Frank Bonanno asks: "Is it my fault somebody stunk up the bathroom?"
Frank Bonanno is one of the most successful chefs and restaurateurs in Denver, presiding over a commonwealth of food temples (and one speakeasy) that, for the most part, generate positive reviews and comments from professional restaurant critics and amateur key strokers alike. But even the best restaurants make mistakes, and Bonanno's restaurants -- Mizuna, Luca d'Italia, Bones, Osteria Marco, Russell's Smokehouse, Green Russell and Lou's Food Bar -- aren't immune from the occasional slip-ups.
Shit happens. And when you're dining at a restaurant -- any restaurant -- and your experience is legitimately lackluster, you have every right to complain. But when your server approaches your table and asks for your feedback, and you answer that "everything was peachy," when, in fact, you're seething inside because you don't have the wherewithal to speak up, you have no one to blame but yourself.
"If you're unhappy, we want to know about it on the spot," stresses Bonanno. "We're in this business to make people happy, but if you have a criticism, we encourage you to tell us about it while you're at the restaurant -- to give us the opportunity to correct our mistakes." Cooks, he adds, "just want you to love their food. Why else cook?"
And, as a diner, it's also your responsibility to behave appropriately. Propping your naked, stinky feet on a table top is never acceptable, and bitching that you don't appreciate the bathroom's choice of paint color is indicative of someone who is better left at home watching infomercials, Cops or Demi Moore in Striptease.
Bonanno, who's worked in this business for years, has heard it all, including a complaint from a diner who walked into one of his restaurant bathrooms and promptly groused that someone prior had -- GASP! -- pooped. Another diner inexplicably whined that his steak tartare was too rare.
On his personal blog, Bonanno often writes thought-provoking pieces that delve into restaurant industry issues, and in his latest post, which is titled "Is it my fault somebody stunk up the bathroom?" he writes about customer complaints, and the ideal way for us, as diners, to go about expressing our dissatisfaction.
But he goes even further, encouraging people to offset the negative with the positive: "For every complaint committed to writing, the critic should have to write two complimentary letters, expressed just as eloquently, and sent to alternate, deserving businesses. Don't be that guy -- be a good guy. A good human being," he writes in his post. That's some of the best advice I've heard -- from anyone.
Bonanno's entire post, reprinted with his permission, is a must-read for industry folks and diners alike. Read it on the following page.