Over the weekend my family (immediate and extended) all decided to try out one of the old-school Eugene Italian restaurants. My parents had not been there in years, as in the past they had felt  service and food were not worth going. Recently though a wonderful new wood fire only organic bakery opened up in association with the restaurant. The baked goods are so good – its hard to imagine that restaurant isn’t also good.

So Sunday at around 3:30 we called the restaurant and tried to make a reservation. Their web site states the only make reservations for parties of 8 or more. We were going to be a party of 9. At 3:30 they said it wouldn’t be a problem, but they didn’t take reservations same day, and we should call back at 4:30 and talk to someone from the front of the house. What? This person who works there can’t take care of it? He can’t talk to the front of the house and let them know?  OK, I guess we should have known from this interaction that the restaurant has some customer issues.

So at 5:00 pm on the dot we show up. There are already about 15-20 people there in front of us waiting to be seated as the restaurant opens. We wait in the short line and let the hostess know there will be 9 of us. There are still plenty of tables left and the restaurant looks to be half full. The hostess stares at me rudely, open mouthed, when I say there are 9 of us. There are plenty of obvious tables that could be put together to accommodate us. She looks stressed and runs to talk to someone else. They both come back after surveying the restaurant and let us know that it will be an hour wait. I look confused and she repeats that it will be an hour, as they apparently need to call another server to come in to deal with us. What?

Meanwhile there area few more groups behind us, lined up waiting to be seated. When I am told of the hour wait, my family decides to go elsewhere. The restaurant then proceeds, right in front of us, to seat a party of 2, a party of 4, a party of 3 and lastly another party of 4. So 13 people get seated AFTER we are told they can not possibly handle 9 of us. Needless to say they lost us as customers.

So why would a small business do that? Why would a business turn away customers that were willing to pay them good money? My parents go out to eat a lot. Bringing them in, giving them a good experience, serving them good food, would have earned this restaurant 2 very loyal customers who usually bring lots of other people with them. My husband and I also like to go out to eat, and our kids although young, are pretty good in restaurants. We also could have been loyal customers.

So why did they turn us away? I think the front of house staff couldn’t be bothered with moving tables around. I think they saw there were people behind us and decided that they didn’t want or need us as customers. In my opinion, you have to be either extremely successful, or incredibly stupid to turn away paying customers. Who knows?

Sabrina Parsons, aka Mommy CEO


AvatarSabrina Parsons

Sabrina has served as CEO of Palo Alto Software since 2007.