French Fry Letter

A week or two ago, my daughter's sixth grade class was given an assignment in which they were to write either a letter to an actual company of their choice, with the content either being a complaint or a compliment. They were going to mail the letter, and let the chips fall where they may. I thought this was an interesting and useful exercise because few people write letters anymore. It seems to have gone out of fashion with the advent of eMail, texting, tweeting, and the various forms of Facebook communication.

Rachel decided to write a letter of complaint to Red Robin, the primarily hamburger restaurant. Now don't be fooled. Rachel adores Red Robin. We travel about an hour west toward the Poconos a few times a year to shop at these outlet stores in Tannersville, PA. On the way home, we'd frequently stop at the Red Robin in East Stroudsburg. We always had a reasonably good meal there for what it was, and the service was generally fine.

Imagine our excitement when word came that Red Robin was opening a restaurant in our local mall. We could not wait and a week after it opened around Thanksgiving last year, we headed over. As one might imagine, an eatery open for a week and with all new employees would have a few bumps in the road. It did, but we expected it, and we had a good enough experience to warrant going back ... frequently.

And go back, we did. Many times. And we've run into people we know countless times. The residents of our New Jersey township crave a decent restaurant. Several years ago, a Damon's Grill opened up, and despite the somewhat pricey nature of the place and extremely spotty service, the joint was always jumping. You'd always find people you knew there almost any day of the week. I can't say for sure why it closed just a couple of years later given how busy it always was, but I'm guessing the crap service didn't help.

Well, four months later, Red Robin remains crammed to the gills with diners most times. The food has always been consistent, and the service ... it's spotty and depends on your server. We've had phenomenal and we've had less so. But it's clearly improved and still improving, despite my father-in-law having a near temper tantrum when they sat a few parties ahead of ours (I wasn't there that day - but my wife tells it well) that had arrived later than we had. They quickly fixed that, and fortunately, I wasn't there to experience it

Here's where my daughter's complaint comes in. Keep this in mind - every burger on the Red Robin menu comes with bottomless french fries. She goes there for dinner with her friend and her friend's family one night. Rachel's a big believer in the Natural Burger - a plain burger - with barbeque sauce on the side. She orders it. It comes - eventually - with no fries. Only hers. No fries. Everyone else's has a lovely pile on the plate. Now Rachel is what you might call a tad shy, so she refused to say anything. Everyone at the table tries to force their fries onto her plate, but she refuses. They'd had some soup, so she really didn't need the fries anyway.

And, Rachel chalked it up to one questionable waiter. Until...

A few weeks back, the four of us head there for lunch. Rachel and I order natural burgers. Awesome waitress. Great service. Everything's coming quickly. The drinks are refilled without us having to ask. The food comes at the perfect time.

No french fries with either of our burgers.

I, of the loud mouth, catch the waitress and ask for the fries. She is baffled that the plate didn't come with them and scampers off, to return moments later with a massive basket of the good stuff.

This is the reason for Rachel's letter of complaint to Red Robin written a week or so ago, sent to Red Robin corporate headquarters. I never did read the letter.

Today, eleven year old Rachel received a Federal Express Overnight pack from Red Robin in our mall. Inside was a very personalized letter on the corporate letterhead, apologizing for what had happened. The letter also serves as a $25 coupon off a meal and an invitation to ask for the manager upon her arrival so that Rachel can keep her apprised of how they're doing.

I'm very impressed with Red Robin, but more impressed with Rachel.

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