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glenn

i wanna be comp'd!

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It's the spirit of the thing. It's in horrific taste to stamp your feet because you don't feel appreciated enough. It's a gesture of goodwill from the business to a good customer - never owed and never an obligation.

Nobody is entitled to anything. Restaurants probably smell those looking for a comp a mile away.

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Restaurants are a business. And with chain restaurants dominating stand-alones, maintaining a certain percentage of food and labor costs is what keeps the manager employed. So comps are few and far between, especially with more and more managers getting training in better ways to handle complaints, conflict resolution, and so on. I have a restaurant I frequent, send people to, etc. Their way of thanking me is to give me coupons at infrequent intervals for a certain percentage off a meal. These are mostly notes from the manager, and I think they strike a nice middle ground between comps and zero.


"My tongue is smiling." - Abigail Trillin

Ruth Shulman

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Somewhere along the way, many years ago, I was told that one should never give away what they sell for a living. If you start to give away some of your product, where do you stop? Obviously, a comp because of a screw up in the kitchen or by staff is different. That is an attempt to lessen the impact of a negative experience and, therefore, encourage the customer to return. A certificate for a free meal or appetizer or dessert is an attempt to do the same thing. A frequent buyer discount or freeby is different. Every six or tenth cup of coffee or sandwich or whatever is free as an inducement to have the customer choose that establishment over the competition.

When I was in retail, I gave away calendars, pens, litter bags, etc. - but never the product that I supported my family by selling.

A couple of times, in restaurants that I have regularly patronized, the owner has given me an item to see what I think of it. Should we add this to the menu? How does $4.95 sound for this? I view this more as a paid appraisal than as a gift to a good customer.

Just a few random thoughts - worth everything they cost you.

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Somewhere along the way, many years ago, I was told that one should never give away what they sell for a living.

I think that is a very good point -- it was pointed out to me by a good friend who is a magician and bellydancer. Whenever friends had a party, they wanted this particular woman to "perform" and she finally gave up going, not knowing if she was wanted for herself or her gig.

As a jeweler, I am constantly asked to "look at this" for an appraisal or a minor repair. Then I started freelancing for a local jewelry stores doing such appraisals and minor repairs for income and realized how much I had been giving away all these years.

The ONLY thing I occasionally hope to get comp'd is corkage fee on a wine. I figure if I am dining at a place often enough, I'm spending enough money on their food to not be taking away much by bringing my own bottle. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't -- but I never bitch over it.


Edited by Carolyn Tillie (log)

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i don't know how many people on this thread own restaurants, or even businesses, but i think there's a clear line between bringing out an amuse or an extra dessert, and giving away free services to friends.

i'm sure there are some cultural and geographic differences at play here as well, but where i come from, that's just smart business. and no, it's not expected and to that end it's always a nice surprise.

but i will say that under the right circumstances a comp'd belly dance would be a welcome surprise. :laugh:


Edited by tommy (log)

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My friends and I used to frequent a local Fridays quite a bit. We knew all of the waitstaff from just going in a couple times a week and it got to the point where we would be comped many things per meal, anything from appetizers to drinks, and etc. It was a good set up, we went in, I'm sure they still made money on us, but the checks were always surprisingly low. Unfortunately the management changed, and it stopped, and then the place rapidly went downhill to the point where it was just another chain in the service and food dept, so we stopped going.

I've found that anytime I'm at a place where I am engaging the primary food/drink provider in conversation that comps tend to happen. Almost anytime I am chatting with a bartender or a sushi chef on a slow night I find extra drinks, extra stiff pours, or free fish coming my way. I don't ask, but I certainly appreciate it.

When I worked retail we would often cut pretty huge discounts for big customers on used/returned merchandise, often to the tune of $500 or more off of a big screen or stereo system from the already cut prices, it was just a way of showing we appreciated their business, we still made money, and they kept coming back.


He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I want a good meal for the money. It's rare that a comp will affect that so much that I'd choose one restaurant over another, although I will be driven away from a restaurant where I'm not well treated and attracted to one that treats me well. I recall being comped rather heavily in the early days of one restaurant and seeing it fade as the owners realization that they had a business to run probably came to the fore. I enjoyed feeling appreciated, but it was the food that drew me back and still does. There are maybe two restaurants in NY where I stand the greatest chance of being comped, but since I most often place myself in the kitchen's hands in both cases, it's not always possible to know if I'm being charged less or getting something not available to others. In one case, I have an account and may never see an itemized bill. When I get the montly bill, I'm alternately shocked I allowed my self to spend so much money or that I got such a fabulous meal for so little. My wine bill may account for the difference as I sometimes ask the sommelier to pair wines. In the end, it's all about feeling good about a restaurant and perceived value. A cheesy dessert at an overpriced joint will do nothing to get me back.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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A cheesy dessert at an overpriced joint will do nothing to get me back.

what's wrong with cheese in a dessert?

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I regularly go to a sushi place where the owner will sometimes give me a couple of new things to try and I greatly appreciate it. This has broadened my palate and has encouraged me to try a lot of things I otherwise would not. I make it a point to always tip well and to let him know how much I appreciate his service.

Unfortunately, he refuses to belly dance or do any magic.

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When I get the monthly bill, I'm alternately shocked I allowed my self to spend so much money or that I got such a fabulous meal for so little.

Such variability has to be upsetting :wink: you could easily rectify this by having a few noble eGullet volunteers join you for dinner as your guests in the slower months. Then your bill would even out and settle in at a nice predictable level :laugh:

As for comps, like many people, in my business there's really no such thing but when I go the extra mile for people.... e.g. offering to be on call for them at off hours if they get stuck resolving a problem... they're always tickled to get that recognition as a valued customer (they sure don't get that from other people in my industry like Cisco).

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All this reminds me of a funny comp story. My wife and I were vacationing in Maui. Before we left, a client of mine told me to be sure and go see his buddy at Kimo's, and say hello for him. To that end, he wrote a short note of introduction.....this is my pal Juanito, be sure and take good care of him...blah, blah, blah

So we get to Kimo's, and it's jam packed. We are seated, and order our dinner, at which point I ask for this guy. They respond that he no longer works there, and that he is now managing the Napili Country Club. After our dinner, a mud pie dessert appears, complements of the house. I thought that was pretty cool.

The next day, my wife and I take a drive out to Napili around lunchtime. We enter the dining room, and ask for this fellow. Someone goes and gets him, and when he comes out, I introduce myself and hand him the note. A big smile comes over his face, and he has us sit at the bar. Plate after plate of appetizers come out, along with a couple of rounds of drinks. When we get ready to leave, we find everything had been comp'd. The whole afternoon was on this manager. Then he tells us, "you guys have to come out for dinner tomorrow night. I'm making reservations for you." So he does, and the following night we arrive for dinner. He recommends wines, and apps, and all sorts of things. We're thinking the whole thing is going to be on the arm again, so we're just going along. This place was more than we could afford at the time, but who were we to question our benefactor?

When the check came.........you guessed it. Our new friend was nowhere to be found. It was probably the biggest check I'd ever seen at that point in my life. Thank God for my Visa card. It all seems pretty funny now, but we weren't laughing then.

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I was under the impression that it was the restaurant's responsibility to provide pleasing food, service and atmosphere and my job to pay. :smile:

All said, I'd rather have the restaurant focus on delivering these three things as best they can and not worry at all about giving me, or anyone else, anything.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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My wife and I discussed just Saturday night, at a restaurant recommended highly on the boards where we ran into a fellow EGulleter who shall remain nameless, how EGullet has changed our dining experience.

If the waitstaff seems approachable or if the chef or owner comes by the table, we regularly tell them how we found out about the restaurant, what we think, what we have heard, etc. Without fail, this has been a positive experience. (Then again, we are not eating in the places that got dragged through the mud either.) Our hosts have on a one or two occasions comp'd us a small amuse bouche or a dessert to share, or just as enjoyably sat with us and talked about their place, their plans, etc. I trust that this is a sign that they appreciated our business, would like to see us again and liked what we had to say. One such a discussion led to an absolutely magical dinner on our first visit on a slow night to a local BYO. The chef came to say hello, we told him how excited we were to be there and how many good things we had heard. He came out a few minutes later with platters and platters, pulling out the stops, and then he and his wife joined us at the table for dinner. Great food, great company and fortunately we had extra very good wine in the car. Needless to say, we go back frequently.

Please understand that by no means has this treatment been solicited or expected, but I believe, and I may be getting a bit corny here, it is a function of a community forming among smarter consumers (literally) who want better dining experiences and smarter businessmen who know that these consumers represent their bread and butter (again, literally.)


"There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable, and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is. It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry." - Mark Twain

"Please pass the bacon." - Me

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Unfortunately, he refuses to belly dance or do any magic.

Here you go -- you can always hire my friend:

Marguerite

Food-related, she did her Master's in inner Mongolia and she is the one that introduced me to Tung Lai Shin, Islamic Chinese in Los Angeles, teaching me more about the obscure food of China than I ever thought possible.

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The next day, my wife and I take a drive out to Napili around lunchtime. We enter the dining room, and ask for this fellow. Someone goes and gets him, and when he comes out, I introduce myself and hand him the note. A big smile comes over his face, and he has us sit at the bar. Plate after plate of appetizers come out, along with a couple of rounds of drinks. When we get ready to leave, we find everything had been comp'd. The whole afternoon was on this manager. Then he tells us, "you guys have to come out for dinner tomorrow night. I'm making reservations for you." So he does, and the following night we arrive for dinner. He recommends wines, and apps, and all sorts of things. We're thinking the whole thing is going to be on the arm again, so we're just going along. This place was more than we could afford at the time, but who were we to question our benefactor?

When the check came.........you guessed it. Our new friend was nowhere to be found. It was probably the biggest check I'd ever seen at that point in my life. Thank God for my Visa card. It all seems pretty funny now, but we weren't laughing then.

What was the comp'd spread and drinks worth the afternoon before? See if that was reasonable for the whole package. :raz:


Edited by winesonoma (log)

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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My husband and I frequent two restaurants where we know the chef/owner. I feel appreciated when the chef takes time to acknowledge us (every once in a while if the chef is out of the kitchen he will come over and talk with us, but I don’t expect that all the time because they are busy), it makes us feel special. Restaurant #1 (liquor license) we will be offered from time to time a complimentary after dinner drink, sometimes we accept sometimes we don’t (we are just too full). Restaurant #2 (BYOB) sometimes comps the desserts but I feel funny accepting because I know how hard they work, and how little the profit margin is especially with it being a BYOB, so if we do accept we tip the waitress extra.

I guess owning our own business (we own a wine/liquor shop) I know how little the margin can be, but I also know good business sense. We give 10% off a case of wine or a large order for a special occasion and sometimes give (as a gift but it’s not totally legal) a bottle of wine that we know a customer might like, but not try/buy (usually my husband adds it to their order after they have paid and says, we just got this in, tell me what you think).


Edited by lcdm (log)

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A cheesy dessert at an overpriced joint will do nothing to get me back.

what's wrong with cheese in a dessert?

I take it you have no problem with overpriced joints.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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We enter the dining room, and ask for this fellow. Someone goes and gets him, and when he comes out, I introduce myself and hand him the note. A big smile comes over his face, and he has us sit at the bar. Plate after plate of appetizers come out, along with a couple of rounds of drinks. When we get ready to leave, we find everything had been comp'd. The whole afternoon was on this manager.

I trust you tipped the staff well, at least a good percentage on the amount you would have spent if you were ordering and paying.

... so if we do accept we tip the waitress extra.

That reminds me of the time a party of three was comped a very expensive meal quite unexpectedly. It's an interesting story and the circumstances would be appreciated here, but the full story would probably be a breach of privacy for some involved. I can say that I had some regrets earlier in the evening about allowing our waiter to upsell us on the wine, but I had faith in his taste, if not my budget. The kicker however, was that I had planned to pay for the celebratory evening with a credit card and had very little cash in my pockets. The restaurant was pretty empty by the time we finished dinner and it seemed too conspicuous a move to make a dash out the front door to an ATM a block away. Fortunately the three of us were able to pool enough folding currency to amass what I hoped approached 20% of what the bill might have been.

I think the proper proceedure when one is comped, is to reward the staff, by at least tipping on what was ordered, or would have been ordered had it not been comped. Were you not planning on ordering dessert, there's no need to tip on it, but it's still nice to share your boon with the staff. If you enjoyed the ten dollar dessert, you don't need to tip an extra ten dollars, but a couple of dollars would be the reciprocal gesture. This is not to say that I always manage to notice that something was left off the bill or that I can do all the necessary arithmetic after that extra bottle of wine has been offered.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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A cheesy dessert at an overpriced joint will do nothing to get me back.

what's wrong with cheese in a dessert?

I take it you have no problem with overpriced joints.

insert non sequitur here

the only place i've ever wanted to be comp'd at is vegas, but i'm not enough of a high roller for that to happen. but man, i'd love to be walked all the way past the long buffet lines.

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How prevalent are "good customer" comps?

It's really very simple. You show your appreciation to the establishment by the size of the tip you leave. They show their appreciation to you by the quality of service and comps.

Not implying that any eGulleter would do that, but there are people who order the cheapest item on the menu, occupy a table for the whole night and leave a lousy tip. I'd comp them with coupons to another restaurant in the area.

I've been comped a number of times, but if I did the math it would probably turn out in the same ballpark as the amount of money I left in excess of the 15%.


Edited by JerzyMade (log)

The difference between theory and practice is much smaller in theory than it is in practice.

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I had my oyster bar on a restored Lobsterboat built in '55. The marina I berthed at attracted some pretty amazing watercraft as it lay accross the river from the city and a killer sunset, the perfect spot.

Whenever these Teak and Brass monsters tied up, the helpful dock staff would point out my fluttering flags and soon I'd be busy shucking a couple hundred $$ worth of oysters or carefully laying out 21/25's (shrimp) in a spiral with a few different kinds of cocktail sauces on the side.

Sometimes the owners, their guests and the crew would make a meal of it right at my little vessel, other times it was a jumping off point for the old port restaurants here in Portland. But whenever a dozen of anything was ordered, I'd put an extra one on to make a bakers dozen.

The tips were astounding sometimes. I knew it was safe to do that for the out of towners, but I never did it for the local yachtsmen. Some of my more regular customers got the end of the weekend scraps for free or in exchange for a few beers but that was it.

Edited to add: Sometimes I got tipped in Cayman or Jamaican dollars, which was cool at first, but then I collected so many I started using 'em to tip the bars downtown!


Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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As a former restauraunt and bar owner, the subject of comps still makes my hair stand on end. As a former partner said does the supermarket give you freebies just because you shop there! I had customers ( not regulars ) who complained they did not like their meal after eating it, now if your food was not cooked right, or their was a problem I would make that right. Wait to long for your meal, a free round of drinks, comp the apps whatever it took to make the customer happy. Trying to get a free Guiness by complaining that the 20oz Imperial pint glass with the Guiness logo and provided by Guiness was not an Imperial Pint drove me to distraction ( my Irish Bar manager was already have a sense of humor faliure) These are the things that owning a restauraunt get you. Then there is the bar crowd, occasionaly my bar staff bought a drink for someone, this was always recorded and used as an expense, but those that asked never got.

Remember all food and booze costs the restauraunt money, and in the case of an independant that would be the owner, if you want that neighbourhood establishment to thrive support, do not look for freebies. Over tipping the staff for freebies does not help the bottom line as the staff did not pay for those items, in fact it only encourages the giving away of stuff so they get bigger tips, a great way to insure that place wont surrive. But you say the place will be busy, but being busy with partial paying customers does not make payroll, rent , loan and of course buying replacement product for the freebies.

Sorry about the rant but when you have faced this subject day in and day out ypu have a lot to grumble about

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I'm a vendor of specialty foods to restaurants and I'm with Alligande on this -

if I take a client out to one of my accounts, they MAY comp an appetizer or dessert, but I never assume that will happen. Ditto when I'm out on my own, with my family. Sometimes it happens, but sometimes it doesn't - no hard feelings.

Business is business and I sometimes can throw lower prices or freebies their way - but sometimes I can't. We all love food - but those of use who support ourselves by selling it in some way are no different than people in high-tech or the financial industry. Your bottom line is what counts.

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I had an experience that left me disillusioned with a restaurant I had really enjoyed previously.

There was a new "fine dining" restaurant that opened nearby (for those of you in NJ who saw my posts of praise, it was Lana's in Clark). They had a pretty slow start, and I went there and really enjoyed it. Because it was so good, and they were so friendly and accommodating, I set up a business dinner for 12 people a few days later. (I would guess the tab for that was over $1000 with wine.)

Then I convinced my company to hold an awards dinner there with about 60 people, complete with cocktail hour etc.

Also - I told them about eGullet and I posted some positive things on the NJ Forum, which they saw.

They were always so nice and so friendly, and appreciative for the business while they were establishing themselves. One of the partners helped me carry some things to my car, and he mentioned that I should return sometime with a friend and they would treat us to dinner, to show their appreciation for the business I'd brought them.

I returned a few weeks later with a friend. We got appetizers, dinner, and dessert. They did offer us a glass of wine, but we don't drink so we declined. They brought over the bill, and...feeling awkward...we paid it. $120 with tax and tip...

I didn't know if I should have said something.

Would you?

I now have a bad feeling about the place, and haven't returned....


"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best --" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. - A.A. Milne

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