Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Can I have a side of customer service, please?

As our fast-paced world finds us looking for options to speed up processes, we have implemented systems and products designed to make our lives easier. I’m not just talking about technology replacing maids like Rosie the Robot on the Jetsons, or the phone system replacing a human when you’re trying to call your bank that leaves you pressing 1 to send you to cyber-nowhere. I’m referring to the dying art of customer service in the restaurant industry. I can understand the lack of the personal touch in fast-food restaurants. My expectations are inherently low. I drive through. I place my order from a minimum wage teenager. And my only hope is that my order is correct. What a lovely surprise when I go to Chick-Fil-A and they actually smile and say, “My Pleasure”! Not “You’re welcome”. No “Thank you”. It is customary for Dan Cathy’s associates to let every one of their guests know that it was their pleasure to serve them. When a guest walks into a Moe’s they are enthusiastically greeted with a hearty “Welcome to Moe’s”! These are examples of a fast food and fast casual restaurant who haven’t forgotten to acknowledge their guests. And notice I call them guests, not customers. Guests are people that you invite into your home, and you would naturally treat them better. You take pride in your restaurant. Your place is cleaner, your employees are friendlier, and you truly care about your guests and the impression you leave with them. With customers, you will serve and they move along. Which experience is more memorable? But what happened to the customer service in a full service restaurant? I recently met with an advertising representative who was trying to sell me on a texting platform that would replace servers and extra bartenders. He added that when bars are so busy that people can’t get the attention of a bartender, they can text their drink order that will then be sent to a special printer. One person will be designated to watch that printer for orders to appear. Isn’t that great? No! If your restaurant or bar is so busy that you feel you need to implement a texting program solely to fill customers’ orders, you don’t have a shortage of technology, you have a shortage of staff! How many guests walk out the door because of your lack of attention and customer service? If you can designate one person to watch a printer, get him on the floor taking orders! And when was the last time you were actually greeted at the door by a hostess at a full service restaurant? Remember restaurateurs, these are your Directors of First Impressions. If I wanted to greet myself, seat myself, and hunt down my own beverages, I would have gone to a fast casual restaurant and saved about 30%. But I came to full service for the “service”. Where did it go? Can we make a pact to get back to creating memorable experiences? And can I have a side of customer service, please?

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to be witty in 160 characters or less: Or how Facebook and Twitter have made users become thoughtful “writers”.

I am one of those people who mentally correct people’s English when they are speaking, so often times I pay more attention to the context of a comment rather than the content. However, I have noticed that many of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers are probably taking a bit more care in formulating their thoughts to make their microblog stand out amongst the clutter of the rapidly scrolling wall of posts. And it made me think that I wished that some people put more thought into what they uttered out loud before they hit “send”. For those who only write once in a while, getting the nerve to write their thoughts and feelings in such a public forum can cause angst and pride at the same time. Some may edit and reread their post several times to make sure it sounds just right. Others are pros and it just flows naturally. But these newbies to the world of microblogging are trying to compete in an arena of natural born speakers with a silver tongue and clever wit. Give these astute writers a momentous event like an east coast earthquake or the death of despised world leader and they will scramble to their smart phones, iPads and laptops to quickly come up with the one post or Tweet that will stand out in hopes that it will go viral. Reading this stream of quips reminds me of an episode of Last Comic Standing. Let’s face it, we all have a shorter attention span because of the gross amounts of information we are bombarded with. I like to read the headlines of the news and if it grabs me, then I will delve into the story. The same is true for microblogging. If the post interests me, then maybe I will dig a little deeper and follow the stream to the person’s page or website for more information. I might even send a direct message with specific questions. But it’s great to be given the option of how much information I want to given. Which leads to another question, do people actually read other posts, or are they just on Facebook and Twitter to get their 15 minutes of fame amongst their friends and followers. I have seen people who are more concerned about the number of people who respond to their posts rather than the actual responses themselves, proving that they aren’t even reading the responses on their own wall, just looking at the number hoping it proves their popularity. For those who need this ego boost, I have news for you, content is king. Give people a reason to come back and have healthy conversations on their walls also. Sometimes you have to leave the “walls” of your wall to find your true friends. But where would we be without these little tidbits of information? Facebook and Twitter posts are still great ways to make announcements and share information. This is how I found out I was becoming an aunt again. I should probably respond to that post, but first I’ll think of something really clever to say about how I had to read about it on Facebook. Better yet, I think I’ll pick up the phone. How thoughtful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kid-Friendly Restaurant Review: Rock N Roll Ribs

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. You took your kiddies to a restaurant owned by Iron Maiden drummer, Nicko McBrain to eat ribs while surrounded by heavy metal music and paraphernalia? Uh, yeah. And Zoe kinda liked it. I remind people all the time that I am not a food critic, but that I am a kid-friendly restaurant critic, so I will keep this review focused on the kid-friendly aspect of this restaurant. And was it kid-friendly? Well, it wasn’t kid-unfriendly, but I am one of those parents who always bring a “bag of tricks” and am prepared for every situation where my kids may not be catered to.

At, our basic restaurant report card grades a restaurant on 8 areas in which we evaluate whether it is kid-friendly or not and Rock N Roll Ribs did pass some areas, and even surprised me with a couple attributes not listed on this report card that are found on MyKidsPlate’s more comprehensive evaluation.

Let’s start with the kid-friendly basics: Rock N Roll Ribs didn’t have a printed kids menu or activities sheet to keep kids busy and I think they are missing a golden opportunity here. There is a lot they can do with their theme that restaurants like Hard Rock Café do to incorporate rock music into children’s’ musical culture with a themed kids activities menu. They do offer a kids menu options included on the adults menu. The price falls within the guidelines that our research shows that parents are looking for, however, all of their choices are a bit unhealthy and only come with French fries. Oh well, it is a rib joint after all! I was excited to learn that there was a changing table in the men’s’ room, especially after my recent blog: “Is your favorite restaurant Dad-Friendly”, but was disappointed that they blocked it with shelving and used that area for storage making it impossible for dads to change diapers. In the area of service, the servers weren’t unkind to my children, but they were completely ignored and we were never offered a beverage for the children. They also lacked kid-friendly common sense and brought the kids food out very late and very hot, placing it right in front of them. The restaurant is very small and crowded, so I would recommend leaving the stroller at home or park it outside.

All of these issues are very manageable and can be fixed, but I had the impression from the owner and General Manager, Rick Baum, that he was not interested in my opinion about adapting to be more kid-friendly. Most of the challenges that we had during our dining experience were service related. At, we have always believed that not every restaurant has to be a Chuck E. Cheese to be kid-friendly. We think that themed restaurants work very well. Sports bars are a perfect example; the noise level is perfect for kids to blend in, the TVs are entertaining for kids and adults and with a bar for adults and restaurant for families they can cater to both market segments.

Overall, would I recommend Rock N Roll Ribs? I would say that it’s better for older kids, unless you’re a very prepared and organized parent with little expectations from a restaurant to accommodate a younger child. Bring something to keep the kids busy, food and drinks for them, plan on mom changing diapers and pack your patience. Lower your expectations and you will like Rock N Roll Ribs. I give Rock N Roll Ribs 1 ½ out of 5 spoons.

Rock N Roll Ribs
4651 State Road 7
Coral Springs, FL 33073

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kid-Friendly Dining Guide Announces Platinum Plate Award Winners is the kid-friendly dining authority listing restaurants that are kid-friendly and teaching restaurants how to better serve families with kids. The results of the annual Platinum Plate Awards have been announced naming chains and independents as award winners across 12 categories.

The nomination process began in January, 2010. Consumers were invited to nominate their favorites and restaurants were encouraged to nominate themselves.

“The Platinum Plate Awards are distinguished by a combination of consumer’s votes and kid-friendly restaurant expertise. In this day and age, restaurants should be doing more and the ones that do should be recognized,” said Julie Casey, The Restaurant Mom and founder of
The 2010 MKP Platinum Plate Award Winners are:


Best Kid-Friendly, Large Chain Nominees: Applebees, Denny’s, IHOP, Pizza Hut
Winner: Denny’s

Best Kid-Friendly, Medium Chain Nominees: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Mimi’s Café, California Pizza Kitchen, Texas Roadhouse
Winner: Mimi’s Cafe

Best Kid-Friendly Small/Regional Nominees: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., California Tortilla, Quaker Steak & Lube, Tumbleweed Southwest Grill
Winner: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Best Kid-Friendly Independent Nominees: Clyde’s, The Flying Pizza Company, Scotty’s Brewhouse
Winner: Scotty’s Brewhouse

Best Kids' Menu (Food) Nominees: 5 & Diner, Genghis Grill, Hard Rock Cafe, Iron Hill Brewery
Winner: Iron Hill Brewery

Most Kid-Friendly Amenities Nominees: Chick-Fil-A, Cool-de-Sac, Family Grounds Cafe
Winner: Cool-de-Sac

Best Kid-Friendly Community Partner
Winner: California Pizza Kitchen, Irvine

Best Family Value Nominees: Bob Evans, Denny’s, Subway
Winner: Bob Evans

Best Kids’ Activities, Younger Kids Nominees: Big Boy Restaurants, Miller’s Ale House, O’Charley’s, Steak-n-Shake,
Winner: Miller’s Ale House

Best Kids’ Activities, Older Kids Nominees: Buffalo Wild Wings, Rainforest Cafe, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
Winner: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse

Healthiest Kids’ Menu, Independent
Winner: Green Day Café

Healthiest Kids’ Menu, Chain Nominees: Boston Market, Panera, Subway
Winner: Subway

Best Kid-Friendly Service
Winner: The Flying Pizza Company

Best Grown Ups Night Out, Independent Nominees: 1492 Tapas Bar, JiRaffe, Park Plaza Gardens, Sabor Latin Bistro
Winner: Sabor Latin Bistro

Best Grown Ups Night Out, Chain Nominees: Seasons 52, Taverna Opa, The Melting Pot
Winner: The Melting Pot

The Platinum Plate Awards are an honor for a restaurant to be awarded. Families with kids make up a large portion of the population and the restaurants that recognize this market segment should be rewarded for their accomplishments. is the industry leader in kid-friendly dining. Conducting research since 2007, MKP has identified what is important to parents when they take kids out to eat. Restaurants are listed on and The Restaurant Mom teaches restaurants how to increase revenues through repeat visits and higher check averages with this segment.

Watch the awards presentation at

Monday, June 7, 2010

Is Your Favorite Restaurant "Dad-Friendly"?

Recently my hubby played Mr. Mom for the day so that I could attend some meetings. After missing some important milestones last year spending time in Iraq, he has made it his mission to be a very hands-on Dad. So he did what every fun dad who can’t cook did; he took them to McDonald’s. Plus, they have an indoor playground. Fun AND food…BONUS! After eating what we all know is not the most nutritious of meals of greasy cheeseburgers and French fries, but the only sustenance my babies live on these days, they were rewarded with time to burn those excessive calories on the jungle gym.

Ah…these precious moments hubby is enjoying watching Jack play with his little sister. Er! Stop! Houston we have a problem! The cheeseburger has kicked in and Jack has a blowout. What to do? Ok. Breath. Don’t panic. What would Mommy do? She’s always so calm and organized and can change both babies at once while simultaneously writing her blog and making a delicious meal. (OK, I embellished a bit). He’s been in battle. He fights crime everyday and puts away bad guys. Certainly changing a baby’s diaper in a restaurant should be a piece of cake, right? He quickly, but calmly corrals both children and takes them to the men’s room to clean up Jack. But this McDonald’s, one of the most “Kid-Friendly” restaurants on planet Earth doesn’t have a changing table in the men’s room. Now what? Hubby is faced with the challenge of putting Jack on a pad on the dirty floor while trying to keep Zoe from splashing in the toilet like she was trying to feed the stingrays at Miami Seaquarium and attempt to clean Jack up so he can high-tail it out of there. Welcome to my world Honey!

At, we have spent 3 years researching what parents across the country look for in a Kid-Friendly restaurant, and of the Top 30 Attributes, a “Changing Table in Men’s and Women’s Restrooms” ranks number 16 and 65% of parents tell us it is Extremely or Very Important , and “Changing Tables are Equipped with Cloths” came in at number 29. And according to research from Koala Kare Products, baby changing stations are equal in importance to childrens’ meals and family-sized restroom. Further, Koala Kare’s research from a national market study indicated that 77% of parents have used baby changing stations and 90% say they use them at least monthly and McDonald’s doesn’t even have one in their men’s room?

An indoor playground runs between $10,000 - $65,000, plus liability insurance, to make a restaurant kid-friendly, and the cost of a baby changing station in a restroom? Under $200! If a restaurant like McDonald’s is willing to invest tens of thousands of dollars in kid-friendliness, why not a couple hundred dollars to make their restaurant “Dad-Friendly”? And here’s another idea for those of us with more than one child. Koala Kare makes Child Protection Seats that allow parents to comfortably secure children while attending to other matters in the restroom for under $100. That sure would have come in handy with baby Zoe!, a division of Kid Friendly Restaurants, seeks out restaurants that are kid-friendly or family friendly. But until this incident, I never put much thought into whether or not they were “Dad-Friendly”. I was talking with one of my restaurant clients recently about the lack of changing tables in the men’s rooms of some of their restaurants and he asked me, “Do you make your husband change diapers”? You bet I do! So the next time you are in your favorite Kid-Friendly restaurant, check around to see if it’s “Dad-Friendly”!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Where's The Service?

Yay! It’s Friday night, the end of a long hard week. Time to celebrate and kick off the weekend! So the hubby and I load the kids in the car and head to one of the dozens of local restaurants for a family dinner and some fun bonding time. Well, that was the plan.

We picked a pizzeria that we had tried once before when it first opened, and didn’t quite enjoy, but decided to give them another try. I’ll call them “Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza”. We waited just a few minutes for our table, and when the friendly hostess brought us to our table, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the table was already set with the 2 highchairs that I had requested. It was all downhill from there. When our server finally came to our table to take our drink order, I learned that the only drink choices were soda or lemonade, neither of which is suitable for a young toddler. This restaurant has a bar that serves beer and wine, but no juice or milk for children? So after ordering my diet soda, I walked down the street to an (in)convenience store to buy milk for my kids to drink. After bringing our own drinks we waited for several minutes before the server came back to our table and in a very snotty tone said “So, do you want menus?” Uh, yeah! We didn’t come here to drink our own beverages and sit in your dimly lit, overly noisy restaurant and watch you ignore us. We want food! I asked her if they have kids’ menus, which they don’t, so our family agrees to order a plate of chicken wings, a salad and a large pizza. When Miss Congeniality returns to take our order, my husband tells her that we would like the chicken wings, a large pizza…AND SHE LEAVES! Is she returning? Did she forget something? At this point, I am so flabbergasted, that my typically passive personality has turned me into the Incredible Hulk and I’m pretty sure my skin was turning green. When she walks by, I say “Excuse me, we were in process of ordering and you walked away. Can we finish ordering? We didn’t even get to tell what we want on the pizza! And can we please have a salad?” Where is the manager in all of this? He is leaning against the take-out counter with several other employees watching the hockey game.

When I was a kid, we went out to eat when it was someone’s birthday or anniversary. It was a celebration of something more than just the survival of another week or because Mom didn’t feel like cooking. According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry receives 49% of the average American’s food dollar, and with over 945,000 restaurants in the US, restaurants need to be fighting to get my hard earned 49%. At, our customers tell us that “overall good service/servers” are one of the Top 30 Attributes they look for in a Certified Kid-Friendly restaurant. This particular restaurant was not only NOT kid-friendly, they weren’t even people-friendly. In 1980, we were on the brink of a recession that started in January 1981, and unemployment was 7.5%. Today, unemployment in this country is 9.9%! So my question is, why are these servers not trying harder to keep their jobs? Restaurants are closing their doors left and right and I can almost see tumbleweed rolling down Main Street in my town. Do the restaurant owners not care that their staff has become so callous towards their patrons?

Dining out is becoming a luxury again for many families like it was 30 years ago when I was a kid. When was the last time you had to wait an hour for a table at a restaurant? My husband and I usually try to go out to eat when it’s Kids Eat Free night at one of the local restaurants, and has a calendar for visitors to search restaurants in their neighborhood that offer Kids Eat Free deals. But as far my neighborhood pizzeria is concerned, unless service improves, I’ll spend my 49% elsewhere and ask, “Where’s the Service?”