The Greatest Customer Complaint Response Ever

Meet Chef Jonathan Justus, your new restaurant hero

I had lunch today with my friends Emma and Senor Esparza.  They ate at Justus Drugstore last night.  Justus is on the outermost outskirts of what could be considered Kansas City.  In the few years that it has been open it has developed a reputation of being well worth the drive.  I personally have never dined there.  A little to pricey for my blood, but after reading what I am about to share you will see why I have never felt a restaurant owner was more deserving of my hard earned tips.

They were telling me about how incredible the food and wine was and how the chef joined them for a glass.  Then Emma full of glee interjected with a story.  She said she had read an incredibly negative review.  As we waited in line at Oklahoma Joe’s for America’s best meal served inside a gas station, she conveyed the details of this complaint.  After coming home and reading it, I can say she did not do it justice (HA! Get it a complaint about Justus Drugstore).  Enough of my puns, here is the review from Yelp!.

Read the full post at Restaurant Laughs

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is a restaurant marketing and training consultant based in Kansas City, MO. He writes a series of 9 blogs collectively known as The Hospitality Formula Network and is the author of "Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips" and "Building Your Brand With Facebook"

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  • Jenn

    Thank you for standing up for Justus (no pun intended – really). Justus & Co have brought civility & refinement back home to the birthplace of corporate chain dining – Gilbert & Robinson – KC’s gift to the world. For those cheap S.O.B.’s that don’t get it please go to The Olive Garden and let me on my anniversary take your table with humble & sincere appreciation for the culinary art on display.

    • tipsfortips

      This comment just made my morning. There will never be another GR in Kansas City, but Kansas City owes a huge debt of gratitude to them. Without Mr Gilbert and Mr Robinson Kansas City would never have the dynamic restaurant scene it is blessed with. I grew up hearing about them from my Grandmother who had worked for them. When I tell people that at one time a single company ran the restaurants on the Plaza, the stadiums, and the airport they can’t even imagine. I only wish their history was better documented. Since their legacy was tainted by franchised burgers it has been tough to watch. I agree that it would be great to see Chef Justus pick up this mantle.

  • nativenapkin

    I was on an airplane once and struck up a conversation with the woman seated next to me. The conversation eventually turned to what we both did for work. I told her I managed a Michelin-Starred restaurant, and that opened the flood gate. She went on and on about one of the finer restaurants in our city of destination, how awful her meal was when she had eaten there, poor service, bad food. On and on. The place in question is one I had dined at several times, and was always spectacular; and I am not easily impressed, so I was puzzled. I asked her when it was she had dined because my meals had always been stellar. Eleven years ago! This woman had been telling this story to anyone who would listen to her for eleven years.

    It seems to me that Chef Justus could have bought a lot of good will for the price of 1 basket of bread.

    • tipsfortips

      At the same time, you probably identified her within minutes as someone who takes too much joy from complaining. I know that we are constantly told that one dissatisfied customer will tell a million friends. What I think is left out is that too often those million friends know that person is a complainer and don’t listen. I doubt your opinion of the restaurant you enjoyed was damaged. When Jesus walked on water there were people complaining that he couldn’t swim. This guest would have complained about something else if she had gotten the bread.

  • Becky

    I have a pet peeve about passive aggressive shoppers of any sort. If you don’t like what’s happening, do something. Don’t ask for bread when what you want is your entree – ask if the entree normally takes this long if it’s taking a long time, for pete’s sake. This diner makes it sound like bread is the issue. It’s not.

    And just because a staff member doesn’t smile at you right away doesn’t mean she hates you. This guy is just someone reaching for all the tiny things the place did wrong to prove their point. I can say that I often have several orders on my mind and hear the printer spitting out more orders while I’m waiting for someone who’s particularly chatty to finish ordering their dinner, and when I’m busy, I have a look on my face of concentration. People have mistaken it for a frown, but it’s not (and don’t EVEN get me started on the people who say, “How come you never smile?” as if they’ve spent more than 3 minutes at my full bar and can make that absolute presumption).

    The barely literate review and the chip-on-the-shoulder attitude are pretty transparent. This is someone who went to a restaurant where they expected to be pampered and fawned over, and when it was busy, decided they somehow just weren’t “good enough” to warrant all the attention they wanted. The bread was just their little passive aggressive digging tool. They decided to sit and stew instead of making their issues known for fear they’d be, I don’t know, ridiculed? told to be quiet? thought of as rubes? – something. The civil thing to do is to let your server know that things aren’t right. One can do that in a polite manner and get the satisfaction of being attended to immediately. I should know; I’m the queen of the screwed up dinner. It’s weird – but I’m the one who often gets dinner comped because they messed it up somehow.

    I’m sorry they had a negative experience, and maybe they should consider, like Jenn said, the Olive Garden or Fazoli’s next time. I’ve never been to Justus Drugstore and now I want to go, BECAUSE of this review. I’ve only not returned to a place because of one negative experience EVER (REALLY bad food poisoning). I generally give places three chances to alienate me (one classic, old venue here that everyone raves about and that I truly wanted to love has done that).

    The fact that the owner called him the next day says a great deal about the establishment, including the fact that the server must have brought it to his attention. My guess is that the conversation went nothing like the heavily edited citation above. It takes a lot for an owner/chef to tell someone to never come back, so I’m guessing this guy was a jerk.

    And he got what he wanted: validation that they didn’t want him there.

    • tipsfortips

      Well put and I always seem to get a smile from you when I come in (the lunch crew can be a different story).

      • Becky

        The lunch crew has changed. You should be getting smiles from them now, too – but I prefer you sit at the bar when I’m working!

  • skippymom

    I don’t get the sense of entitlement regarding free bread and here is why: Growing up we always had bread with our meal. Be it rolls, french, italian or plain white bread my Mom served it with our meal – but [and it is a big but] it is an accompaniment not a full course to sate part of your appetite. In our home you had best eat all your dinner before you reach for a second piece of bread Bub. :D

    This “give me something for nothing” attitude is incredibly annoying and I applaud the owner for explaining the reasoning behind not serving another basket of bread. The guest acted like a petulant 3 year old whose sibling got a second lolly when he didn’t. How could he even enjoy his meal [and his spouse on their anniversary no less] whilst busy perusing other’s tables? Laughable actually.

    I have to agree – if he wants unlimited bread any of the Darden entities will gladly fulfill his yeasty neediness.

    • tipsfortips

      For all the times I hear guests raving about bread and asking for more, I would think bakeries would be far more popular.

  • Jenn

    Last year we celebrated our anniversary at Justus and we plan on making this a tradition. It’s not just the food – local, sustainable, etc – but the impeccable service that completes the dining experiecne at Justus. The server narrates the evening by letting you know that their food is slow food, and that you should order an appetizer and plan on having a 2 to 3 hour experience. The menu is clear about the no substitution policy. Yes, it’s a bit olde world and that is what makes it lovely. Trust the chef, trust the server, you are in their house eating their food.

    • Becky

      And that makes me want to go there even more. I love a leisurely dinner. We sometimes go to dinner and ask the server to take her or his time between our courses so we can really savor the evening.

      I guess in November I may have to change my anniversary venue from bluestem to Justus. It’ll be hard – bluestem is my absolute favorite!

  • jjskck

    Justus is definitely slow food, and it’s wonderful. It’s my favorite restaurant in the loosely defined KC metro. (Becky, if you love Bluestem I’m confident you’ll love Justus as well.)

    The expectation of free…well, anything beyond tap water is a bit presumptuous. If I recall, they provide a decent-sized basket of bread as it is.

    That said, dining is often about expectations. If they expected a bust-your-gut gorgefest and instead got sensibly-sized portions, I can see them being a little disappointed. Ditto if they had movie tickets for 90 minutes after they sat down.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is if their review was, “If you want a meal in less than 3 hours, and you don’t want to wait between courses, and you want to get absolutely stuffed, this might not be the place for you,” that would be acceptable.* It informs the reader as to their expectations going in, and Justus would simply say, “Yeah. Fair enough. That’s not who we are.” Instead, they moan about not getting enough free stuff. And that’s hella lame.

    *This does not excuse them from doing 5 minutes of cursory internet research or asking one of their friends who recommended the restaurant what it’s all about. It was their anniversary dinner, after all.

    • tipsfortips

      I agree. I get guests frequently who try to split entrees or have an appetizer for their meal, only to find out that we didn’t follow the supersized meal trend. Huge meals actually often have higher profit margins because they are cheaper ingredients with a higher price tag.

  • yellowcat

    They were obviously out of their element and were better suited to a corporate restaurant. I’m glad he called them back and told them to stay away. If I owned a restaurant, I’d cut down on the freeloaders and the jerks.

  • LR

    I loved this post because it is so amazing how many people think and expect some part of the meal (especially bread) to be complimentary. I work in a restaurant that charges for bread no matter what. Even if you just want a couple sticks with your salad or meal. The bread is homemade too which means its not an immediate give even if you order it. If a table sits and immediately demands bread I take so much joy in telling them we bake it to order and it’s not complimentary, and asking if they would like to buy one. It’s my little way of putting these cheap, entitled, and demanding assholes in their place. I’ve worked in restaurants before where they give free bread and it’s sick to see these cheap and greedy people abuse it.

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  • Waiting

    I’ve never worked anywhere with free bread. I can only imagine how annoying it is to watch people eat it instead of an appetizer or soup/salad. I have a soft spot for bread myself, so if I wanted more I would just pay for it. I don’t expect anyone to give me anything for free.

    When people ask me for free stuff excessively, I take it upon myself to implement a charge. So on the third time someone asks me for a large side of lemons/jalapenos, I tell them it’s $1. They usually decline. Keep in mind, I’ve already given them at least $1 worth for free.

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