Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bringing Good Customer Service to a Grinding Halt

Story time! Grab a beer and settle in.

Mr Wort Hog's mom, sister, and nephew came up from SE Kansas for a visit over Labor Day weekend. They arrived just in time for lunch, so we headed out to Grinders for some beer, sandwiches, and delicious deep-fried tots.

The larger tables inside were all taken, so we sat outside at one of the picnic tables. The major downside to sitting outside at Grinders, despite lovely weather, is that you can't get your beer in a glass. So, at a bar with one of the best beer selections in town, if you choose to sit outside you drink your $8 Belgian beer out of a plastic cup. We debated going somewhere else, but decided to just suck it up and go for it. And upon sitting down outside, we did see someone a couple of tables down from us drinking her beer out of a glass. Score!

We asked our server if we could get our beer in glasses, and she politely explained that it was against policy. The other table was also under the service of Grinders West, and the person waiting on that table had chosen to break the rules. We accepted the response and ordered Schlafly Oatmeal Stouts (yes, in plastic cups) along with our food. While we waited an hour for our meal to arrive (not an atypical wait for Grinders), we noticed others drinking their beer out of glasses. Intriguing. We discussed whether or not to ask again and decided it couldn't hurt.

Mr Wort Hog decided to ask our server what it would take to get our beer in glasses, as others were clearly able to do so. She insisted it was against policy and that she did not serve the other people their beer in glasses. Fair enough - she was honest and truly following the rules. We asked to speak to her manager about the ordeal; when the manager came over, she leaned on the table and told us it was against policy to serve beer in glasses. We pointed out the people drinking beer from glasses and she became defensive and started raising her voice. We repeated our question: why are those people allowed to drink out of glasses and we were not? What did we have to do to be able to drink out of glasses? She asked if we saw her serve those people beer in glasses, then stated that we did not. (and, no, we didn't, but she was serving that table.) I told her that I found her attitude inappropriate and rude, and she responded that we were welcome to leave at any time.

I have never in my life received such aggressive customer service. I did not expect to receive an apology or concessions. What I was looking for was some sort of explanation. Perhaps those customers were regulars. Perhaps they paid extra. Maybe they brought their own glasses. Maybe they signed a waiver should their glass break and someone get hurt. Who knows! Instead, I was treated as if I were trying to steal something. Frankly, I was completely taken aback at the aggressive and hostile behavior of the manager. I can't say I've ever encountered that at any place of service.

I will say, though, that our server was fantastic. She did everything right, she was courteous, friendly, and attentive. She received a full tip and a note explaining to her that we recognized she was following the rules. I didn't want her to be (or feel) penalized for something she didn't do.

We wrote them an email Saturday and I have yet to hear back. I've spent a lot of money at Grinders over the past year. A lot. I've recommended them highly to others, and have brought friends there for food & drinks. But after this experience, I guarantee you it will be a LONG time before I go there again.


  1. From now on if I want to sit on the patio and drink a beer and eat food lacking in nuance but covered in cheese whiz, I will choose The Foundry.

    Cleaner, better service, more knowledgeable (about beer) service, better beer selection, and they treat you like the adult you are and serve you in a glass.

  2. Unbelievable!!! I wouldn't go back at all until I got some sort of satisfactory response from their customer service!

  3. Serving beer in a plastic cup at a restaurant should be a crime.

  4. I don't have high hopes that they'll respond to our email, but will definitely make a note of it here if they do.

    And yeah, dave, I'm not sure why they insist on serving beer in plastic in the beer garden. I've had beer in a glass in other outdoor venues here in KC. And the ground is covered in bark chips, so it's not like if someone drops the glass it's likely to break. Very odd.

  5. So did you leave or did you stay and finish your meal? Was there a girl fight? Did throw something at someone? I can only finish the story in my head.

  6. I was planning on checking Grinders out. Probably not now. Will go for the Foundry instead.

  7. Grinders is wack! Stretch (the owner) is a selfish prick and a violent sexist pig (I won't go into detail as to why he's "violent", but trust me its disgusting). Spend your hard-earned dollars elsewhere, because this is a place to be seen for people with no scene. The good beers were a draw a few years back, but there are way cooler (customer-friendly) places to get good beer and food now. This place doesn't represent the KC beer scene or art scene, leave it for the hipsters and yuppies.

  8. Speaking of the hipster scene at Grinder's, I wonder how long I have to look through this website:

    to find a picture taken there.

  9. I found myself drinking foamy water from a plastic cup on their patio once, myself. Upon noticing people at other tables with pint glasses I asked our server about it but when she gave the apparently canned "against policy" response, I didn't press the issue. I'm glad to hear that someone did, however, and am saddened if not surprised by their reaction. While I can't quite say that I'll never go back, I can assure you that your experience will certainly be in the back of my mind next time I find myself in the mood for mediocre, overpriced food served in what could pass for a homeless squat.

  10. I was telling Mr Wort Hog tonight that I was surprised at the comments here. I posted this, fully prepared to receive an onslaught of comments defending the place ("the crappy service is part of the charm" and so forth). Instead, I find myself in good company.

    I would say that I hope someone at Grinders with any sort of influence sees this, but I suppose that as long as people keep going there, they'll ignore those who make valid complaints about their service & policies. I suppose they're welcome to do so, but it's certainly not the way I would run a customer-driven business....

  11. Oh, and I laughed aloud today at ..."next time I find myself in the mood for mediocre, overpriced food served in what could pass for a homeless squat."

    thanks for that. :)

  12. Well grinders will stay full but they are definitely losing the beer people to other venues.

    I am guessing the average check from a beer geek is higher than the average check from a natural light drinking hipster.


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