Customer Service Resurrected at local Pancake House

A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (educator, activist, world citizen)

America has become a society with a foundation of customer service.  Agriculture and industry, while present, have long since been in the shadows of the past.  And yet, despite being a nation now rooted in customer service, there tends to be a lack of customer service in every arena of American life today.

From my experiences over the last few years, I have faced rudeness, disrespect, and just plain animosity from people whose sole job it is to service their customers’ needs.  No customer service.  No mentality of “the customer is always right.”  Only a desire from customer service representatives to put in their required time to get the job done at the most minimal level possible.

What is left?  A nation of drones doing only what has to be done rather than fulfilling some greater purpose.

This isn’t to say that every job needs to be one that fulfills a person’s greatest desire.  But the attitude of the one fulfilling said job should represent that it is.  As a costumer, when I enter a business, I want to feel as though there is no one else ahead of me, that there is no one else behind me.  When my needs are being addressed I should feel as if I am the only one in the room (or on the phone as the case so often is these days).

And this is especially true of restaurants.

I have spoken of restaurants before.  And I have acknowledged that my needs to maintain my healthy eating does involve requesting my servers to work for their tip (but I do tip well).  I rarely go to new restaurants, even though I like to try new things.  Generally, I don’t go to breakfast places since I have found that restaurants focused on breakfast are the least cordial with accommodating my needs, and ultimately have to do the most accommodating.  It is simpler to just have breakfast at home.

That was until recently.  In a drawing for teacher appreciation days at a local business I won breakfast for two at Butterfield’s Pancake house and restaurant in Wheaton Illinois.  It is a place that closes at 2:00PM, serving mostly breakfast and a few lunch items.  I have seen it, but never went in because of my previous experiences with breakfast places.

I fully expected the gift certificate would be limited to specific items I couldn’t eat.  I fully expected to be treated with disdain because I was not only eating free but I had specific requests that many feel I don’t have a right to have fulfilled.  I went in with hesitation and an expectation that my breakfast would ultimately be packed up for my husband to eat later.

My expectations were way off target in this case, with this restaurant.

First and foremost, the gift card included a full breakfast, with sides and drinks, from anywhere on the menu (I will admit, I did go a bit overboard with my meal adding extras I might not have had I been paying cash).  The server we were assigned was amazing.  He listened to my needs and requests as if I was the only customer in the whole place – and it was extremely busy.  He checked and rechecked.  He anticipated my needs based on my previous questions.  He helped me select an amazing breakfast, that worked with my dietary needs.  There were no ill-feelings from him, or any other staff member.  I didn’t here exclamations of annoyance from the kitchen (which I have heard before).  I didn’t get any sense of disapproval or maltreatment from anyone.

I felt like I was a customer of utmost importance.  And I believe every customer that goes in to Butterfield’s is likely to experience this same treatment.  While it is true there were not many items on the menu that I can eat, it is a place that I will go to for breakfast simply because they worked with me to develop a meal that not only left me satisfied in the moment, but fulfilled for the entire day (and I have to note they made the best hash browns I have ever eaten – dry with added butter and salt at the table).

It was a meal experience that left me willing to not only go back, but refer the place to friends, family, and enemies alike.  If I were a restaurant critic, they would get 4 of 4 stars.

And yes I tipped the server well, based on the service he gave and the value of the food we ordered, not what we actually paid for the meal.


25 thoughts on “Customer Service Resurrected at local Pancake House

  1. We have become a very customer service orientated nation and there are many times that I’m sure we have all been let down in this area of expertise. I came up in the restaurant business, first as a meat cook at a local pancake house and then a bus boy. In the military I was a cook in the Navy, so service was the name of the game. I helped open the Club House in Oak Brook as a line cook and served at many restaurants in the area, including the Lobster House in Brookfield, which is no longer there. I really enjoyed my time in the service industry and still serve people today through music and entertainment. My point is that customer service is very important, whether it is your full time position or the job that is getting you through college. Every day of our lives we are either serving others or on the other side of the spectrum, being served by others. We all have to live in this world together, so for God’s sake and others sake, serve your Country and your community proud. Be respectful to others and you may get a lot of respect and a big tip to show that you are doing a good job in whatever service you may be in.

  2. I believe the quality of customer service varies depending on the place. Restaurants can usually expect that when it comes to food and eating (especially in the USA) that people are going to most likely be picky or very specific about how they want their food. Considering waiters rely on a tip depending on the quality of service they provide to the customer, I would say it is a rare occurance that they get frustrated or angry with requests. Maybe its just the fact that I order simple things and make their job easy. Although, people that do customer service over the phone may be a bit more rude or forceful considering all they are hearing is a voice and dont have to worry about a face to face confrontation. Anybody who is in a field that involves interaction with customers should spend time trying to make them satisfied, and if not they should be trained longer. There is an obvious difference between service 50 years ago versus now. Maybe the difference is that people enjoyed their jobs more then versus now where there is a much harsher demand.

  3. I completely agree that America is based on customer service and in making sure what he or she wants he or she gets. In so many aspects of life we are the consumer whether it is going out to eat or even shopping. If I am going out to eat I expect to be taken care of. Reason one being, I went out of my way to get ready to go sit down and eat somewhere. Reason two, I am paying a server to serve me and paying a cook to cook for me, so if I want my dish a certain way I expect them to at least be courteous about it. We went out to dinner last year for my dads fiftieth birthday, so this was obviously a special night for my family, I mean my dad turned half a century. We got seated and it took our waitress 10 minutes to even greet us. When she did, she was very caddy in the way she asked us for our drinks, no smile or anything. She was also chewing on a piece of gum. Well we decided to over look our first encounter until we waited another 10 minutes for just our drinks, and the same response. I had never understood why anybody would ever make a fuss about a waitress/server until I met her, and honestly working at Victoria’s Secret I understand customer service on a new level. At the end of the night the manager of the restaurant gave us a new waitress who was amazing, and so much more customer serviced based and even gave us dessert on the house. We were ready to leave, if that manager had not taken the time to acknowledge our situation. I expect anywhere I go to at least be acknowledged when I am a consumer, because I give my customers the highest of legendary customer service/experiences, but not everyone gives a hoot, but they should cause is that not what feeds America?

    1. I agree with a lot of what you said Ashley. I really like the point you made about how we are pretty much always a customer no matter where we are. You feel disrespected if you aren’t given great customer service, its kind of an expectation when you go somewhere. I believe the customer service really depends on where you go too. Some places you can tell that customer service and making you happy as a customer is their top priority but there are some places where they are just concerned about getting your money. Especially when you go shopping, if you are trying to sell a product to someone, you better have top quality customer service so that they are more willing to buy whatever it is you are trying to sell.

      1. That is a great point! Great customer service is key to how much your average dollar sale will be. I have walked out of places without purchasing because they were terrible. Today! for example, I went into Walgreens to buy some supplements/vitamins, and i went straight to the pharmacy because i knew they would know what i was looking for. Sure enough there was the same lady who always is rude, not smiling, not helpful, or even compassionate for that matter. I said hi, and she coldly responded “I will be right with”. No hi, or even eye contact. So I just left and confided with somebody else, who did not even work in that department, but she was more than willing to try and I explained what terrible service I received and she told me I was not the only one who has complained… I’m sorry but if you are working with people and medication you need to at least be compassionate, even if she did not like me, she could have pretended.

    2. Very true! If I get ready to go out and eat I expect great things out of a restaurant. The waiter/waitress should be respectful and polite because that usually determines there tip. To me I give respect to those who respect me. If it is someone that is serving me I expect them to put the customer first. I work in retail. We are told that the customer is always right and they should be treated with respect and be polite even when they are being difficult. In customer service you are supposed to give them the best experience because consumers are spending there money. The best experience we give them the more money they spend, the more money they spend the more it helps the company where ever we work.

  4. I agree that service is important but what many people don’t see are the problems with being a server. First of all, tips are not required by law. That means you can order as much food as you want, and not leave one dime for the server who worked so hard. You obviously have the money to eat well, but don’t have any change to tip the server? This happens a lot and it is insulting. Another problem is that many people bring in coupons which drastically cut the bill in half. People are supposed to tip according to the original bill, yet many continue to tip after the discount which short changes the server. Most importantly, servers do not get pain minimum wage, which means they are truly counting on their customers to tip accordingly. There’s a lot that goes into serving, and the mathematics behind taxes while working as a server is stressful. I realize that service is very important and better service will somewhat help with getting a better tip. Sometimes people can be so stressed and beat up because of their situation and it’s hard to imagine how it is to live in their shoes.

  5. Generally, I agree with the fact that customer service is usually not as good as it should be. There is certainly a lack of care and/or respect for the patrons that are supporting the business by choosing to go there. In such places as a restaurant, which isn’t the most prestigious job, I have come to believe that, for the people who work there, they would rather be working almost anywhere else. Thanks to a crippled economy, where finding a job is harder than ever, people will take whatever they can get. Obviously, not everyone is destined to be a waiter or waitress, so they perform the job poorly out of their own selfish distaste for it instead of concerning themselves with the more important matter of making customers happy. Therefore, it basically comes down to the luck of the draw when finding a caring, respectful individual when it comes to any sort of public customer service job. Some bite the bullet and do what they know needs to be done, whereas others can’t stand you and they let it be known either verbally or through hostile body language.

  6. I work in a grocery store, and I know that we don’t always give the best service we can. However, sometimes I find that customers have unreasonable expectations and take “the customer is always right” mentality a bit too far. I would say that most customers have reasonable expectations, but frequently there are those who don’t. These unreasonable expectations tend occur when the person seems to believe that their needs should always be satisfied as quickly as possible, without regards to other customers, and sometimes, their requests can sometimes put an employee in the threat of being fired or arrested if the employee were to actually perform it. The examples below are occurrences that I’ve actually seen first-hand.

    1) I was assisting another customer, and actively talking to him when another customer approached me. She cut him off med-sentence to ask me a question. I told her I would help her when I was done with the first customer, to which she replied with a self-righteous attitude, “Well, I was just asking.” Clearly, she thought that her needs must be satisfied, even before other customers

    2) I was working with another associate in an aisle, and he noticed a customer struggling to carry some groceries. He went over and asked if she wanted him to fetch a cart, and her response was, “Hurry up,” as if he should have a cart waiting for her several minutes earlier.

    3) For Christmas, our store closes early, but the pharmacy closes even earlier. For weeks leading up to Christmas, there are signs posted at the front door with our holiday schedule. Due to high risk of theft, all of our glucose testing strips are stored in the pharmacy. And by law, it is illegal for -anyone- to go into the pharmacy without an actual Pharmacist in the pharmacy. However, even with these restrictions and advanced, we have had customers complain about us not getting the test strips for them. In these cases, the customers are demanding that the employee put themselves at risk of arrest and being fired, and potentially causing legal problems from the store.

  7. First of all I wanted to share that I love Butterfield’s it is right next to my apartment, the food is amazing and they are always friendly to my friends and I. The last time I went there was last Sunday April 30th. It was myself and the rest of my softball team, we are a rowdy crowd that most servers look down upon as being needy, and not understanding how to tip. Our server greeted us almost as soon as we sat down. She was very friendly with everyone, and treated us with great respect. Now I don’t want to feel like a critic myself but it is great to have excellent customer service today. I will however say it is extremely disappointing to be surprised by good customer service. As you explained we are a nation based on customer service, this being the sole responsibility of many employed Americans. It should not be expected to have less than average customer service, and it be acceptable. I feel just as our society now lacks in following many norms of the past, we treat customer service as a thing of the past. I do believe some customers ask employees to go out of their boundaries, but that is when the employee is responsible to get a supervisor or manager. The disrespect seen today is outrageous. I cannot believe how our society has gone from a polite respecting past, to a now disrespectful present.

  8. America has become extremely customer service orientated. It has in every aspect of sales. I know first hand this is true due to the fact that i work for Adidas. Their company is all about customer service. Everyday at work we are reminded that that is the most important aspect of our job and for the business. So as a customer I also like to be welcomed with great customer service. This little aspect of sales can determine how successful or how unsuccessful your business will be. I also agree that customer service is with the up-most of importance if running a business. Although this is true, you will most likely run into horrible customer service rather then the other way around. I don’t what the reason for this is but, it needs to change. You see this the most within the restaurant business. You would think you wouldn’t since waitresses make most of there money off of tips. America is customer service oriented, but this isn’t being fulfilled to its full potential. Some businesses Make sure there employees give the best service possible. The problem is the Majority of businesses and especially within the restaurant business are lacking this very important aspect of service.

  9. My experience lately with customer service has not been at all nice as some have stated above. I do find some that should look for something else. They aren’t happy working in the position they are in obviously. There are times though I do find someone who is very understanding to my nutritional needs as well. I then find myself going back to that same place hoping to get that same server. Yes there are a couple I know by name. Now mind you I don’t eat out very often. My husband thinks we can make everything at home. He somewhat of a non social person. A home body where I love to go out. That’s my out let. Peace of mind time. I would agree customer service is not what in was in the past. Some people seemed not to give a dog gone any more. I try to excuse it sometimes but other times I tell them how I feel. Hoping it would bring light to that person to let them know get on track or move on.

  10. If the quality of the food and the quality of the service are as top notch as claimed in this blog posting, then Butterfield’s is a place I would definitely consider trying out, although, like you, I am not a person generally inclined to eating breakfast at restaurants, but when I do I usually have some of the best meals outside of my mother’s home cooking I have ever tasted. I only would like to bring up that some of your expectations about service are a tad misguided. As someone who has worked in food service for almost five years, I can say with certainty that the customer is not always right, but is always the customer, meaning that some customers are impossible to please, with impossible demands, refusal to show the server anything but contempt, and an obvious indication from the outset that they will not tip. Servers are people too, lest we forget. Also, the word always means absolute, and imagine if we replaced customer with teacher. I think all of us have had a teacher who had no clue or talent for their profession, just as we have had a less than desirable waiter or waitress, and the same goes for customers.

    1. I have been back several times since this initial visit (and note, this is in regards to the location on Butterfield Road, I have not been to any other location). They are ALWAYS amazing. I purposely use the absolute here. Each time I enter, they are respectful, courteous, and listen to my needs as the the customer so that when I leave I have had a meal that I enjoy and leaves me full. And when they have made errors, because they have as all humans do, they correct it with an apology. They take the time to treat each person as a person. Listening is the key, and the managers there train their employees to listen and not anticipate. It does wonders for communication when you listen first.

  11. I think great customer service leaves a lasting impact no matter if its in a restaurant, hardware store (where I work), DisneyWorld, or a clothing store. The feeling of being treated as a valued person and not just a customer is awesome and it definitely does make you want to go back. Being known for incredible customer service like DisneyWorld, is one reason why they are so successful. I agree that some places just have terrible customer service, and eventually it will show in their daily totals but I think there is still hope for certain businesses which will make them thrive.

  12. I agree with you when you say that it is very hard to find a restaurant that caters to peoples needs. I am not a vegetarian but I am on a gluten free diet. I find it extremely hard to find a restaurant that has good service that caters to my needs. I have been to places where the items on the gluten free menu are more expensive than the items on the regular menu, which makes very little sense to me because it does not take more effort for someone to make food with gluten free ingredients. I think by a restaurant putting a whole new gluten free menu they are trying to make it seem like the food is completely different when in actuality it’s just one or two more ingredients that are different. and by creating a whole new menu for gluten free it gives them an excuse to raise the prices. This also seems very unfair because some people cannot help if their body reacts badly to a certain thing.

  13. I believe in the idea that the customer is also right to a point. I work in an industry that caters to customers needs and it is our job to go out of way to make the customer feel as if when they are at my company that their expectations are fully met. I do however feel in some cases customers can expect too much and feel as though they are right in situations that they are not. Since most people follow the motto the customer is always right, it has made people today feel as though they can take advantage of situations. They become rude and aggressive when then do not get their way making it difficult to want to try and help solve their problems or make a compromise. Being that such high levels of customer satisfaction is instilled in my brain I myself am extremely disappointed when I go to a restaurant or retailer and they do no ensue the same level that I am used to being a representative of.

    1. I work somewhere were the expectations are so high that a majority of our customers feel entitled to everything. If you don’t have their name memorized or memorize what they usually order they will give you attitude or yell at you as if you are just a robot that gives them what they demand. I am all for satisfying the customer and making sure they are happy with what they are paying for until they start treating me or my coworkers like they aren’t a human being. I can relate with what you’re saying about the high levels of customer satisfaction being instilled in your brain. I always compare customer service to how my own store treats their customers and if it’s any less than that I am usually disappointed with the service as well.

  14. First i would like to say that i have been to that exact butter fields restaurant with friends many times. They have astounding service and their meals are quite remarkable. I agree that our country has become a customer service nation, however from my experiences it is not the most adequate customer service.
    My first experience with customer service was with Comcast. At my home we experienced problems not solely with our cable but our internet and phone. I recall my dad being on the phone for hours due to the lack of workers or the large amount of customers experiencing horrible service like my family and I. When my dad finally got on the phone with a human being i remember my dad yelling a lot because this wasn’t the first time he has had to call. He told me the worker was extremely disrespectful and seemed like he did not care for my dads concerns. Prior to this, my dad had made tremendous progress with another worker a week before. However, they do not provide you with a phone number to that same worker but basically have to start completely over and re-communicate all your problems you were experiencing after already doing so. There are many business’s that are similar with their customer service like Comcast. They take your business for granted and treat you like your the problem rather than their business.
    The only place i have been to where i have actually been treated like royalty and was important was nordstroms. To actually believe the most sublime customer service i have been apart of was a clothing store! They had an adequate amount of workers working at the time where i had a personal helper. This worker treated me with the utmost respect and even gave me his personal opinion on whether i should by a certain item of clothing, Nordstroms business gives me hope in the genre of customer service.
    I believe these business’s that almost have a monopoly like Comcast need to refocus their efforts and advocate to their workers the importance of customer service with respect and a sincere smile. As a nation that is rising for customer service, we need to promote the role of the customer. The customer is always number one and is always right.

  15. Wow that is such a cool story. Glad to hear that one place could change your whole perspective on eating out at breakfast places. I have a similar story when I went to Blueberry Hill in LaGrange. I had never gone there before and never really went out and got breakfast either just because we always have breakfast food if anything. So I go in and have brunch with a couple friends. Service was absolutely fantastic! Sweet servers AND busboys too. Everywhere I walked, a worker or manager greeted me and asked me how I was or if my stay there had been what I expected I tipped that server almost 35%. She went out of her way to get me whatever I wanted/needed and was just such a sweet hospitable lady. Those are the type of people that should be serving! The homey Italians or something. Anyway, I walked out of there proud, satisfied, absolutely stuffed, happy and eager for the next time I get to go there. Now me and my friends try to go every few weeks. It’s like a Baker’s Square but with blueberries.

  16. After reading this, I must say that I completely agree with the notion that, especially in restaurants, “the customer is always right.” When one agrees to a job based around customer service and having a one-on-one conversation with a customer to make their experience more enjoyable, it is important to not only meet their demands but also to make them feel respected. If one can not meet those qualifications, then they certainly should not be working in any customer hospitality job. Furthermore, especially in a restaurant, your server’s presentation of themselves is a representation of the whole establishment. If one has an unpleasant encounter with their server, not only will they leave a less generous tip, but they also might not come back to support the restaurant at all. As a former restaurant employee, in my personal experience, I always found it better to adapt a “grin and bear it” attitude when dealing with demanding customers needs. Even if you have to run around a few extra times, when the customer is happy, you are happy; and when the customer is satisfied, it is a reflection of you and the restaurant as a whole.

  17. This was an interesting read, and pretty relatable too. Unfortunately, even though the policy that “the customer is always right” is used in work ethics, it is not as reflective in many workers attitudes and actions. One of my bosses always tells us to “treat the customer with respect.” Well, this particular boss happened to bark at a customer simply for approaching him with an innocent question, “where is the yarn?” If that isn’t hypocritical enough, I have also been to many restaurants and have received hasty and rude customer service. It only makes me feel bad, as if I was bothering the worker, when the truth is, that is supposed to be their job-to serve, and to be pleasant. For instance, I have been to the Hibachi Buffet several times over the past few years, and each time, the person serving had always been in a rush to receive their money and clear off our table. They persistently ask if we are “finished eating yet” and cast irritated glances from across the room. The obnoxious part is my family and I could be eating for a short forty-five minutes and already the impatience in the worker settles in. I mean, it’s a buffet for heaven’s sake: We are going to feast! While I believe that both customers and workers should show respect, I think it is most obligatory for the worker to display this attitude since it is what they are being paid to do. Many employees (and employers as well, apparently) need to realize the importance of showing proper signs of consideration and respect. If not, they could lose many customers and respect as a business.

  18. I feel like the type of customer service you get from someone has to do with many things such as their personality, if they actually like their job, or if they are having a bad day. All these things play a part of your experience that you receive at a restaurant or anywhere else. From my own experience I have had good an bad customer service as well but I can think back when I had this one server at this restaurant I believe it was TGI Fridays but they seemed to have an attitude, I surely knew it wasn’t because of me, so each time I said something to try and make them smile and uplift them. So when I was done and they gave me my receipt I paid and gave them a nice tip and complemented them again. They smiled and told me they were having a bad day and I made there day. So in that I have to say you never know what people are going through, so I feel like its our duty to give customer service to the actual servers in a way and make them smile cause we are all human beings with problems of our own we just need someone to brighten our day.

  19. Customer Service is really important because that is what gives a poor or high quality off either a restaurant or even a store. When there is high quality of customer service it even makes the person want to come back because its a great feeling to be treaded with a lot of respect. I have had to deal with high and poor quality off customer service. I as a person never go back when there is poor quality because I feel that I am not wanted in that place because of the way that I have been treaded as. Even though sometimes the worker might be having a bad day those things should be separate from work and should still be able to provide the correct customer service. I can say this from experience with the jobs that I have had in past to always give excellent customer service and make the person feel welcomed no matter if I was having a bad day. It feels so great to provide a person with excellent customer service and later on it will be worth it because it will be part of your future as well.

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