Hanging out on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, I get to experience a lot of overpriced restaurants serving food that isn’t very good. Beyoglu is not one of those restaurants.
Beyoglu NYC, a Mediterranean cafe and restaurant on Third Avenue, serves pretty darned good food at a great price. Aside from the smell and noise from passing cars and everyday New York City street activity, sharing a hummus and a few grilled shrimp outdoors during the summer at Beyoglu is a blast; it’s truly one of my favorite restaurants.
Beyoglu has an eclectic, loyal customer base made up of all types; I recently had dinner at Beyoglu with a very wealthy bi-coastal friend whose NYC home is a few blocks from Beyoglu NYC and eats there regularly despite having the kind of bank account that could see him at much more expensive places every meal of every day.
Beyoglu NYC and Customer Service
One night this weekend, we ordered out from Beyoglu NYC. It was dinner for four, and the bill came to about $70. Again, it’s a price that by New York City standards is a tremendous bargain. Having eaten at and taken out from Beyoglu many times, we knew that we needed to order and pay for extra bread; dining in at Beyoglu you get as much of their amazing pita-like bread as you want, but when you take out you get just one, paying a nominal charge for extra loaves.
The extra bread didn’t find its way into our order, which I discovered when I unpacked it. So back to Beyoglu I went.
I called Beyoglu on the way over and explained my problem, letting them know that I just needed bread, that I was happy to pay for it, and that they had left it out of my order even though it was clearly noted as a request on the take-out menu they had marked up. I asked that it be ready when I arrived.
It wasn’t ready. Yes, that’s a customer service faux pas—and isn’t the point of me telling you this story.
The volume of food in the order was clearly not a meal for one person. While I was standing around waiting for the bread to come out of the kitchen I asked how many loaves a $70 order entitled me to and was told “one”. OK, fine; Beyoglu NYC has a policy/business process that sounds weird, but they haven’t asked my opinion or hired me to fix their business processes, so that’ll do. Eat at Beyoglu and you get as much bread as you want, take out and you pay for anything beyond one loaf, no matter the size of your order.
Wait a minute, really?
Since I had a few minutes to kill I asked the young lady helping me “what if the order was $700 instead of $70? Would I still get just one loaf of bread?” And the answer was “no, that would be different”.
See the problem?
A long time ago, I ran a restaurant, and learned the job under the tutelage of a guy who had been in the restaurant business for a couple of decades. One of the things he taught me and that still applies is that customers need to be handled consistently. A ten ounce steak needs to weigh ten ounces and not twelve because if you serve a twelve ounce steak once and the next time the customer comes in he gets the “correct” ten ounce serving he’ll feel cheated.
So as much as it pains me for Beyoglu to think it’s OK to serve me four loaves of bread with a single $6 appetizer in-restaurant but allow me just one loaf against a $70 take-out order, I’m much more worried to hear that there’s a line somewhere that will cause that policy to change—and that where the line lies is a secret.
The timing of my experience with Beyoglu is a fortuitous coincidence.
I was already planning on talking restaurants today, following Yelp going public last Friday, and quickly ballooning to a market value of approximately $1.5 billion. It’s a valuation that just doesn’t make sense. Yelp trades in suspect information and competes with Google in an arena where there’s no reason to believe they can succeed. Beyoglu’s inconsistent and arbitrary customer service policy made me think about all of that stuff in a fresh light; you can’t trust everything you read in the fakeness of the Internet, and you can’t trust real restaurants to act “fairly”, either.
All Beyoglu needs to do to fix this problem is put a reasonable policy for customer service in place. If the much-larger Dos Caminos can do customer service the right way, it would be a snap for Beyoglu.