Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Letter I sent to the Cheesecake Factory

This afternoon, I thought it would be a good idea to take my mother, who has been recovering from a stroke to dinner and to visit with family, who she hasn’t seen since her disabling stroke. We decided to go to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, which is about 25 miles from my home. She has never gone. But it's one of my favorite restaurants. I was confident that my mother would enjoy the food, the service, and the atmosphere of your fine establishment, the same as I have for many years. Sadly, shortly after arriving at the Cheesecake, not only were my mother's expectations shattered, I, along with my father and sister, were highly disappointed as well.

For starters, we were seated by a very nice, yet interesting young man. After he sat us, he offered each of us menus. Being that I am totally blind, and I frequent your restaurant often, I asked the host to bring me a Braille menu, a service that I know you guys have available for your blind customers. Well, he said, "A Braille menu?" I replied, "Yes, a Braille menu?" Strangely enough, he repeated his initial question about two more times. He said, “What is Braille?”

Finally, my dad informed him that Braille is for the blind. My dad further explained that Braille is what the blind read instead of print. Boom, the host got it. His response to the lesson he had got from my father was an apology and an admission of his ignorance. And I mean that literally. The host actually smiled and chuckled and said, "I'm sorry... I'm quite ignorant." I’m glad that he understood that his lack of knowledge is indeed ignorance in its finest display.

Well, the young man brought the Braille menu out. And I decided to look over the fact that we had to spend a couple of minutes educating the host regarding blind people and Braille. Plus, I wanted to get to the food. I figured I would let that entire interaction slide for the moment. However, I was making a mental note to contact your corporate office and suggest that you offer diversity and disability awareness to your staff. (Contract me… I’ll be glad to do it.)

The second thing that happened in your fine establishment was what sent me over the edge. The waiter came out and asked our drink orders. Then this young man, that you guys have hired to do a competent job, brought the drinks back to the table, but failed to place them on the table. He dropped a glass of tea on my mother's shoulder, causing the heavy glass to strike her and then the tea wasted all over her shoulder, chest, stomach and lap. That accident was out of line. My mother's outfit was ruined and also her experience.

However, I can deal with accidents. Although we don't expect waiters to do such a thing as he did, I understand that we, humans, are not perfect. But what drove me to utter anger was his response. He tried to play it down and act like it was nothing. He kept saying, "Oh, the drink wasted. It's okay... I'll get another one." It's okay? You'll get another one? I would think that he would be profusely apologizing for the fact that my mother was sitting in a nice restaurant soaked by a glass of tea, long before her food order was even taken.

Then what put the whip cream on the cheesecake, this waiter that was hired by you to do a professional wait job, said and I quote. "Do you feel refreshed now?"

I was outraged. Here was my mother, a newly disabled woman due to a massive stroke, being taunted by a waiter that had wasted a glass of tea on her. Did she feel refreshed? What?! Refreshed?! I found that so called joke to be rude, insensitive, and utterly disrespectful.

I immediately asked for the manager. Well, the manager came out; I explained what had just transpired. Well, the manager only apologized to us for the waiter’s “little booboo. After the manager seemed to offer us nothing other than an apology, I told the manager that my mother’s dinner should be on the house. I explained that she doesn’t get out often due to illness and extensive disability, and that she was soaked in sticky tea, which was making her cold. Well, the manager agreed to discount our ticket by not charging us for my mother’s meal.

Well, it took forever for the waiter to come back and take our dinner orders. And then after he finally took the order, it took even longer for the entrees to come to the table.

My mother was freezing at this point. And I was fuming for a few reasons.
A. I was mad that it was taking so long for the food to come.
B. I was mad that my mother was cold and wet while she was waiting for the food.
C. I was mad that we had to either go back home for her to change clothes, or I had to go inside the mall to buy her an outfit in order to continue with our plans to go and see my mother’s sister after dinner.
D. I was mad that I was mad. FYI, my experience at the Cheesecake Factory is expected to be pleasant and enjoyable. I didn’t plan to spend my evening angry. I left my house, planning to spend money, not unhappy emotions.
E. I was mad that my father and sister, who were also first time customers in your restaurant, were annoyed by the level of service. I had hoped that they would also enjoy the dinner and experience.

Finally, our dinners were brought to the table. As I expected, the food was great. I’m so glad that I was not disappointed with the food. Likewise, my family also enjoyed the food. My mother continued to complain about being cold. But she also mentioned a few times how great her dinner tasted.
After finishing our meals, we hoped to enjoy a slice of cheesecake at the table. But because my mother was still wet and cold, she wanted to go and sit outside in the warm air to try to dry and increase her body temperature. So, we had to further alter our dinner experience by ordering our cheesecake to go.

My mother and father went outside, and my sister and I stayed behind to order the slices of cheesecake.
I clearly told the waiter to please hold the whip cream on my cheesecake. What did he do? He brought out my cheesecake with whip cream all over it. When I pointed out his little mistake, he stated and I quote. “Oh, it automatically comes with whip cream. I can take it back and have them to scrape it off. But otherwise, that’s how it comes.” Well, I’ve been coming to the Cheesecake Factory long enough to know that the whip cream is added on the cheesecake before they bring it out. But I didn’t bother to tell him that. I just agreed to allow them to take the whip cream off for me.

The waiter took a long time to bring the scraped cheesecake with the whip cream residue on it back out to the table. And he took even longer to bring out the check. Once he brought out the check, I saw that my mother’s ice tea that was wasted on her was still on the ticket, as well as my mother’s cheesecake. I was fuming. I felt that the waiter should have made sure that the ticket was correct before bringing it to us.

Well, I had to ask for the manager again, who agreed to make the adjustments. At this point, I felt that all of our dinners or at least our desserts should be free. All of us were completely inconvenienced by this experience. All of us were going to have to either go back home or go to the mall or get my mother something to wear. And yes, I told the manager that. But he just said that he would go ahead and take off my mother’s tea and cheesecake.

I gave him my credit card with the ticket, so that he can take care of the purchase. When he brought back the receipt, my mother’s wasted tea was still on the receipt. Because I was fed up, I frowned, signed the receipt, grabbed our to go bags, got up from the table, and nearly fell as I was taking a step from the table. I almost slipped on some of the tea that I suppose didn’t all waste on my mother. I was livid at this point.

After the valet brought us our car, each of us decided to just go home. Our evening was ruined. We were minus $100. But we had a bad experience at the Cheesecake Factory added to our psyche.

The reason why I’m writing is because I am gravely disappointed in your management and staff at the Cheesecake Factory in The Woodlands, Texas.
Disappointed to the degree that I would actually sit down and write a letter… Something that I never do…

When a family decides to dine at the Cheesecake Factory, they are fully aware that they are getting ready to spend some money. But you decide that the experience, the food, and the service is worth the money that you’re going to spend. When you know that each person’s dinner, drinks, and dessert will be no less than $25 to
$40, you expect a great time. Well, at least I do, and I’m sure you too.

Honestly, I don’t feel like my $100 bought me a good time. It bought me good food. But my experience and service sucked. And what I do know is that the prices on the menu at the Cheesecake Factory not only includes the cost of the food, but also the cost of the service at the Cheesecake Factory, which I found to be appalling.
I think that the manager should have at least offered each of us desserts on the house. Each of us was inconvenienced by what the waiter did. Obviously, your management and staff felt like our satisfaction was not important. I presume that they don’t care if we never patronize your restaurant again. So sad…

FYI, I do expect to get a response from this letter. If I don’t, trust me, I’ll never eat at the Cheesecake Factory again. Plus, I will inform all of my friends, who come to the Cheesecake Factory and liberally spend their hard earned money, to not come to your restaurant. It will be clear to me if I don’t hear from someone in your guest relations how you truly feel about your customers, especially your disabled ones.

I thank you in advance for dealing with this matter in a reasonable fashion. I also thank you for considering diversity/disability awareness/sensitivity training for your staff. Trust me, they need it. I hope to hear from you soon.

Respectfully,

Angela L. Braden

12 comments:

Renea said...

Wow! What an experience. Let us know if they respond. I have tons of friends in Houston who would be interested to know whether they should continue patronizing The Cheesecake Factory.

Angie said...

Hey Sis. Renea!

It's always good to hear from you. **smile**

I'll be sure to let you know what the results of this letter brought.

Girl, you wouldn't believe what happened to me this week at Red Lobster. A flying cockroach decided to visit our table while we were eating lunch Wednesday. And then this happened at the Cheesecake Factory on Saturday. I had a bad restaurant week. And the management at the restaurants didn't try to make it no better.

I'm going to call the 800 number for Red Lobster tomorrow and blast them out. I'll let you know about that too.

Angie

Renea said...

Yuckity Yuck on the flying roach! I really like Red Lobster. I hope I don't remember that the next time I get a taste for some cheese biscuits 'cause you know I'll just keep driving by and go home to make my own cheese biscuits!

The Angry Independent said...

Angie...

Sorry to hear about this.

This is why I hate restaurants. Years ago I used to enjoy dining out. But the hosts would give me strange looks because I would often dine alone.

The service would never be consistent. One week it would be fine... the next, they would screw up my order.... or take forever to take my order, bring my food, or they would try to rush me out of the door.

Plus I just don't like being around crowds of people...

So now I am strictly a take-out customer. Enjoying great food from the comfort of my own apartment = no stress.

Anonymous said...

boo hoo! GET OVER IT! You were trying to get something for nothing.

Angie B. said...

I was trying to get something for nothing?

Oh really?

The truth is I was trying to get good service for the $100 that I spent that night at the Cheesecake Factory. If I was trying to get a free meal, I would have demanded a clean check at the end of the dinner. I simply requested the check, minus the wasted tea. So, I was clearly not trying to get over.

Here's a little advice to you... Keep your rude fingertips off my blog. Find somewhere else to leave anonymous comments about a person and/or subject you know nothing about.

Good night.

Anonymous said...

I had a bad expierence as well. they gave me a dirty menu that had a creamy dressing that ended up on my fingers. They didnt even care, and i left, and am never comming back. hackensack nj location.

sevenmarie said...

I dont know, I understand that you are upset but I think maybe you overreaccted.

A waiter accidentaly spilled a drink on your mother and then tried to make a joke to lighten the mood. This backfired and put you in a worse and worse mood.

I think one bad experece is no reason to stop going to some place that you previous to that had enjoyed.

Anonymous said...

Anthony Porter said...I've had bad experiences b4 @ restaurants, but if I like them, I would return. for some reason you've had bad luck in the same week with two different companies, but that should not deter U from dining out. U mentioned that U R visually impaired, but yet U stated that the hosts would give U strange looks?? How did U know that?? And if they did stare at U, who cares, tip em less or not at all...don't b so quick 2 give in2 other folks ways, fight back, and not on a blog either! And to address the tone U had with the "nice young man" at TCF, maybe he didn't pay attention to the fact that U R visually impaired, yet U got fussy when he questioned UR request of a Braille menu. Probably could've overlooked that, since he was so young. I do like your suggestion of training the staff to handle all customers, great suggestion. Anyhow, i'm off 2 The Cheesecake Factory in Scottsdale Arizona, wish me luck!! :-) Thx, anthony porter

Anonymous said...

You truly sound like somebody who wouldn't have been satisfied unless the entire meal was comp'd. I'm sure after the braille lecture the entire staff was walking on egg shells around you and the waiter's only hope was to try and lighten the mood a bit. I'm in a wheel chair, missing one eye and near legally blind in the other. I only discovered last week that McDonald's offers a braille menu. I am embarrassed when restaurant staff walk on egg shells around me. It is people like you who treat staff like crap because they aren't educated to treat every disability. Sure, braille menus are a no brainer but give the guy a break. I went to Chili's last month and all they had were the high tables in the bar. I was offered everything from free drinks to free food. They were going to seat me at an accessable table ahead of a couple with two young kids which that table served well for a high chair. Apparently it's some ADA rule or their policy or some crap that a handicap person be seated at the first accessable table that opens up no matter what number they are in line. I refused, somehow I think you're the type of person who would step on their toes as you walked past them. I asked for a booster seat, had my buddy help me get it in my wheel chair and I sat on it. Still a little short but I could reach the chips and salsa. It was all fun and games until the manager asked me to get off the booster, he was afraid of the lawsuit and charges from the ADA if I were to fall. I did get a lot of thanks and laughs for being a good sport about it Nd a table finally opened up for us when it was our turn. Late last year a poor girl at Logans dumped ranch on my dry clean only jacket. She had tears running down her face as she apologized, probably thinking the disabled guy was going to get her in all kinds of trouble. I wasn't mad, accidents will happen. The manager offered to comp the entire table. I told him all I wanted was for him to not yell at the poor girl, she wasn't being clumsy, it was my bad luck in life not hers. He promised he wouldn't. I left a $50 tip for a $75 meal just to show her I wasn't upset. She caught me in the parking lot to thank me for being so nice. Apparently she had just been yelled at by another patron because the kitchen had forgot the ranch so after dumping it on me, she was walking out the door to quit rather than be yelled at when the manager stopped her to explain what I said. Long story short, we are all people, we all make mistakes but not all of us who are disabled use the ADA as a crutch to treat people like crap and get special treatment. Though we all could.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I found your blog while looking for a recipe similar to the heavy whip cream they put on some of their cakes. And the waiter could have been right, if its the heavier than usual whipped cream, it comes from the factory on the cake. If I'm taking one to go, I tell them not to add the whip cream, which means the server behind the counter isn't going to spray the extra dab on. It still has the other cream on top
Since you have no recipe I won't be back. No need to tell me to stay off your blog, but feel free if it makes you feel better.

Anonymous said...

I often get forgotten for drink refills, my food is often later than everyone's and I usually end up having to ask for things. My husband always gets his stuff, acts so nice and strikes up conversationsome with the staff and they just drool all over them. I just want to have a quiet, family oriented meal, nite with so many distractions and noisy people bothering us. Whenever I take my adult daughters to eat out, I'm met with the same reaction- the one that doesn't mind any hiccups with our experience is fine, while the other (unless she picks the place SHE likes, ends up having everything comp'd and has an attitude. I'm met with disgust by my husband if I complained, but sympathy by the or ridicule by the other. My disability is who I eat with. My point? None of these people know you. You might be the constant complainer, the quiet bomb, or the pressure cooker, but ifor you don't explain that first, you will get constant comments that might be unwanted. I did that myself. I'm sorry that happened to your mother, I lost mine after her stroke led to a cascade of health issues that took her from me. But if that had happened to me, I would've left the restaurant post haste, wallet intact, heading straight to your sisters(?), get her comfortable and then go for takeout. Then you would have enjoyed your family and avoided the irritating environment. I'm just as persistent as you in trying to turn an occasion around and try to control it, but you were just "beating a dead horse", pardon the expression.