Restaurant and food critic Ken Stewart told readers of his Feb. 2 newsletter that he rarely gives restaurants a bad review.
The "Guam Food Guy" then proceeded to give thumbs down to the lamb and service at a "popular Tumon eatery " which on Jan. 20 served him an entree of lamb chops he described as fatty and "just awful."
Stewart wrote that he drew the condition of his dinner to the attention of the server and (trainee) manager (from off-island) "" who thanked him for the comment but still presented him with the bill.
The Journal contacted Stewart who revealed the restaurant was in fact "" Watami U.S.A. Guam which does business as T.G.I. Friday’s. He told the paper "We enjoy T.G.I. Friday’s for the high-energy ambiance and the entertaining servers who always have fun ways of engaging us in conversations. Saturday night was definitely busy and all levels of the restaurant were packed with tourists military and local residents. Our appetizers and beverages were delivered without incident "" it was my lamb entrÃ©e from the Steakhouse Selects that spoiled an otherwise typically fun night."
When advised of the write-up "" and the scene of the crime "" Remko Engelman business manager for T.G.I. Friday’s; and James E. Howard general manager for T.G.I. Friday’s; immediately and courageously invited Stewart back for another sampling of lamb and a second review. Engelman said "I am happy that he is bringing this up and we will be the first to grab this opportunity to improve our service."
The rematch took place on the evening of Feb. 12 when Stewart was attended to by server Jennifer Salcedo (See "Focus" on Page 24.).
Stewart told the Journal the lamb chops "" and the service "" on the second visit were like the "difference between night and day."
He said "The meat was tender with the excess fat trimmed. The balsamic garlic marinade was intimately seared to the meat creating a carmelization that had me nibbling bits off the rib bones. The presentation was much closer to the food shot on the menu placemat than it had been for the first meal. The entree is well-conceived with chops crowned by sweet vinegar red onions and drizzled with capers in a rich demi-glace. It comes partnered with creamy cheddar cheese mashed potatoes. This time my quality expectations were met and my service expectations were exceeded by my server Jen who exuded a confidence that truly charmed."
Howard on duty at the time of Stewart’s repeat visit told the Journal "The second time around Ken surely received what we call "The Friday’s experience" "¦ great food and drinks served by friendly people in a warm fun atmosphere. It was our pleasure to take the challenge and accomplish our goal to turn the negative experience into a positive one."
Both Stewart and T.G.I. Friday’s took the opportunity to share some thoughts on hospitality on Guam.
Stewart said restauranteurs should take note.
"I believe my bad service experience is not that uncommon. However it was made worse when no corrective action was taken at the time of my complaint. Many restaurants should have policies in place that empower the servers and managers to address customer complaints and concerns. Restaurants need to keep customers happy and every restaurant must constantly work to do just that.
"T.G.I. Friday’s did the right thing in having me return for a second tasting and they made it right. There are many customers who do not return to a restaurant after paying for a disappointing meal. This is where restaurants need to elevate their customer service awareness and this can be easily done by servers noticing that the customer hasn’t touched their food "" or may be seen picking at it "" obviously not enjoying it. Proactive intervention by the restaurant’s management can win over "soured" customers. This new level of customer service will separate the excellent dining experiences from the good and mediocre ones."
In recognition of the importance of the gastronomical experience on Guam "" so dear to many Journal readers "" the Journal and T.G.I. Friday’s will offer prizes to the readers who send in the most memorable stories related to eating out. The contest will be judged by Engelman and Stewart. (See box for details.)
Engelman said T.G.I. Friday’s was happy to have Stewart on the premises again and also to partner with the Journal for the competition. "We support any initiative to improve service in Guam. Not because it is bad but because it can be great. Guam’s hospitality is an important strength of the island that should be cultivated at any opportunity."MBJ
Dine out on your story. Readers can win:
One MBJ annual subscription and one TGI Friday’s $50 dinner certificate for the reader who describes:
1) The best restaurant experience (or a venue that turned a complaint into a great experience)
2) The worst restaurant experience
One MBJ annual subscription for a member of the hospitality industry for:
1) The most positive experience of customers from the back of the house
2)The worst customer.
To be judged by Remko Engelman and Ken Stewart (their decisions are final)
Deadline for submissions: 5 p.m. on Friday March 16. Send your stories to [email protected]
Winners and the winning stories will be announced in the Marianas Business Journal of April 2.