Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Guest Post: The Most Expensive Chairs in a Restaurant ? Empty Ones.

This week’s Friends on Friday guest blog post features Susan Solovic. She tells an entertaining story with a point.  An employee was following the policy, but her lack of common sense caused a loss in business.  As you read Susan’s short story, think about the rules and policies that are created and how they impact the customer.  There is a time and a place to follow them, and a time to use common sense.  By the way, that’s why I like the word guidelines.

Empty chairs are never good for a restaurant.  You don’t make money unless people are sitting in them ordering food and drinks and enjoying themselves.  But imagine if you had empty seats because you allowed customers to walk-out the door without being seated.

Let me explain.  My husband and went to a small neighborhood Mexican restaurant.  I’d been fighting a cold so I wanted to make sure we didn’t sit at a table near the door because it was bitterly cold.

A waitress approached us with menus, asked us how many were in our party, then offered to seat us at one of two empty tables for two – one next to the door and the other by the kitchen area.  We asked if we could sit in one of the open booths instead.  The waitress said, “We keep those open for parties of four, but you can have either one of the two-tops I pointed out.”

My husband and I just stood there looking at each other.  Baffled he said, “Well, I guess we’ll go somewhere else then.”

The waitress replied, “Okay.”  Then she turned and walked away, and so did we.  We took our business right across the street.

I couldn’t believe it.  Restaurants are boarding up all across the country, and here we were in this establishment, ready to spend money, and they wouldn’t allow us to sit where we wanted to sit.  I could understand a little better if the restaurant was extremely busy and the table we selected was the only four-top open, but that wasn’t the case.

To survive and thrive in today’s difficult economy, we need to do everything we can to accommodate our customers.  Letting customers walk out the door is just plain stupid.

What do you think?  Should I give the restaurant another try?  How about going back and speaking to the owner?  Right now, I’m thinking there are plenty of other good Mexican restaurants so why waste the time and effort.

Susan Solovic, THE Small Business Expert, New York Times Bestselling author, media personality and keynote speaker.  An award-winning entrepreneur, Solovic is an Internet pioneer founding one of the first video news websites and building it to a multi-million enterprise.


  1. irma gonzalez says:

    that story makes perfect sense. use your common sense when customers are walking in. accommdate accordingly on how busy you are. i rather have one customer eating one taco than having an empty table. next time he will come and eat a nice big meal or invite his family or friends and make up for the only taco he previously had. better to have one happy customer than having an angry one. nowadays with yelp and and all media everything goes public very quick. people find out about the good and the bad very quick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>