... and being snide to your customers is not a good management strategy.

So I now think the management at Tavern on the Water needs a serious attitude adjustment. The water debacle was amusing, if annoying, but some of my friends went the other night and had an even weirder experience.

They had called somewhat last minute for reservations and were told they could be seated during a particular half-hour. (I forget when. For the purposes of this story, we'll pretend it's 6 to 6:30.) When they got there, they were told they'd have to wait until closer to 6:30 to 7. They were like, okay, fine, and went down to the bar, and they were having some cocktails and chat while they waited, not impatient, just chilling.

Then out of nowhere "one of the managers" comes down and announced to them (apparently in a snide tone of voice), "If you make last-minute reservations at the hottest restaurant in town, you're going to have to expect to wait."

I would understand it (as would my friends) if they'd been bitching about the wait, but they weren't, and even then it would still be bad customer service. They were just relaxing and enjoying their drinks and the dude appears out of nowhere to chastize them.

My friend and I both found the claim "hottest restaurant in town" to be devastatingly amusing, and not in a good way. First of all, if you have to say you're it? You're not it. Counterfeit buzz is not buzz. This does not make you cool. This makes you lame. Trying to create this whole aura of exclusivity and chic elitism is almost by definition trying too hard. It's like that girl in high school who was so desperate to be cool she abased herself before the popular clique but her very desperation automatically excluded her from ever joining. It's like friending everyone on MySpace in the desperate hope they'll friend you back.

So, Tavern, the food is good, the room is lovely, the waitstaff impeccable, but if your management remains so utterly determined to alienate customers in a desperate bid for buzz, it's not going to work out. Either the buzz or the customers.


Shadist said...

Coming from an area with a known mafia presence I have long been a big fan of the "if you have to say it, it isn't true" camp.

Just a random fellow from the Consumerist :)

Anonymous said...

What do you expect from a strip club owner? Manners? Politeness? Courtesy? Consideration? Pleeeeaze. Don't hold your breath. This restaurant is owned by a guy who has made his money peddling the flesh of women. I don't expect him or his staff to have common decency or courtesy.

PeoriaIllinoisan said...

The water debacle turned me off, but this is about all I have to hear. We don't go out to nice dinners all that much, but the next time we do I just won't consider this. There are many other choices available for fine dining without me feeling that I'm "rolling the dice" if I chose this place.

I'm waiting for someone to visit the Riverstation and offer up a review.

Anonymous: The fact that he owns Big Al's doesn't automatically mean he or his staff can't have common decency or courtesy. I don't buy it.

Tawnzie said...

Ok, I have to post on this one...

I eat out, a lot, really, really a lot. WAY too much.

I've been to both River Station and Tavern. For whatever it's worth, here is my simple review.

Tavern - excellent food, interesting menu, the "no tap water" thing is very weird but tolerable to me (but I understand completely why it's not tolerable to other people!), beautiful dining area, bar and deck. I really want this place to make it because I do like it. BUT, the 'tude is prevelant. The water, the story Eyebrows posted, and my tale. I overheard while I was eating there that the servers have to pay for any mistakes they make in the ordering process. There is a "airline" chicken sandwhich and an "airline" chicken dinner. One patron ordered the "airline chicken." He meant the dinner, the waitress put the order in for the sandwhich. Upon realizing that she hadn't asked him what kind of dressing he wanted on his salad, he realized what she probably did. He flagged her down and clarified. She said she'd go correct the order. We then overheard someone telling her that the wrong chicken order would come out of her check. I guess I don't know if this is standard in the industry, but I really didn't feel good about the management and the way they treat their staff on hearing this. I hope they pull their heads out because Peoria is just not superficial enough for the big-city attitude this place is trying to pull off and put on. And the food is good, really good. Oh, desserts are just ok at best. The cookie w/ ice cream thing, really, really sucked. It was burned and hard and crappy. For a great "skillet cookie," go to One World, they know how to do it!

River Station - overall, ok. Nice place, GREAT service, no 'tude at all. It will probably do better than Tavern if things don't change because even though the food is not as good, I think people want to feel good when they go out, and the staff at River Station are all about enjoyment and service -- no attitude at all other than quality service. Oh, and very good dessert at River Station, molten cake, very elegant looking and good.

Finally, I heard that the reason Tavern didn't serve tap water is because Al doesn't like the tap in Peoria (nothing to do with making money, certainly!). I asked our server what the ice was made out of, tap or bottled. She didn't know, but my guess would be that alone puts a big hole in the "bad tap water" analysis.

For what it's worth.

Tawnzie said...

Oh, and one more thing about the attitude at Tavern. I recently returned from Vegas. While there, my friend and I adventured into Mix, the restaurant in "THE Hotel" at Mandalay Bay. Mix is apparently the most expensive and exclusive restaurant in Vegas.

I fully expected that upon stepping off the elevator that the staff would, rightfully ask us to "please leave." They wouldn't be wrong in doing so, we were simply gawking, didn't have reservations, and didn't plan to eat there. In fact, we'd just eaten somewhere else.

The place was amazing, beautiful views, amazing decor, and elegant patrons. The staff were the young and beautiful, intimidating creatures, tall, slim, georgous and all in black. Again, I expected to be snottily asked to exit. I was shocked when the staff came over and asked if they could help us. We told them we just wanted to check the place out. They fell over themselves to show us around, telling us where the best views were, where the bar was, how the food was, and told us to feel free to walk around. They did everything except allow us to eat off other guests plates, and they almost did do that!

In all, they knew how to treat (non) customers and it was apparent that the staff was proud of where they worked and who they worked for. That would be my goal if I managed a restaurant, but, hey, that's just me.

Anonymous said...

That's the thing about the west. Money doesn't need to come in full style and the folk here know that. For all they know you could have been that money or the gatekeeper for that money and George Lucas could be your brother/uncle/cousin.

It's one of the things I enjoy most about California (and vegas also to some extent) cause something has to make up for the price of gas.

I find the further east you go the more the chance of pretension to go with your fine dining rises.


Jim said...

I thought Tavern was okay but nothing to write FoodTV about. Every entree seemed to be served with a variation of demi glaze. Is demiglaze another word for glue? I've had demiglaze before but this stuff was way too thick. I also didn't care for the forced bottled water. Was like having alka-seltzer with your meal. Not going back.

Chef Kevin said...

I think it is time for a rant over on my blog site about this demi-glaze thing.

I'm not busting, you, Jim, because I've seen the glaze spelling a lot lately...even in the PJS. It is glace.

Now I'm going to post a rant over at :)

Tawnzie said...

Chef Kevin, how did I get by misspelling "sandwich" (spelled, TWICE "sandwhich") but Jim got called on demi-glace?

Breathing a sigh of relief, and ducking my head in shame. ;-)


Chef Kevin said...

Guess I've seen or heard glaze so much lately, it just triggered some psychological need ot "go off". :)