Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Response from The Bent Brick.

Dear Nubian,

I'm very sorry about your experience at my restaurant on Saturday night.  As a seasoned chef and restauranteur, I am accutely aware that all of my guests arrive expecting to eat fantastic food, have a great time and leave fully sated and happy.  My goal is to satisfy every guest that dines with us whether they are having a few drinks or Eating The Whole Menu.  I take all of my customer's feedback, positive and negative, very seriously and I respond to all feedback personally after I discuss the issue with my staff.  

With this said, I must certainly apologize for the miscommunication generated by the server at your table.  She misrepresented the Eat The Whole Menu at The Bent Brick which unfortunately ruined for you what has historically been an epically great experience for all of the guests who have ordered it. Apparently your server led you to believe that we strongly encourage large parties to Eat The Whole Menu.  This is not the the point that should have been communicated.  We like our customers to order however they wish to order.  It's certainly fun for large parties to Eat The Whole menu but how our customers enjoy our menu is entirely up to them.
 It is very unfortunate that your server stated that there was no manager on duty when you requested to speak to one.  We always keep 2 managers on duty at all times, one in the kitchen and one on the floor. There were, in fact 2 managers present when you left on Saturday.   Her lack of communication on theses two points are egregious indeed, and will be addressed.

We have trained our waitstaff to let our customers know that the Eat The Whole Menu is our version of what would normally be a "grand tasting menu" at high end restaurants.  It consists of 5 to 6 amuse, 10 courses and 3 desserts.  It is a big experience in that it involves eating more than 12 ounces of food and it typically takes 2 hours for 2 people to eat at a relaxed pace and 3 plus hours for 6 or more people.  This equates to 1 course every 7 to 10 minutes.  We think that this is the proper pace for a night out to dinner. We believe that if you are at The Bent Brick to Eat The Whole Menu it is our obligation to let you enjoy it.  If you want it expedited we will happily do it but there is a limit to how fast most non-competitive eaters can injest their food.  

As it clearly states on the menu, ($55 each, 10% of which gets donated to Blanchett House) it is designed so that everyone at the table gets one menu.  The value perception on the Eat The Whole Menu has been so positive that most of the people who get it the first time return to eat it again. . . except that they want to split the menu amongst 2 or more people when they return.  This is a fair request and we like to try to do everything we can to accomodate our guests. Unfortunately, accomodating this request can sometimes cause undo problems. 

Your table contained 8 guests; 2 people ordered a la cart and the other 6 people split 3 tasting menus. At $55 per tasting menu that equates to $27.50 per person.  Yes, this is real money and we don't want to be responsible for it being mis-spent at The Bent Brick.  But this is not $55 per person. This is $27.50 and it is what you would typically spend on 2 and a half appetizers at any decent restauant in Portland.  Some large parties split Eat The Whole Menu in order to sample our entire menu and reorder the dishes they want more of. Judging from your reaction you were too displeased at the portion size of the split dishes to consider reordering.  Possibly, you chose to split the Eat The Whole Menu among your table to save money.   This is a valid move but you should not have been lead to believe that you would get full in doing this.  

It is unfortunate that you came in to The Bent Brick expecting us to comp your corkage because one of your party made the wine they brought in.  We don't expect, and rarely receive, free wine or services from wineries we don't know.  You shouldn't expect free services from unfamiliar parties either.  We have very many close contacts with local winemakers.  We have built our wine program around those relationships.  We treat these winemakers as our friends and family and they return to The Bent Brick frequently to taste their wines on our draft system.  You can talk to any of the fantastic local winemakers who have engaged us about our keg wine system and they will tell you volumes about how well we treat them when they come to The Bent Brick.  But, it is impolite and disrespectful to walk in to a restaurant that you are unfamiliar with and expect them to give away services.

I do sincerely apologize that your server on Saturday did not communicate clearly with you how the Eat The Whole Menu should have been applied to your party.  That mistake ruined what should have been a fun and enjoyable evening for you.   I appreciate your feedback on this and it will be used constuctively.  I assure you that I will address how this particular issue gets handled in the future so that our efforts to accomodate our guest will end up pleasing them.  I know that we probably won't be seeing you again at The Bent Brick but your feedback will be used to improve our service in the future.  I hope that you will put this response, unedited, on your blog.  I will put this exchange on the Bent Brick blog so that our followers can see how we are trying to improve their experience night in and night out.

Regards, Scott  

*This post is unedited


  1. I wonder if he could have come across anymore condescending? The comment, "there is a limit to how fast most non-competitive eaters can eat their food" made me see red. What a pompous jerk.

  2. What a condescending idiot. He needs to step out of his little ivory tower and step into the real world for a few days..

  3. It's "restaurateur" and "ingest," Scott.

  4. He's OBVIOUSLY not experienced in dealing with unhappy, unsatisfied customers.

    ...and he failed 4th grade spelling.

    ...and he failed 1st grade reading comprehension. He needs to think of it this way...3 couples want to share 3 orders of the tasting menu. Not 6 people want to share one effin' order.

    ...and he completely glossed over the fact that people in your party waited TWO HOURS for their dinner, which wasn't part of the tasting menu.

    And how self-righteous of him to mention the charitable contribution. Makes me want to write the Archdiocese of Portland and share your experience with them saying, "Do you really want businesses such as this supporting your ministries?"

    ...and I think I'll shut up now...before I really go ballistic and email this @$$wipe and offer him and his entire staff a course on customer the rate of what you paid for your meal...PER HOUR!

  5. He took the time to respond and obviously put some thought into it, unfortunately he is completely wrong.

    In the first few paragraphs he comes across as caring but I think he builds a head of steam and comes off as arrogant as the rest of his response progresses.

    In regards to his completely false statements about corkage charges and industry courtesies, there's no point in posting a rebuttal. I believe he is lying.

  6. ...speaking of bad grammar...should be "6 people WANTING to share one..."

    My fingers and my brain aren't communicating to each other as fast as they should be, obviously!

  7. *Warning: The following comment does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the owner of this website, and is merely the smart-assed response of a Marshmallow.

    Wow, this started off so good and then went all to hell in the last 1/3. I can overlook the really lousy spelling. Although I probably have never spelled my own job title wrong, I'm sure it could happen. Shit happens.

    However, there is a serious level of "dumb" in any apology that includes a "but" in it.

    "Dear patron of our restaurant,
    We're sorry that something was miscommunicated to you, (BUT YOU WERE A RUDE, INCONSIDERATE BITCH!) and we know that other customers (WHO WERE NOT RUDE, INCONSIDERATE BITCHES!) have had nearly ecstatic experiences at our restaurant. We hope that you (YES, YOU, YOU F*CKING RUDE, INCONSIDERATE BITCH!) will come back again and experience all that we have to offer, unless, you want to Eat The Whole Menu, in which case (YOU CAN DIE AND GO STRAIGHT TO HELL!).


    Someone who lives in a world of his own creation and has no care for people who decide that they want to part with their hard earned cash in order to get a decent meal."

    Or am I being too judgmental?
    I still wouldn't eat in this place. I like going to restaurants that actually want my business and don't treat me like they're doing me a favor by selling me food.

    (and forgive the misuse of quotation marks. I'm doing this on an iPhone)

  8. What an absolute asshat.

    And, totally agree with the above comment noting that any apology that includes the word "But ..." ... isn't an apology at all.

    (and somebody owes you a birthday cupcake, at the very least)


  9. Dear Bent Brick,
    please keep the name, it is remarkably suitable.

    Here is how it's done:
    We sincerely apologize that your experience blahblah we appreciate your feedback blahblah we would like to offer you blahblah and hope that you will consider honoring us with the privilege of your patronage in the future.

  10. Dear Scott,

    Spelling and grammar aside, I'd like to respond to your note.

    1. The Eat The Whole Menu should have been an epic experience, that's the whole reason Nubian was there. Having ordered this for myself in the past (shared with one other person), I was so full, I couldn't even eat the 2nd or 3rd entree, much less the desserts. When 3 couples order the same entree, does it come out on one plate for the couples to split between them? Each couple ordered their own menu, these should have been served as such, individually. Have you tried to split a small plate of food 6 ways? I've ordered this menu in the past (see the previous post and my blog) and found it more than enough food for one couple. This was not the case this time. The portions were CONSIDERABLY smaller. You cheaped out :( I was astonished and embarrassed for your establishment. Especially considering we were a table of 3 bloggers and 6 Tweeters, and I knew anyone listening was going to hear about it.

    2. You misunderstood: The time to eat the whole menu was not the problem, it was the fact that the 2 at our table who didn't order it had to sit there hungry and wait nearly 2 hours for their meal. Unacceptable.

    3. $27.50/person should have been enough money spent (on food alone) to expect to leave with a full belly and not want to go out for a second "real" dinner.

    4. The waitress was clearly trying to sell us on eating the whole menu and was even more clearly annoyed with us for splitting it between each couple. You're a tavern, people should be able to come in and comfortably order a small plate and a drink without feeling pressured to spend $55/person.

    5. As for the manager on duty. Anna was sitting at the bar having a drink before 10pm. I tried to get her attention but she quicly ran out the door and into a cab. As for the kitchen manager, I have no idea who that was, but your FOH manager was gone while the restaurant was full of "patrons".

    6. It wasn't just the server who ruined the dining experience, it was the kitchen too. If we had each ordered the tasting menu, would we still have received it one big plate to split amongst the six of us? Why were three separate orders served as one?

    7. As a member of the industry myself, I've honestly never been to a restaurant that didn't show some consideration to that. I'm glad you treat the dozen or so local producers you have on tap well, but every winery I know of will not only comp your tastings when you visit them, they'll offer you an industry discount as well. Quid pro quo. No? No.

    8. As for improving guest's experience in the future, my first suggestion would be putting "NO SHARING" next to the Eat the Whole Menu for $55 price tag.

    9. Strongly considering a retraction of my recommendation on my blog.

    10. :~(


  11. I especially like how Scotty tries put all the the blame at the feet at of his waitress.

    With all that's already been said, I'd like to add that The Bent Brick can go get bent.

  12. Wow! At first I thought I would give him big points for responding so quickly (or at all). But, what a condescending and extremely ungracious response to your dissatisfaction. The only thing he really apologized for was the lousy server. A good manager would have been overseeing the dining room and ensuring the customers were satisfied. Instead, he left you to have a miserable time with a bad server and then writes a condescending letter that he'll now proudly post on the restaurant's blog??? (That last bit has me truly perplexed. It's just smug, if you ask me.)

  13. I totally agree with The Defiant Marshmallow and Sip With Me. He went from blaming the server to blaming you. At no point did they accept responsibility for your legitimate grievances. And those are restaurants that can't survive because they don't listen to constructive criticisms.

  14. Pickleope, that's exactly what I was thinking.
    I am going to find his blog and respond there too. What a cheeky reply.

  15. It started off so well and turned into the most passive-aggressive letter I've ever read. You're not fooling anyone, dude. You just sunk yourself into an even deeper PR hole.

    I honestly can't believe that restaurants haven't learned how to respond to customer grievances in a time of Twitter and Yelp yet.

  16. Oh: and has anyone found his blog yet? Post a URL!

  17. As far as I can tell, there is no blog for this establishment. Scott does however also own Park Kitchen, their blog can be found here but has no mention of this exchange. So much to showing how they're trying to improve things.

  18. About 4 years ago, we had a new restaurant open in Alameda, a relatively small city. It rapidly became a very popular spot. Interesting menu, great wine list, good service, all the proper components. The restaurant also had a program where they fed "anyone who wanted a hot meal" every year on Christmas for free. Talk about giving back to your community!

    Last year, I had 3 times in a row when the meal and service was unsatisfactory. I wrote a personal letter to the owner and chef outlining why I had been dissatisfied and my concern was to keep an outstanding establishment on the right track. His response was delightful. None of the nonsense about "you should not have expected", etc. He also enclosed a gift certificate for $100 for us to use at the restaurant. I took the certificate to the restaurant right before Christmas and asked him to put that toward his "open for Christmas Day" efforts. Nubian, there's a right way and a wrong way. I'd not go back to the restaurant if I was you.

  19. This letter is condescending and written by someone who is suffering from self importance. Conclusion=just take your trade elsewhere and tell your friends to do the same.


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