Monday, August 01, 2011

Mexican Mishaps

There's a new restaurant, Chepe's Mexican Grill, that opened up about a mile or so from the house; we tried it for the first time two months ago, and have gone back three more times since then. When they're on their game, Chepe's is quite good (although their food is not very spicy--they have a pleasant, fresh taste, but it's on the mild side); however, the past two trips have revealed the restaurant's weaker points.

Two weeks ago, they were out of Sweet and Low. I know--most of you didn't even know they still made that pink stuff. The thing is, that's the only artificial sweetener I use, and I don't care for the taste of sugared drinks. I was surprised that a restaurant could run out of Sweet and Low--particularly since they share a parking lot with Target, which sells the stuff, and there's a Kroger and a Publix right across the street from them. Sure, they don't want to pay grocery store prices every day for their Sweet and Low--but since they said a delivery was coming on Monday, they could have bought a $2 box to get them through the day.

A good manager could have turned this loss into a win--either by saying, "We'll send someone over to buy a box if you don't mind waiting a few minutes," or by saying, "We're sorry we're out, but I'd like to offer you a free Diet Coke to make up for it." I don't much care for carbonated drinks with my meal, but the gesture could have done a lot to convince me as a customer that they were willing to go a little extra to make me happy. (And while I'm not an extravagant tipper, I often leave 30%-35% tip--but in this case, I reduced that 30% tip by $2, the cost of the drink. The staff still got about 20% as a tip, but it could have been more--and I could have gone away very happy with their extra effort.)

Today, we tried 'em again (and I carried my own Sweet and Low, just in case). They had Sweet and Low this time, but they also had very, very scorched refried beans; it gave an unpleasantly harsh burned overtone to the beans, which are normally quite flavorful. I mentioned it to my server, who said something like, "Huh." I mentioned it to the assistant manager, who said, "I'll check it out," but never came back. And I mentioned it to the manager ten minutes later, who said "I'll check it out" and did--he came back and said, "You're right--those are bad. It tastes like they burned something," which was exactly what I had said.

And that was the end of it. He never said anything about taking them off my ticket (which he did--but I had no idea if he was going to or not), nor did he say anything about offering another side dish as a replacement. Since the final bill did not include the bad beans, I tipped the server 30%, because it wasn't her fault (although offering me another side dish would have been another great way to turn a losing situation into a win).

As it stands, I think we're going to pass on Chepe's Mexican Grill for a while; they can be excellent, but they apparently have little idea how to deal with a problem when it does arise. Neither situation left me thinking the restaurant was bad, but both situations left me thinking that the management and staff could think things through a little more fully and see how to make customers happy when things to wrong. That's a flaw that I hope they address--for the sake of the customers and for the sake of the restaurant.

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