Sunday, March 8, 2009

Walked Out

It was a busy Friday night in the small town of Alameda. The rained finally stopped after two weeks of wet weather. People were out and about in downtown Alameda. I walked into Zen Restaurant on Santa Clara Avenue hoping for a great dinner. The restaurant was full of customers. The interiors were Asian inspired with paper lantern lights hanging down from the ceiling. The Buddha statue in the front as you walk into the establishment sets the zen like tone of the room. I also thought the wall separator was modern with an Asian twist. It was a great piece to distinguish the waiting area and the dining area.

As I entered the restaurant, no one greeted our party. I waited for a good fifteen minutes and still no one on the floor acknowledged us. I noticed two open tables which took ten minutes to clean, one was a table for two and the other was a table for four. I thought after waiting for twenty minutes that at least a host or hostess would approach the people waiting at the front of the house. Finally, the party of three ahead of me flagged a waiter inquiring about the open table for four. Unfortunately, the waiter had no indication on how long the wait would be. Another staff person then gave the table of four to a party of two who were sitting at the bar. I am not sure why this rookie mistake was made since a table for two was still available. The party ahead of me of course was upset when they noticed the table mix up.

A party of two then came in after our group. No one of the restaurant greeted them. These two people finally got fed up and left. Minutes later a group of six entered the restaurant who claimed they had a reservation. There was not a table available for their group.

A member of my party then yelled out loud again to the waiter on how long it would take for a party of two. The wait staff didn't know. After twenty five minutes of waiting and not being noticed, acknowledged or greeted, my friend and I decided to walk out. The restaurant had poor communications skills and lacked front of the house management. When staff do not make a connection with their customers, the restaurant will lose money regardless how good the food tastes. This experience was a big disappointment since the food smelled amazing and looked delicious.

Zen needs to focus on customer attention and follow through with the details of great service. My other recommendation would be to eat at this restaurant when it is less busy. If management doesn't get it in the near future, I know I won't be the only customer walking away.

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