Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bitter Bloggers: The New Better Business Bureau!

Emeril Lagasse may be a famous chef, but his restaurant in Orlando, Florida SUCKS!

There, I said it, and in doing so I have joined the ranks of folks with a blog who have used their social media platforms to air complaints against companies and services that have have not held up their end of the merchant/customer bargain. I am in good company. Well read bloggers such as Joseph Jaffe and Chris Brogan have all been pushed to the brink and then used their popular platforms to blast businesses that FAIL them as customers.

Now it is my turn, and this time it's PERSONAL!

My girlfriend is taking Culinary classes at Johnson & Wales University (where my son is also a Junior) so "chef talk" is commonplace in my world, and we like to check out well-known chefs and restaurants whenever we have the opportunity. With that in mind, since we were spending Christmas at Disneyworld in Orlando and we had never been to one of Emeril's restaurants, I made reservations for Christmas dinner at Emeril's Orlando. What should have been a pleasant and enjoyable evening turned into a culinary catastrophe that left us hungry and disappointed.

Service With A Smile?

All started well, with the Maitre'd seating us and the THREE "servers" who would be our caretakers for the meal pleasantly and professionally introducing themselves to us. Despite having THREE servers at our beck and call, Emeril's Orlando managed to do something that I have never experienced in my entire life of dining. Yes, folks, I am not a picky person at all, but this was truly a first (and the last time we will eat at an "Emeril" establishment).

I am a vegetarian and often end up ordering "off the menu" if there is no vegetarian entree choice. This is rarely an issue and, as expected, the waiter confirmed that the chef would be happy to prepare a grilled vegetable plate for me. Perfect. My girlfriend, who is most decidedly NOT a vegetarian, happily ordered from the menu - a ravioli dish. We enjoyed our wine and salads, and noted that the wait for our entrees had seemed to cross the line into the territory of "taking a bit too long" but hey, it was Christmas and we were certainly not in any rush.

The Order and the Disorder...

When our food finally did arrive, it arrived with this shocker: they did not have the ravioli Sue had ordered (FROM THE MENU) so they had taken it upon themselves to go ahead and prepare an alternate dish for her. WTF? With no warning, and no opportunity to simply choose something else from the menu they decided to serve her a meal that had no relation whatsoever to what she had ordered. The "substitute" dish was a poorly presented slap-dash mix of flat ribbon noodles, some grilled vegetables (that were likely stolen from my vegetable plate) and a thin veil of plain tasting tomato sauce. Huh?

One of our three servers explained that they ran out of the ravioli she had ordered and she should "taste" this dish and if she didn't like it she could order something else. Huh??? Now, with my food already served and her "surprise" dish in front of her, Sue could decide to wait another half hour for something else, so that she and I could effectively dine alone, me eating while she is waiting, and she eating while I digest... But I digress...

From Minor Error to Major Fail

Needless to say, Sue did not like the odd off-menu choice that had been made on her behalf, nor did she care to watch me eat while she waited for something else. The apologetic spokesman for the restaurant appeared to be the one of our three servers who, sadly, had a speech impediment that was getting worse by the minute due to his nervousness. As he spit, sputtered and stuttered his embarrassment at the mistake (I am NOT exaggerating) and offered to remove the cost of the unwanted entree from our bill, we assured him it was not his fault (though, of course, in part it was). Despite our very vocal dismay, none of the on duty management visited our table, and we had to go to the front desk twice to air our complaint to the same Maitre'd who had so nicely seated us, and who claimed to be one of the managers. He was useless, and offered no explanation or excuse, and simply said, "we took your entrees off the bill, what else do you want me to do?" MAJOR FAIL. You are supposed to make us feel like a valued customer.

What we wanted, was a decent enjoyable meal. One that, in fact, we were well willing to "overpay for" (based on other folks' reviews of Emeril's). Not paying for something we did not eat and did not enjoy (or even ask for) is hardly a substitute.

What Happens Anywhere... Ends Up On Twitter!

So, we paid for our wine and salads, and left Emeril's Orlando hungry and wholly disappointed. In the old days, that would have been the end of it. Instead, standing outside the restaurant I began my blogger's revenge with this simple Tweet.

And now I am following up my Tweet with this blog post. If in doing so, I have saved one person from having a similar dining disaster, then my work here is done. Thanks for reading, and for letting me vent.

What do you think? Is one's personal blog a valid place to air such complaints? Is the "Bitter Blogger Bureau" the new "Better Business Bureau"? Should it be? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and of course, if you have your own Emeril's experience or opinion, please share that as well.

Photo Credit: © Hugh O'Neill -

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]