Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rude Restautant Service Comes To "Fruition" in Denver

As somewhat of a foodie, I love the idea of being able to take clients out when traveling to a new town. This September's CEDIA custom AV installer convention is my next opportunity and with one full month before the show, I set out to make some reservations for industry dinners.

While I do not have a $3,000 per month pornography habbit like allegations made about Christy Brinkely's husband and his spending - I do pay about $3 per year to have access to Zagat.com. The site, which once was free, can be a good place to find new restaruants as well as see how people really feel about the better eateries in town. Its like a TripAdvisor.com for food and Dener is one of the cities they cover so I started my search looking for the highest rated places.

The newest, most highly rated restauant in Denver is called Fruition. It is reportedly a "new American" cuisne joint that people are raving about. It has a 26 (of 30) for food which is pretty strong by any city's standards so I gave them a call to book a reservation around noon Pacific Standard Time. A few hours later a surly French-sounding host called me back and things went downhill fast. I was asking for a table for 6 at 7:30 on Friday with one month's notice. And please notice that this isn't The French Laundry or Il Mulino in New York we are talking about here. This is Denver with a full month's notice. The level of attidude I got was unreal. I got the you can eat here at eaither 5:30 or 9:00 with no apologies. Then the "we don't seat tables that large" line. How can you be a restaurant and not seat a table for 6? I wasn't asking for a table for 16 - a table for 6 is pretty standard even for the smallest restrants in the country. Ultimately, the guy just hung up on me after saying "I just can't help you!" If you were ever looking for the defintiion of The Business of No - this is it.

Think of the work it takes to be a well rated restarant in Zagat? Top chefs and resauranturs sweat their ratings there much like they worry about losing their third star from The New York Times yet this newcomer to the restaurant world - likely with investors who have yet to recoup their money yet - are turning down business that simply comes to them.

What I can tell you is - the girl at the next 26/30 rated restaurant down the Zagat.com list, called the Barollo Grill, was unbeleivable sweet and accomodating. She went out of her way to ask "Is this a special event?" and "How can we make your meal with us extra-special?" When I told her I would have important clients with me she immediatley responded with "We have a perfect table for 6 that is a little more quiet. I will reserve that one for you." I am excited about dining at this restaurant just from booking the reservation.

My prediction is that the only thing that will come to Fruition is a bankrupcy filing. The restaurant business is too dificult to treat customers like this especially when you are in Denver - not New York, LA or London. Get a clue.

2 comments:

John said...

As a current resident of Denver and someone who is quite familiar with the fine dining scene here, I would like to offer some thoughts to a few self proclaimed "foodies". I have heard this complaint from many people of many small restaurants over the years, so I would like to take your comments to task.

To answer your question of “How can you be a restaurant and not seat a table for 6?” I would mention that Fruition does seat parties of six, but only twice a night, as you noted. If you went to Fruition you would know that the dining accommodates approx. 50 people at once and is quite “cozy”. The kitchen is also very small and Fruition (or any other small restaurant) has to "turn" those tables twice if not three times. A table of six takes 2 physical tables away from the dining room and typically larger parties linger longer. In addition, larger tables slow the kitchen and affect the ability to deliver food to other tables in a timely manner.

In other words, it's not afterthought of a policy, or an attempt to be elitist. They only take parties of six or more at the beginning or end of the night to ensure a smooth flow and maximize the number of people that can eat there. It is unfortunate the response to your request was a rude one, and for that, there is no excuse. Yet to assume that Fruition engages in the “Business of No” for nothing more than a desire to appear exclusive, you sir, are quite mistaken. When Fruition says “No” to your request, it actually stems from a desire to provide the best possible experience for the dining guest, while operating within the physical constraints of the building. I know this from working in the restaurant business, both front and back of the house, for years.

While I agree that many industries suffer from a “Crisis of Customer Service”, I believe offering Fruition as an ideal example of poor customer service will fall on deaf ears of those who know it well.

In addition, I am happy to report that even in tough financial times, Fruition is still busy, all week long. I will pass along your blog to the owners and I trust they will take your comment of rude behavior to heart.

John said...

As a current resident of Denver and someone who is quite familiar with the fine dining scene here, I would like to offer some thoughts to a few self proclaimed "foodies". I have heard this complaint from many people of many small restaurants over the years, so I would like to take your comments to task.

To answer your question of “How can you be a restaurant and not seat a table for 6?” I would mention that Fruition does seat parties of six, but only twice a night, as you noted. If you went to Fruition you would know that the dining accommodates approx. 50 people at once and is quite “cozy”. The kitchen is also very small and Fruition (or any other small restaurant) has to "turn" those tables twice if not three times. A table of six takes 2 physical tables away from the dining room and typically larger parties linger longer. In addition, larger tables slow the kitchen and affect the ability to deliver food to other tables in a timely manner.

In other words, it's not afterthought of a policy, or an attempt to be elitist. They only take parties of six or more at the beginning or end of the night to ensure a smooth flow and maximize the number of people that can eat there. It is unfortunate the response to your request was a rude one, and for that, there is no excuse. Yet to assume that Fruition engages in the “Business of No” for nothing more than a desire to appear exclusive, you sir, are quite mistaken. When Fruition says “No” to your request, it actually stems from a desire to provide the best possible experience for the dining guest, while operating within the physical constraints of the building. I know this from working in the restaurant business, both front and back of the house, for years.

While I agree that many industries suffer from a “Crisis of Customer Service”, I believe offering Fruition as an ideal example of poor customer service will fall on deaf ears of those who know it well.

In addition, I am happy to report that even in tough financial times, Fruition is still busy, all week long. I will pass along your blog to the owners and I trust they will take your comment of rude behavior to heart.