Thursday, November 10, 2011

When you don't have something nice to say

Recently Chas and I made two visits to restaurants where they sell wings.

Wing Nutz is one of our favorite places to go for wings, mainly because they have several different flavor options, but mostly my reason is because they are good about making sure you know which sauces are gluten free and which ones aren't. If there is a question, they always refer to the trusty GF menu. The manager knows us well enough now that she knows what we like to drink, how we like our appetizer, and which sauce we like on our wings. She pays attention well.

Wing Nutz is one of those awesome places that offers rewards for dining there, something a couple who is trying to save some pennies while still having a date night can appreciate. The rewards are linked to your email so every once in a while they will send you a survey that you can complete to let them know how your experience was. I made a comment on the bottom that we had noticed the last couple of times we had been there that we didn't end up getting our appetizer until our meal came's not really that big of a deal, but when you are overly hungry, it can be a little frustrating (speaking for myself sine I am the more grumpy one when my blood sugar drops below 50) when you notice they are not so busy that you just figure they are behind or something.

That same day the manager of the Ogden location sent us an Email personally apologizing for what happened. She had actually talked to our server later that day after she got in and he told her what happened. She knew that this had happened before (she has given us many, many free drinks and buffalo chips) and suggested to the servers that they wait a few extra minutes before putting in the wing order, so that the appetizers wouldn't keep coming out the same time as the meal.

To me, that is awesome customer service. To personally be the one to Email a customer back, instead of some corporate customer service rep. who sits behind a desk and doesn't really know what's going on in the restaurant where customers are being served, is huge to me. Maybe it's because I have been on the other end of being a customer, serving patrons and making sure they are the happiest they can possibly be while enjoy a nice meal. Maybe it's because for the past four years I have been overly sensitive to dining out since so much of my physical well being depends on the food I consume.

Which leads me to my next example, which unfortunately didn't end with the same results as our lovely manger at Wing Nutz.

Last Saturday before our gig with Cheatwood, I talked Chas into going to Winger's for a wing dinner (yes I crave wings a lot, I don't know why). We have eaten there before and they advertise a gluten free menu, so I had felt safe in the past.
If there was one word I could use to explain the experience I had eating at Winger's, I would combine the words horrifying, frustrating, and infuriating...perhaps to make a new word horrifrustinfuriating.
It was obvious towards the end of the ordeal that our waitress had no idea what it meant for a meal to be gluten free. It was also obvious, to me anyway, that the manager had no idea what it meant to provide decent customer service.
The dialogue between myself and the server at the beginning went something like this:

me: I wanted to get the boneless wing dinner but I need to know if that is something that I can get gluten free?

server: Oh yeah, we can do that, we have a separate fryer that we do the gluten free wings in, I will let them know.

me: Awesome, I will take that then with the original sauce."

(meals come out about 10 minutes later)

I proceed to cut up one of the chicken wings and start eating the midst of eating mostly fries because they looked super tasty and they were easier to eat.
I take another bite, just before Chas looks over and with a question in his voice, proceeds to tell me that he has gotten the boneless wings before and he is pretty sure that they looked exactly the same as the wings I was in the process of eating.
I stop eating and wait for our waitress to come by to ask her if it is in fact gluten free.

me: Hey I just wanted to make sure that these wings are coated with the same cornstarch breading as the bone-in wings, can you find out and make sure?

She leaves for about 10 minutes and I have to get her attention to remind her that I was waiting for an answer from her.

server: Oh yeah, I talked to the cooks and they said that those do have wheat in them, but they are made gluten free??? (question marks inserted to reflect the tone of her voice, apparent that she had no idea what she was talking about)

It pretty much went downhill from there. I proceeded to tell her that either a meal is gluten free with no wheat in it, or it is made with wheat/white flour and it is gluten saturated which would mean detrimental things for my body for the next 1-2 weeks.
She leaves with a deer in the headlight look in her eyes. About five minutes later she comes back with the manger, good ol Phil.
There were three main reasons why I didn't get along with Phil, at ALL.
1. Every time I tried to talk to him about what happened, he interrupted me and wouldn't even let me finish my sentence.
2. He asked me what would happen to me since I was exposed, and proceeded to let me spend the next several minutes explaining to him what happens to people with differing levels of severity of Celiac once they are exposed to even a tiny amount of gluten. Then, as to try and sound like he knows what he is doing in the Winger's kitchen, he says that his wife deals with the same issues.....well sir, then why did you ask me what happens, if you apparently already knew since your wife has it???
3. During the time I was trying to explain to him the conversation between myself and the server, it was brought up that my gluten chicken fingers were fried in the gluten free fryer...I tried to explain to him that I couldn't eat anything else that he was offering to have them make for me (trying to at least give us a free meal, which was the only nice thing he did throughout the conversation) because anything they fried that was gluten free in that fryer would now be cross-contaminated. He proceeded to say the following question (insert mocking tone here): "Would you like me to hold your hand and take you back in to the kitchen and show you how we do things back there?"

I was pretty much done and ready to leave after that. Not only was I going to experience pain, bloating and a skin rash for the next several days, but I was mocked and left feeling like no one in that restaurant knew anything about cooking a gluten free meal. So after good ol' Phil told us that he was giving us our meals free, we stood up and walked out.

I decided that after everything that happened, I wanted to write to corporate. I located the online "send us your feedback" website and proceeded to write a very lengthy but very non-aggravated letter about how I feel that the people working for their restaurant/corporation should be better educated on the importance of making sure that if you don't know if a meal is gluten free, don't just make it up and say yes. I also found out who the founder of Winger's is, and sent him the letter as well. The website says that customers should get a response in 1-2 business days.....that was 4 days ago. That's not a very long time, per se, but when you feel like you are trying to defend yourself and the other gluten free customers that may decide to visit their restaurant in the future, it seems too long.

In the back of my mind, I can't help thinking that had it been something positive, they would have most likely Emailed me back that same day thanking me for my words of praise and how glad they were that I enjoyed my visit to their restaurant.
Maybe they are really super busy right now, or maybe they are researching the incident with Mr. Phil the manger....who knows. But I also couldn't help but compare their lack of response to the quick response of the manager from Wing Nutz.... And decide that we probably won't be going back to Winger's ever again.

On a positive note, a research company is very close to coming out with a medication that helps prevent reactions of gluten exposure in people who have Celiac and gluten intolerance....More on that in another post.

1 comment:

Rhonda Lanphere said...

OH NOooooo!!!