Over dinner this week a planner friend mentioned she'd recently had a terrible experience with her group at a local restaurant. Despite a lack of communication from the venue's private dining manager (the first red flag), she'd gone ahead and planned the happy hour event for her company and, after arriving at the restaurant, almost immediately wished she hadn't.
As a result of the poor service and an even worse attitude from her group's waitstaff, food orders were botched (some even forgotten) and drink delivery took almost an hour. As if that wasn't enough, when she reached out to the restaurant's general manager to discuss the situation, she was told he would get back to her to "check in" ... and never did.
At dinner, she shrugged her shoulders, feeling helpless. We discussed the possibility of writing an online review to voice her frustration with the experience, but ultimately, she just wanted a way to warn other planners so they didn't unknowingly walk into the same situation.
"There are a few places regular diners can go to review restaurants, like Yelp, OpenTable and Urbanspoon, but there is nowhere specifically for planners," agrees Amanda Lange, president and founder of Restaurant Connect. "But most restaurants want to make planners happy, and are eager to get in front of complaints."
As a planner, if you have a poor experience, Lange has a few suggestions. "Before going to the review sites, call the restaurant. Ask to speak with the general manager or call the corporate office and voice your opinion and your experience," she says.
Of course, for individuals who prefer to avoid confrontation, that can sometimes make for an uncomfortable situation. "For planners that book through Restaurant Connect—we will work on their behalf to facilitate the feedback, whether it's positive or negative, to mitigate that awkwardness," Lange adds.
At Restaurant Connect, Lange oversees the National Event Dining Database (NEDD), working with planners free of charge before events to find restaurants that fit their needs—along with positive planner reviews—and then following up afterward to input her client's feedback (both good and bad) into NEDD.
That being said, if you still feel as though you aren't being heard, taking to an online review site can be a last resort. "If you've taken the first step and the second step [reaching out to the restaurant and its general manager], in this case, I would say go for it," Lange says. "If you get to that point where you're going to a review site, really pinpoint the specifics of the experience, rather than just bashing, and use it to caution others."
How have you handled an experience like the one my planner friend had? Would you go to a review site or do you rely on word of mouth from other event professionals? I would love your feedback.
Meetings + Events