Friday, December 20

Goodbye Bluebeard

Tables still empty when we left.
Dear Bluebeard, I fell in love with you the minute I set foot in your place: the ambiance, the food, the eclectic typewriter collection in the urban industrial setting.

In fact, I liked it so much I reviewed it for my food and wine column, Destination Dining, in M magazine. I told everyone I could about you ~ friends, family; even strangers heard how fabulous you were.

I am not certain when things changed, or perhaps I was just infatuated and didn’t see you for what you truly are ~ they do say love is blind…

In late September I arrived to meet someone on a Monday evening. He met me outside and we went into the bar area. I assumed he had a table since he had arrived first. We got inside and he let me know he hadn’t. As there was only one table with four businessmen at it, and a two-top with a couple at it, we took a seat at the farthest point away from the others for privacy’s sake. It was a table for three-four under the windows with better lighting.

We were given menus and water and told to enjoy our evening. Then all Hell broke loose. A clearly agitated and uptight young man came briskly to our table and stated we “have to move” to a two-top table unless we were expecting more people.

I explained politely that as we were already with menus, tableware and water, and the fact that we wanted privacy and there was no one waiting for this table, we would like to stay where we were already comfortable. He explained he was the host and we “must” move. I clearly stated we would rather not; besides, where did he want us to sit?

We were instructed we were to follow him as he grabbed up our menus out of our hands (yes, out of our hands) and pointed to a two-top immediately next to the four businessmen. Once again, I stated we did not wish to move and we wanted privacy and we absolutely did not wish to sit right next to other people.

He told us we “must” as “no one” is allowed to sit at a four-top table unless there were at least three people and it is “company policy.” So we reluctantly followed him to the undesired spot, feeling reprimanded and unwelcome.

A woman came along, gave us water and asked if we were having a good evening. I explained that, actually, we would rather sit at the table over there (pointing where we had been sitting) and was told quickly, “Oh no, you can’t. That’s a four-top and there are only two of you; it’s company policy and only the host has the authority to change it.”

Our server came to the table, recognizing me from numerous previous visits and asked how we were doing this evening. I explained the situation, that we truly wanted to sit away from the few others there were in the nearly vacant room and could we please return to the table by the far wall of windows. “No, afraid not,” she said. “It’s company policy. You have to sit here.”

Okay, I was starting to get perturbed ~ my date was already past that point. A lousy start to a first date I might add. I was there on personal time and it was quickly becoming an embarrassment as I recommended this place highly, as was my norm with Bluebeard. He wanted to go “Corleone” on them, which I found amusing, but deferred to my preference of giving them another chance.

Okay, why didn't I give in, shut up like a good little girl and sit where the mean people told me I must?

Seriously??? Have we met? There is no way I am going to put up with poor customer service, particularly when it is a ridiculous mandate. With the prices Bluebeard charges (and they are considered by many overpriced), customer pleasing should be at the top of the scale.

When I recommend a place, performance or item, it’s because I have received great service and product, and believe my readers, viewers and followers will enjoy it also. If they were treating me this shabbily, I must assume they would treat all of you the same way and I am not happy with that fact.

The manager walked to our table and demanded, “Is there a problem here?”

“Well,” I said quietly, "if you consider the fact we were ousted from our seats and forced to sit crowded up against another table without good reason a problem, then yes we do. If you believe your customers being treated badly is a problem, then we have a big one.”

“You can’t sit there,” she said bluntly. “That’s for four people.” I looked at the near-empty room and asked if she was expecting a rush for four-top tables on this Monday evening in the next hour we would be there.
Again we were told it is company policy. (I was tired of that excuse and decided to get to the bottom of things.)

“When you have a ‘no reservations’ policy, why is it that you are intent on reserving those tables?” I asked.
“Well,” she admitted rather less than pleasantly, “We have to keep those open in case Eli Lily or Exact Target employees come in and want them.”

“You what?” I asked in disbelief. “You are making us sit over here uncomfortably just in case someone from Eli Lilly or Exact Target might show up and want those seats? Please tell me you are joking.”

“No,” she stated testily. “They like to sit there.”

“What about your ‘no reservations’ policy,” I asked.

“Well, we have a ‘soft reservation’ for them,” she explained. “If you want a four-seat table so bad, you can sit outside on our patio area.”

“It’s 49 degrees outside,” I yelped as my date hooted out loud at the idea.

“We have the heater on,” she told us.

“Then let Eli Lilly and Exact Target sit out there,” I countered.

“No, they like these seats,” she pointed at the still-unoccupied tables. “If you want to eat inside, you have to sit here.” And away she walked.

I was in disbelief. My infatuation was shattered, humiliatingly, right in front of a first-timer to the restaurant. Horrifying to me to have my eyes opened to the true ~ and hidden ~ policies of the eatery.

Our server returned, saying in a slightly snarky manner, “I know who you are,” waving her hands in the air in mock quotation marks. “You’re some kind of big foodie blogger critic or something.”

“Apparently she doesn’t care who you are,” commented my date, “or they wouldn’t have put you in the cheap seats.”

“It shouldn’t matter,” I remarked to both of them. “If they know who I am and treat me this badly, what will they do to non media customers? I don’t want to get royal treatment. I want everyone who walks through that door to get royal treatment.”

“Or at least the treatment they give corporations like Eli Lilly and Exact Target,” quipped my date accurately.

Needless to say we didn’t stay too long, although we did eat a little, as I explained to my date, “I must enjoy this as it will be the last time I ever set foot in this hypocritical place again.”

Why, you may ask, did I wait so long to write about the situation? Because, when I am upset over something I like to cool off. This took a longer time than normal due to how angry I was. Also, I researched to see if I was unreasonable in what I requested. I asked around to other restaurant managers about a customer wanting to take up a four-top table when there are only two people, and the answer was the pretty much the same across the board: Give the customer what they want or they will stop being a customer.

Sucking up to corporations to the extent of treating regular customers like third-class citizens, while pretending to be a “we’re all equal” establishment, is not a great company policy.

Perhaps they should have remembered the old adage: A regular bird in the hand is worth two Lilly or ET birds in the bush as those tables remained unneeded by the corporate possible-shows.

Bottom Line: Unless you want to be told to sit at the back of the bus, with all us other non Lilly and ET folks, avoid Bluebeard.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated fine-living, travel, food, wine and spirits columnist, freelance writer and photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic for Gotta Go. Read Infused, her spirits, wine & beer lifestyle column, at www.GottaGo.us and www.FoodDigital.com and catch her as Indy’s Personal Lifestyle Adviser on Indy Style, WISH8 (CBS). Gotta Go is published on www.Gottago.us, www.BroadwayWorld.com, and in magazines. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.

35 comments:

James Penticuff said...

This might explain why so many tables were empty. Word must be spreading that this place has become a Corporate Cafeteria. I think that waiting to post was the way to go and adds value to your opinion. If someone can afford to be that snarky they don't need my money...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote about this. I've only been there twice but have recommended it multiple times. Neither of them will happen again. That is a horrible way to treat customers and for management to make it company policy they obviously do not need customers that are non Lilly employees. They can thank Lilly when they realize that all us common folk actually keep the electric bill paid...

Anonymous said...

This was brutal to read. As a restaurant owner I've scene situations like this before. I was cringing after every word picturing the entitled faces of customers that behave like you. Would you EVER disregard rules set forth by a company other than a restaurant like you to do the people at Bluebeard? If being asked to move tables wrecks your psyche this badly how do you even make it out bed in the morning?

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon, Don't get nasty at Lilly - I work there but I never asked for such a policy. I expect to have the same policy as everyone else.

Chris Page said...

In an area I live and want to patronize "local" they now do not have my business. As far as the management there, they have the same mentality as Applebee's in Fishers or Greenwood. But wait, they would let me sit anywhere if I wanted chain food crap. Bluebeard should move to Fishers or Carmel. No place for you in an area where most of the patrons have chosen NOT to live in burbs.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard anything bad about this place, and I understand that for better business keeping tables available for a larger party is perfectly acceptable. Your whining over something so trivial is fairly annoying, but kudos on being able to weave a wonderful tale. When you're in someone else's house (or restaurant!) you don't make stupid demands. It's rude. Grow up.

Anonymous said...

I had a very similar experience and will never go back there. Funny thing, I work for ExactTarget....and received no special treatment. I was treated as badly as you. Taking care of the customer is what we are all about----they can learn a few things from ET.

Bearitone said...

Not the first time I have heard this story about Bluebeard. I guess it is now becoming a common shared experience by many couples in this city. And a good reason I will never patronize such a snobbish establishment

Bearitone said...

Not the first time I have heard this story about Bluebeard. I guess it is now becoming a common shared experience by many couples in this city. And a good reason I will never patronize such a snobbish establishment

Anonymous said...

My sweetheart and I had a wonderful time the first time we went to Bluebeard--lively, knowledgeable servers, charming owners, solid, well-prepared menu w/ some Euro flair (though pricey). Reminded us of one of our favorites: The Purple Pig in Chicago. Went back a second time not long ago, and was disenchanted. Snarky waitperson, grossly over-salted fare and a table crammed right next to a leaky door on a cold night, though the place was empty. We'll think hard about going back, and certainly have stopped recommending the place to our friends. Do hope Bluebeard gets religion: tell their staff to stop being narcissistic, get their kitchen consistent, and don't suck up to VIPs--unless they figure out all of their customers are VIPs. It's a cool place with charming owners, but is going to crash quick unless they get the basics right.

GTM said...

Darn. I was looking forward to going there. I could have looked past a bad food review as I see that as personal taste but when an owner/chef is in bed with corporation I don't have time for it. As a previous restaurant manager I know the most expensive thing in a restaurant is an empty seat. They will learn that.

Anonymous said...

Too bad, hopefully ET or Lilly don't decide to jump on the next hype restaurant and leave them desolate trying to fill their precious four tops. I won't eat there because it's over priced and pretentious. If I want that I'll go to Chicago.

Anonymous said...

I also had a "like" experience to EJM and no I do not know her or have never met her. My husband and I have/had (had meaning not in the past month or two) heard how wonderful the food is. We went for lunch on a Saturday afternoon and wanted to sit inside. There was one table of 4 people in the large dining room/bar area. We did not want to sit in the bakery section for lack of better terms. We were told that area was closed for the day. I asked why were people sitting in there. The reply we received was.."well, they are regulars". I guess we being 1st timers we're not up to that status. We stayed despite the foul mood of the staff and sat up front almost touching a window and although the food was good we decided after the customer service we would now be considered NO MORE TIMERS OR ONE AND DONE!!

Tristan said...

Sorry to hear about your experience, Elizabeth.

By toeing the "company policy" line like that, it seems like this small business is catering to the corporate companies in the area by emulating their processes and rules.

Your experience reminds me of the first and only time I ate at R Bistro, where we were berated by the owner over their check-splitting policy. (My review of that experience is here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/r-bistro-indianapolis#hrid:qs7XN5ukJYu4mYVOROp_dA)

Joanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Very over rated. I know a couple of people in the kitchen and the love food. We had a similar experience there. It is too bad they have decided to hire the least professional, rudest servers they can find. I think that they require all front of house employees to have a sense of self importance and zero customer service skills.

Anonymous said...

Well I can asure you that we will heed this warning. We had curt and rude service when we were there but I chalked up to an imature server. I didn't realise that it is an ingrained customer service policy. There are just too many good restaurants in Indianapolis now to even consider tolerateing this sort of Amateur Hour Huey.

Anonymous said...

What a disgusting way to be treated. My friends and I will make sure to never go here again. Glad to see this story being posted all over Facebook!

Anonymous said...

Wow - I was thinking about this restaurant for a place to take my partner for our 15th anniversary. No way - sure am glad you posted this. There are too many other, welcoming places to put up with this kind of treatment.
Dan

GM said...

Dear Joanne,

Clearly you are a guest focused establishment. I was willing to over look all of the above because of all the wonderful things I had heard in the past but after your comments I think I'll pass. Even if every single word you wrote was true what is the upside, as someone who is in the hospitality industry, of calling someone horrible and ridiculous. You have illustrated Ms. Musgrave's point. Be very glad you don't work in my restaurant because I would have accepted your post as your letter of resignation effective immediately.

Don said...

Joanne, I have been there and your staff was RUDE! You do not get customer service in anyway. You feel it is common sense yet you belittle her for stating her opinion. You want your opinion as long as it does not counter yours! (Go work for A&E as they get that dumb philosophy!) The customer pays your check and your reputation brings the customer in. I built my business on my reputation and if you do not put the client first... you die. Your attitude and that of your staff has started building the casket for Bluebeard! All we are now awaiting is your music and flowers to arrive. You have already dug your own grave!

satisfried said...

we ate there. once. when trying to find a seat at the bar, we were told several times we couldn't wait here or there and to go outside. i didn't enjoy the 'look-how-different' food. i didn't enjoy watching the waitstaff impatiently take their food away from my companions before they were even finished, like "hurry up, get out"... and then paying too much in general. i thought the entire experience sucked.

will never eat there again.

Anonymous said...

The situation doors seem too exaggerated to be true. Having said that, my experiences at Bluebeard, as well as those of friends, make me think enough of it is true that I will not choose to go back.

Anonymous said...

regardless of anything said Bluebeard just doesn't get it...give her the 4 top and get her out ASAP no one hurt, do you really think those two extra seats are going to make a difference in that nights success, I doubt it...but by making such a big deal out of it after your employee sat them there you need to suck it up and take care of the guest...period...

Anonymous said...

JOANNE, YOUR FIRST MISTAKE WAS YOUR TONE IN YOUR REPLY. IF AND THAT'S A BIG HUGE "IF" YOU DISAGREE WITH WHAT ELIZABETH SAID, YOU TAKE THE HIGH ROAD AND BEND OVER BACKWARDS TO PLEASE HER AND BEG HER TO COME AGAIN AND YOU COMP HER MEAL!!!! YOU ARE IN THE CUSTOMER SERVICE BUSINESS. TO CALL HER A LIAR SHOWS YOU HAVE ZERO BUSINESS BEING IN THIS INDUSTRY!!!!!!!!! THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS CORRCT AND ALWAYS COMES FIRST.
LOTS OF LUCK TO YOU……..YOU ARE GOING TO NEED IT. I WOULD FIRE YOU THE SECOND THE FINISHED READING YOUR REPLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I can see why you didn't mention the name of YOUR restaurant. With your attitude and belief that this type of customer service is fine, you would lose business as well.

Kevin Saltzer said...

The exact same thing happened to my partner and I over a year ago. I was flying stand by, that day had I had missed 5 flights. Owen and I decided let's stop at Bluebeard as we had heard so many good things about the place. There were 2 tables seated in the restaurant and they tried sitting us next to a table of 2 ladies. We had to interrupt them to get seated, we all asked if we had to be seated there? We were countered with that is the only 2 top left in the restaurant we asked to sit at the 4 top right next to the window and were retorted with You are 2 people that is for 4 people ONLY. We ultimately were greeted by a very RUDE almost NASTY Manager who told us he would allow it this 1 time and 1 time only. I suggested he needed to think about the neighborhood he was in and we lived locally and wanted to support our local establishments. His retort was "WHO SAID WE WANTED YOUR KIND HERE!" WE HAVE NEVER BEEN BACK NOR WILL WE EVER GO BACK!!!!! Bluebeard keep up the GREAT Customer Service and see how long you survive! There are plenty of INVITING restaurants in Fountain Square that LOVE, RESPECT and CEEIBRATE their customers! We choose to spend our money were we are appreciated as patrons. Bluebeard thank you for making our decision more clear!!!!

Anonymous said...

The diners knew Joanne and from what I heard she at no point came over to get involved. If she was seating people, a manager, waitress or server... that would be one thing.
But the whole affair was under the watchful eye of one manager and a waitress or two. If Joanne wants to add her two cents here... she should have added it then.
Why a crappy tip? Overpriced, bland food and horrible service... but there was a tip! Maybe more than she expressed here.

Anonymous said...

OMG, 'restaurant owner,' go back to customer service 101 class because you clearly flunked.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, I am not in Bluebeard's target demo -- I had never heard of the place prior to this kerfuffle. That said, I will not be going, ever. Even IF Ms. Musgrave's account is grossly inaccurate, the reply from Joanne (here on the blog AND as a comment on a friend's Facebook post when he linked to this blog) has made it abundantly clear that I want no part of the anger, bitterness, and overall bullshittery of Bluebeard.

JZ said...

I'm debating between never setting foot in there again or going in to specifically request the four-topper by the window for me and my date.

Tony Wiederhold said...

Sorry that you didn't get the orivacy you wanted for your first date. I ate at Bluebeard once. The food was good and all, but I have only eaten there only once because I realized that I could have donated the money we spent that evening to Second Helpings and fed about 200 needy people. The type of business dinners that they are waiting for are high spend so I can see why they wouldn't want to miss out. Even disregarding the biz-dinner, if they got busy, seating two at a four top is a probable money loser unless the two people spend at least double normal. I can imagine that they have been burned by this more than once. It's not a hospitable policy, but maybe it's an indication that they are either struggling to turn a profit or get out of debt. The restaurant biz is rough.

Jill said...

After reading through Elizabeth's post the first time I was livid. So I waited a few days to respond to let this anger subside. However, as I reread through her commentary and the following posts, my anger has resurfaced; it is now accompanied by complete disbelief by the lack of professionalism on Ms. Musgrave's part. While she certainly entitled to her opinion, I find it appalling she removed JoAnn's post. I appreciate she didn't like what JoAnn had to say, but to remove it from her site screams of narcissism. But this should not come as a surprise to anyone who has thoughtfully read through any of her posts…If not being treated like the royalty she perceives herself to be, anger in the form of poorly written syntax is sure to follow. I am not with Eli Lilly. I am not with ET. I am not a regular. I am a customer who dines at Bluebeard when the mood strikes me. Sometimes that’s twice a month, others it’s a few times a week. And NEVER have I experienced anyone being rude or unaccommodating – but neither have I assumed the role of princess because I have been there before. I find it humorous that there are “always” empty tables at Bluebeard’s. On the evening of December 7, I went into Bluebeard’s at 6:00 hoping to catch an early dinner before the Symphony. The bar was packed and there was a 45 minute wait for a table. I again went in the evening of December 21 and experienced the same scenario. My guess is that as a recognized blogger there are certain expectations Ms. Musgrave must have…lingering over a long protracted dinner, being served as a princess and playing the part of super important food writer – mostly likely all with the assumption that the check will be “lost” at the end of the meal. Bluebeard serves amazing, delectable local food that is unique and inspiring. Their drink menu holds to this standard as well. Indianapolis has many chain restaurants that rely on processed, frozen ingredients that arrive from anywhere but Indiana, but Bluebeard has worked hard to succeed in the local and seasonal dining scene. Possibly an expanded palette is needed to appreciate the fine dishes that Bluebeard offers…

Elizabeth J. Musgrave said...

Hi Jill,

I hadn't noticed Joanne's response was removed until I read your comment just now. After checking, it seems you are correct. It says "Content removed by author," which I take to mean Joanne removed her own comment, I am uncertain why.

As we have never met, as far as I am aware, there is uncertainty to the point of origin of your hostility toward me.

As far as my palate(I am assuming you meant palate, not palette as you wrote), it is expanded nicely. As the columnist of two separate magazine columns on food and wine, I have had my fair share of wonderful meals across the nation.

The check expectation was to be paid by the gentleman who asked me to dinner. Which he did.

Regarding your insulting names hurled, such as "princess," "Super important food writer," and "narcissism," you have only yourself to ask why you would say that about someone whom you have not met. It is beyond my understanding.

Erik Deckers said...

When a comment is removed by the "author," it has been removed by the person who wrote the comment, not the owner of the blog. That's the administrator.