Motivational Speaker gets dissed by restaurant…Twice!

Customer Service Ideas from Marilyn Sherman

Motivational Speaker Gives Customer Service Advice

For the last 18 years traveling for my  business as a motivational speaker, I have eaten in a lot of restaurants.  In fact, I even partnered with a waiter and wrote a book on Front-Row Service; How to Increase Tip Percentage and Check Average in Your Restaurant.  That said, I am not snobbish when it comes to service in a restaurant, I am just more acutely aware of good and bad service that I receive.  When Frenchie, (my French husband, Yves) took me to a high-end steakhouse for a spontaneous dinner, I was shocked and amazed at how the service went from bad to worse.  The european waiter seemed very excited to talk to my husband, and soon an extensive conversation ensued.  Frenchie is very charming so I understood why it would be easy to converse with him.  Meanwhile, I began to wonder who was actually on the date!  Then, after an extensive explanation on the aging process of their beef (talking only to my husband), and the specials being offered, Frenchie ordered his meal.  I won’t go into detail of what happened, but suffice it to say, that my meal wasn’t prepared to my liking and by the time the server came back, Frenchie had finished his meal.  The waiter was never apologetic, he was dismissive and condescending.  Hey I could get that kind of service at a fast food restaurant, but not a restaurant that I am dropping $200 in.  I wrote a letter to the general manager giving specifics of the evening and some tips on how it could be avoided in the future.

The general manager was very appreciative of my feedback and offered us a $200.00 gift certificate to come back to enjoy their restaurant.  Frenchie chose Valentine’s day to redeem the certificate.   I called the restaurant ahead of time, and told them that we were coming in on a gift certificate as a result of a bad service experience and if we could be seated in different section, that would be great.  The hostess said ‘We’re looking forward to you coming back and having a great guest experience.’  I was excited too, until we met our server Robert.  Boy was he in a rush.  He introduced himself and asked if we wanted drinks.  I asked for the wine list and off he went.  He seemed to be dashing a lot – at one point he put some dirty dishes on a counter adjacent to our booth (best seat in the house by the way) and a dirty knife fell right next to me.  No apology, no wiping of the booth, he just took the knife and left.  When he took our orders I took Robert up on his offer to have my steak butterflied in order to have no pink, but still have flavor.  When my steak came, it wasn’t butterflied, and it wasn’t cooked nearly enough.  But, by the time Robert came back to see how our meal was, Frenchie was again practically done with his meal!  Eventually, Robert came back and was apologetic taking the steak back to have it prepared to my liking.

With our wine, we also like water with no ice.  There was someone who gave us our water, but soon we were out – glasses bone dry.  This happened at least three times. When you have to stop your conversation to look around for your waiter or water-pour person, your dining experience is affected.  When we asked Robert if we could have more water, he said sure and ran off to get the pitcher.  We asked if we could have our water with no ice, so he put a bread plate over the pitcher to try to capture the ice before it met my glass.  It didn’t work – the plate crashed to the ground.  I was surprised – had he never had a customer who ordered water without ice before? If so, did this little innovative idea of using a bread plate over the pitcher ever work in the past?  This was not the behavior of a high-end steakhouse waiter.  Then, the piece de resistance, was at the end.  I noticed all the ladies walking out with roses as a nice touch from the restaurant.  But, no rose for us.  I hadn’t even talked to the waiter about how bad his service was! (He was always in a hurry even though at one point, I could see 5 empty tables being turned for more guests.  The restaurant was not that busy for our waiter to be MIA. We had to ask other people for him at least twice).  Was it the fact that we were paying with a gift certificate? We still tipped him on the whole amount of the bill!  While Frenchie was helping me with my coat, I saw a waitress bring truffles and a rose to one of her tables.  I stopped her on her way back to the kitchen and asked what you had to do to score a rose.  She was shocked I didn’t get one and offered to get me 3 long stem roses and some truffles.  We never saw Robert again.

Just a thought for restaurants:

1. When you serve your customers, don’t ignore them after the meal has been served. They shouldn’t wait for an extended period of time for you to know that something wasn’t prepared as promised.

2. Find a balance between being conversational but not dominating the conversation, and ignoring your table after they’ve been served.

3. If you have a special occasion where all the ladies get a rose like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, New Year’s day or Sunday Brunch, please don’t leave anyone out. Customers notice those things.

4.  If you are willing to give a $200.00 certificate to a customer to get their business back, by all means, make sure they get a great experience!  And, it wouldn’t hurt to visit the table to thank them for coming back and hope that this experiences is better!

From your ‘willing to help you serve your customers better’ motivational speaker, Marilyn Sherman.


Marilyn Sherman, CSP is a Front-Row Leadership Expert helping people get out of the balcony and get a front-row seat in life. For over 20 years she has inspired audiences with topics on Visioning, Goal Achievement and having a No More Excuses attitude! Check out her fun, dynamic style at

Marilyn Sherman, Owner UpFront Presentations - Helping people get a Front-Row seat in their life!
9030 W. Sahara Ave #444
Las Vegas, NV 89117

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  1. Wow. What a bad experience. There is nothing I hate more than going out to dinner (a LUXURY at our house) and having the experience affected by poor service, low quality food, or screaming children that aren’t taken out of the restaurant. (When I was growing up, if we showed our butt in a restaurant, you went out in the car. Alone. And heaven help you, if Mom or Dad came to the car too.)

    As a motivational speaker, I talk a lot about cultivating the right attitude of service – having a MOTIVE to serve. Excellence doesn’t start with what we do, but with who we are. It starts with the attitude and motivation. You can create things to do all day long – and they may be great acts of service. But if you back up and focus on your mindset and your motivation to truly serve that other person – what you do will naturally flow out of that. And customers can sense a true desire to serve versus a well followed list of things to do.

    The hard part is teaching employees that – cultivating the right attitudes in the workplace. My husband thinks it can’t be taught, and thus the reason for getting the right people on the bus. I think he’s right to some degree. But I also think that, just as you can rally a football team at half time, you can rally your employees to serve to a higher degree.

    Perhaps the problem isn’t the football team – perhaps the problem is in the coach. A better manager would make a better waiter.

  2. Are we as motivational speakers just more sensitive to this? I don’t think so. I think everyone wants to feel like they are important and valued. Too bad you had this experience TWICE! Geez!

  3. Marilyn, so sad to hear of such an unfortunate experience – twice. Your motivational speaking tips for good customer service rock, and yet I’m a bit in agreement with Kelly’s husband about finding the right people to begin with. Some who are made aware can change, but I think your level of emotional intelligence to begin with plays a huge role. Glad you got your roses pretty lady.

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