How thin is your margin of error?

My wife and I consider The American Restaurant our go-to restaurant for special events; we have ever since our net worth became greater than a blank check and a three-day float.

But two off outings in a row – including a ruined New Year’s Eve dinner – has moved the Crown Center classic out of the “no brainer” category into “not now/maybe never?”

New Year’s Eve was the worst. High expectations.  Left a fun party for a highly anticipated late night of intimate dining and dancing.  Dressed to the nines (Linda beautiful as always and me, well, Cary had nothing to fear nor did innocent bystanders).  And ready for a great meal by Chef Gold.

What we got was “meh” food, incredibly slow service and no attention from our server (at one point he did the reverse “Walk like an Egyptian” to avoid eye contact towards the end of a 30-minute span during which no food was delivered to our table).  We eventually had to enlist the butter boy into being our emissary. And then all we got was an incredulous look when we balked at receiving two courses at the same time when the food finally arrived.

With Linda nauseated from no food (it’s now 11:15 pm), a dense cloud of forbidden cigarette smoke in the ladies lounge and the (mutually shared) bile of having a good night out, we left early and headed for home, two surprised dogs, shrimp marinara TV dinners and an irritable take on the AR.

And the thing is, it didn’t have to be that way.

IF … the restaurant had kept us informed about what was going on … acknowledged the problem and the difficulties it presented … sent an appropriate representative to confer with us … recognized our goal was getting something resembling food, not slices of bread falling like autumn leaves … and asked if there was anything that could be done to restore our confidence … things might have turned out differently.

And for us coalitionists, the key take-away may be that our margin of error on delivering the goods – and fixing problems when quality falls short – is slim. We had a two-decade investment of good times in the American, and quality issues have put a serious wobble in the relationship.  Most of the people we seek to engage don’t have a similar 20-year reservoir of confidence and good will in the institutions we may represent.

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