Bugging your customers

In a search for a suitable place for dinner, my companion and I looked at the menu in the window of a restaurant we had yet to patronize to examine its board of fare. Between the glass and the menu were a half-dozen dead flies and a lifeless mosquito obscuring some of the establishment’s offerings.

We were hungry, so we overlooked the warning sign and entered anyway.

“Sit anywhere you want,” the bartender told us as we walked in with the “Where’s-the-hostess?” look on our faces. We selected a table near a side door and a waitress took and filled our beverage order, two soft drinks, totaling $4.

We hesitated a bit ordering, so the waitress left our table and took much too long to return. The pulpy pop music was way too loud and a fly that had yet to meet its fate buzzed the table.

There was an army of people working the floor but a shortage of help in the kitchen, apparently, because it was a long wait before our food was served. Our order consisted of a salad, a side of black beans and rice, and a burger, no fries, all pretty uninspired.

Then there’s the Nice Italian Restaurant near my home. Scrupulously clean, the food and the service are outstanding. A neatly dressed gentleman with a shock of wavy gray hair who shows us to our table usually greets us. The servers are as young as any at the House of Flies but friendly, chatty and very attentive, and the music consists of syrupy old Jerry Vale or Dean Martin records, placed appropriately deep in the background.

The check is a little more than at the House of Flies, but we usually walk out satisfied, with a doggy bag and the sense that they appreciate our business.

The one criticism I’ll make of both is that they don’t give customers a ready opportunity to rate the food and service. Some restaurants offer comment cards, and I’ve filled them out, sent them in and, in two cases, they’ve responded by changing the things I commented on.

My advice to the House of Flies is obvious. To the Nice Italian Restaurant, put tomatoes on the salad instead of beets.

And to anyone who cares about what their customers think, keep a fly on the wall.