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John Harvard's Stern Talking-To Report


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John Harvard's Stern Talking-To Report

J Bert | Oct 1, 2005 08:44 AM

This is about conduct, managers, and retail.

John Harvard's is not highbrow food. But it has a broad menu, and there is a time and a place for a brew pub, particularly when you want to try some different beers and are hungry for a pizza or something meaty and the Sox are playing New York, and you've just seen a really good comedy at the Brattle.

My friend ordered beef medallions wiht stuff shrimp.

The kitchen sent out a skewer of four half-raw shrimp. That's raw as in, have never met something hot, not in the kitchen, not ever.

It's not high-end food. But it's not dirt cheap food either. And if you're selling food at all to the public, and your kitchen does something like this, it's reasonable cause for at least a wee bit of embarrassment and apology, considering a skewer of shrimp requires 60 seconds per side, and raw shrimp is a item listed as "risky" to eat, in any case, under any circumstances.

if this happens, John Harvard's, DO NOT:
- send out two seemingly re-cooked shrimps to replace "the two you didn't eat".
- decide as general manager that when the customer questions this, you've got to take matters into your own hands to deal with the difficult jerk at Table 22 and...
- pull yourself up to the table to entirely interrupt the meal
- argue with the customer that those tough little guys clinging to the skewer were not re-cooked
- argue with the customer that they only were "entitled" to two shrimps because they had "eaten the others," particularly if the uneaten remains of one of them is piled right there before you on a service plate, all slick and white and plainly raw
- REMAIN at the table asking any question, over and over, that begins: "so I want to know why you think..."
- REMAIN at the table when the customer says repeatedly, and calmly, "We came for dinner, not an argument, please just leave us alone"

This was so out of hand that my dining companion looked across the table at me after the manager was finally persuaded to go away, and said "I can't believe he was yelling at us."

I cook. A lot. I study cooking and restaurants. I've owned and run retail stores for more than a dozen years in the past and my family has been in various out-facing positions either as workers or owners or managers since before I was born.

The customer is not always right. Some "customers" are not customers at all, but misspoken, mistaken, outright idiots, jerks, liars. Some make innocent mistakes, and we have to leave a little room for that.

But when your staff blows it, then is on the verge of making things right, don't intervene and make it worse.

The manager reappeared later with four correctly cooked shrimp and his business card, and he comped the messed up meal and invited me to contact him. And that was a good of him, but really, all we wanted was four correctly cooked shrimp and no discussion. We were not there to be scolded, yelled at, or put in our place. Perhaps the guy is too young to be a manager. Maybe the night was rought. But I have my own problems. I don't want his problems on my back too. I go out to eat to get away from problems, not to find new ones.

We "corrected" the comped tab by adding a tip that brought the total back to the amount it would have been, had things been fine.

As I said, all we wanted was four cooked shrimps.

Comping the food DOES NOT make the issue with the scolding go away. It had been a really nice evening. Then it was a markedly nice evening because we were a bit rattled by some guy who had had to flaunt his authority before a couple of customers who just wanted to have some food and beers after a movie and not get sick from eating raw shrimp, and who were really very polite about it.

This was a matter of maybe 40 cents worth of food.

If your kitchen screws up like this, replace the food. All of it that's in question. Don't weigh the returned food and shave the replacement down to match what you think the customer "deserves." It's cheap and stupid and insulting.

No comp in the world can unwind an upsetting dressing-down by someone who interrupts a private meal and conversation to yell.


the waitress was professional, and lovely in every way

the beer sampler at John Harvard's is a very good deal at $5.50 for five decent size tasting glasses. it's even enough for two people to share, and sampling beers is a fun way to make conversation.


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