This is why the Restaurant Business is Hard

I am writing this the evening following Mother’s Day, which as you know is a big day the restaurant business. After Saturday night we put the key in the door at 1:15 am Sunday morning and went home having run around serving each and every one of the guests that packed the restaurant for the night of dinner service, live music in the lounge, and two large birthday parties that filled our private dining room and the lounge after that. Then got up at 10am and came back to serve 180 people lunch and early dinner all day Sunday. Through the day we hustled around and kept smiling, the vast majority of our guests are amazingly nice and happy, but there are also the people that snap at you for offering a dessert menu, that think Medium means their steak should have no pink in the middle, and who are just honestly not that happy in life regardless of what we as restaurant service staff members do. That’s ok, we know about all that, and we smile and say ok. Just take the dessert menu away, cook the steak to medium well, and keep going.

Thats not what makes this business hard. This is:

After all of this a party of five, which was one of the last remaining tables, left. Just as I sat down with my mother who came to spend it with me during the last seating. A matter of minutes later I saw a female from the party come back and look around the table, so I got up and walked over to her to see what she lost. Her iPhone was missing. We scoured around the table, the women’s rooms, the hutch, the hostess stand etc… then she left me her number and left.
Linen bag search
After that I talked to the entire staff and had two of the bussers and support staff dump out the top three linen bags in the bin out back and search through them as I kept calling her phone over and over. No Luck. As I sat back down with my mother, the lady walked back in with her husband and wanted to look through the linen themselves, so their server went out back with them and looked again. Again No Luck. Now there were some insinuations that someone on the staff might have taken it, and though they were polite it was kind of out of line after we had gone as far as we could to search for it, and accommodated their request to search through dirty linen bags (in 20 years that was a first).

So as a staff we sat around, a group of people who have worked together for years, had an after shift glass of wine and moved on. As usual. Again they were polite, but someone accusing you or your staff of stealing if done politely isn’t something you want after waiting on peoples every wish for 18 of the last 24 hours.

Then today I got this:

Dear Spiro,

After enjoying my sister’s birthday party at Evenfall on Saturday night, my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful Mother’s Day dinner with my family at Evenfall yesterday afternoon (it was a particularly special day for my wife, as we are expecting our first child in October). Unfortunately, my wife left her iPhone behind on top of the table when we left – and when she returned to the restaurant fifteen minutes later, the phone was gone. I truly appreciate the help that some of your staff provided in helping us to look for the missing phone. In particular, I believe the hostess and one of the bus boys helped us to search through a bag of soiled linens (for the second time, since they had already gone through it themselves). Thank you also for the concern that you expressed to us personally, we both appreciated it.

Jen (my wife), my sister Erin, and both of my parents truly enjoy Evenfall and have dined there more times then we can count (as of yesterday, three of us came twice within 24 hours!) We have recommended you to many, many people, and all of us have brought friends, my in-laws, etc. Unfailingly, people we have brought or recommended to Evenfall have returned after their first visit. All in all, we are all truly happy for you and for Evenfall’s continuing success. Your restaurant is a great thing for Haverhill.

Unfortunately, I am writing to tell you that after reviewing – with all five members of our party – everything that happened (down to the most minute detail), the only conclusion that we could all arrive at is that one of your employees took the phone. It is not a fact, but given all the circumstances, we all believe it is the most probable explanation. In the ordinary course of daily events, on a quiet Sunday afternoon at a very nice restaurant, a bright, turquoise-colored object the size of an iPhone, which was sitting in plain view atop a table in a dining room of mostly seated patrons, could not have been swept up and discarded unseen — particularly not in the space of fifteen minutes.

Although we were able to contact the phone and it continued to ring while we searched for it at the restaurant, a few moments after we left (and after your remaining employees presumably left), the phone was turned off and stopped ringing. Again, none of us believes that a fully-charged, water resistant phone turned itself off in that coincidental span of time. It is certainly possible that another patron took the phone, however it seems unlikely that they would have left the phone on for such a long time if that had happened. The first people who would have spotted the phone sitting on the table after we left were likely employees who cleared everything away. Also, to be clear, there is no other place the phone could be — we left it sitting on the table (three of us remembered seeing it there just before leaving), we walked out to our car, drove 7 minutes away to my sister’s house, and returned in the same amount of time after realizing that the phone was missing. In almost any other similar circumstance in life, I am sure that you would agree you would have expected – as we did – that the hostess would have had the phone to return to us or that it would still be sitting on the table where we left it.

It certainly is not your fault; indeed, it was our own fault for forgetting it on the table. I am writing to express our disappointment in what happened. Just as you said to us yesterday that you were disappointed something like that could happen at Evenfall, so are we. For better or worse, Jen and I are of fairly limited financial means at this time, so the loss of the phone is a huge hit to us – replacing it does not only cost the $200 to buy a new one (that price is subsidized by AT&T), but $500.

Equally importantly, I cannot apologize to you enough if we are wrong and the phone was truly misplaced through no fault other than our own. Unfortunately, it seems safe to say 24 hours later that we will never know.

Thank you again for your hospitality and best wishes,

So what do you do? Again the polite insinuation that one of our employees stole the phone his wife left behind. I know for sure that they did not, and I really don’t want them to be telling people that their phone was stolen by one of us either.

What would you do?





29 responses to “This is why the Restaurant Business is Hard”

  1. Jeanine Buckley Avatar

    Offer to replace the phone. The bad PR isn’t worth it, and you can deduct as a loss on your taxes, if that’s any consolation. I learned the hard way from letting one nasty journalist on Yelp become 7 mean reviews, all because I didn’t jump through hoops. Hope this helps–I know your staff didn’t take it! It could have been anyone!

    Jeanine–Le Chef Mobile

    1. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

      What happens if someone says they left one next week?

      1. Thegreattonymariani Avatar

        Let them have the last word and leave it at that. Don’t re-imburse either. If they strongly believe someone stole their phone they should call the police. Otherwise suck it. And its Mother’s day! Put your darn phone away and enjoy the occasion.

        1. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

          Tony, favorite line of all the comments here. “otherwise suck it.” thanks for making me laugh.

  2. HATI Solutions Avatar

    It is still an accusation, insinuating your staff stole it and by referring to the cost of replacement, also looking for compensation. If 3 people remember seeing it on the table, why didn’t they pick it up. I am sure they misplaced it on the way to their car, after leaving your restaurant.

    Empathize as you have already done, leave it at that.

    I am sure if your staff share your attitude towards customer service, they already clear more than enough to have an iPhone, should they wish.

    1. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

      We literally dug though dirty linen looking for them. I had waitresses
      on hands and knees looking under furniture. It’s a public place. I
      think it is unreasonable to replace thing people ‘say’ they left
      there, tough situation.

    2. Sarah_klein Avatar

      agreed, you handled it professionally already by not only helping them find it but letting them then search themselves.

    3. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

      The argument in the email I received is definitely constructed from a point of view that has already decided a member of our staff took it. I feel like arguing the assumptions but am going to resist the urge. Thanks for the feedback i appreciate it.

  3. Sarah_klein Avatar

    I shared this with some friends and this response in particular i thought would reach out to you. ”
    Simple response. Did they use the Find my iPhone
    feature during the short period that the phone was still on to confirm
    it was even in or near the restaurant? If they did not even bother to
    set up that free service from Apple then I would not
    feel any obligation to them. You can always put up a sign which claims
    lost belongings left behind are not your responsibility. I am always
    careful to always know where my phone is and often leave it in view or
    put it in my pocket.”I understand doing everything in your power to help a customer. And I go by the philosophy give them the pickle (anything extra they want, etc) but at some point there needs to be personal responsibility of this customer. if i dropped a $100 bill on the ground at a bus stop should i hold Greyhound responsible b/c someone else picked it up? Lastly, if it was so brightly colored, any other patron of that establishment at the time could have taken it, especially if they saw the group leave.

    1. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

      Sarah, it seem like you and your friends are tech geeks like me. I thought of some geeky solutions too. Cheers.

  4. Schanegross Avatar

    I myself would not respond. I think you’ve already said and performed enough. They were compelled enough to have a final say and it should be just that.

    You can’t and shouldn’t defend yourself.

    They feel it’s not a fact but a reasonable feeling that they are correct.

    Regardless of the idea that they should have “kept an honest man honest” or kept better guard of their valuables… What’s done is done. You know in your heart what is true and I don’t think it is your financial responsibility to pay them for what was completely their responsibility to begin with.

    I say let it go and let it be what it is. I know if I left my iPhone on a table in a public dining environment I wouldn’t be reimbursed for my mistake. Nor would I accuse the staff of stealing, especially considering the nature of where I was dining if I were at your place.

    1. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

      I have toyed with the idea of ignoring the issue, but in fact I am going to respond. I will share with you the results of which here. Thanks for the input and the time to read the post.

  5. mitchellg Avatar

    “I appreciate your positive comments about the restaurant and appreciate your business. I’m sorry that you believe one of our employees stole your phone. I respectfully disagree. If you think a crime has been committed, you should contact the police.”

    1. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

      Thanks for the response, when I write back to them I am going to use portions of your ideas. let’s see how it gos.

  6. BrianD82 Avatar

    In the United States, at least for now
    (with Obama signing laws before it was humanly possible to read them, e.g.,
    “Obama Care”, we don’t know how much longer this will be true) one is
    assumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. This has become part of the shared USA culture to
    include even situations that are not criminal in nature. I would remind the customer of this – in a professional way – that their accusation has absolutely no evidence to support it. Therefore, it was extremely wrong for them to make such a wild accusation.

    In fact, if you would accuse THEM of faking the “lost” phone situation, you would have just as strong an argument for that as they have for their accusation.

    I would tell the customer that in the USA, one is innocent until proven guilty and since they provided absolutely no evidence that one of your staff did anything wrong and even complimented your staff for all the things they did right, you refuse to believe any one of your staff stole the phone. If any evidence actually comes out that proves their wild accusation, you will take appropriate action then and only then.

    1. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

      Brian, Thanks for the input I appreciate the response and the support.

  7. Honeyandy305 Avatar

    I don’t think you should dignify this with any other response than the one you already provided. They said they “lost” it, you bent over backwards to find it the same day & came up emptyhanded. If they choose not to eat there, that’s their prerogative. So the letter stings a little…so what?? A response would only keep this ridiculous dialogue going. I’m sorry…they are at fault & put it in writing. You’re covered.

    1. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

      I agree we are covered there is no way we are going to be held liable for it, the problem is the perception that we are a group of people (the employees) one of whom stole the phone. That kind of talk is in no way positive. I am going to address that in a reply I will share here as well.

  8. Michael L. Monti Avatar

    One of my managers, @Danklicious:twitter  saw this and had a similar story: “Jimmy, myself, and some bus hops did this for a guy a couple of years ago. Even brought out the garbage cans from the kitchen to go through. He too insinuated that a staff member probably stole it, which is irritating considering the number of phones, computers, and credit cards that get left on a weekly basis. After an hour of searching high and low, through linen bags and trash, the guy left saying we had to reimburse him. Another hour after that, he called saying he found it in his car.”
    Michael, Monti’s La Casa Vieja, Tempe AZ

    1. Spiro Pappadopoulos Avatar

      It’s crazy, but people leave everything behind!