Outback Steakhouse Manager Overreacts To Spilled Beers — But In A Good Way

Most of the e-mail we get into our tip line, especially with regards to restaurants, is about rude waitstaff, awful food and uncaring managers. So it was a very pleasant surprise to hear this story from Consumerist reader Rob, whose visit to Outback Steakhouse started sourly but ended happily.

Rob and his wife had gone out to eat with his sister and her husband. And as happens in lots of restaurants, the waitress slipped while delivering drinks spilled all over the table and a little bit onto Rob’s clothes.

He says the staff immediately began to clean up, and that’s when the “keep the customer happy machine” kicked into gear.

Explains Rob:

The manager, who happened to be nearby, came over and immediately began apologizing. We didn’t make a fuss about it. She left and returned a few minutes later, having found out that we order appetizers. She told us that there would be no charge, implied that they would pay for dessert, and asked us to talk to her if there were any other problems with our bill.

We didn’t think that this spill was a big deal, and thought that just comping our Bloomin’ Onion was enough for them to have gone above and beyond the call of duty. We were very impressed with the manager’s efforts to make it up to us.

We ordered our food, which was satisfactory, and got dessert, which was delicious. After our waitress presented us with our bill, the manager returned with two $25 gift certificates. She even offered to pay for dry cleaning.

Comments

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  1. Costner says:

    The Outback near me does this type of thing all the time. They go above and beyond if there is ever anything wrong. I’m always impressed – which probably explains why I keep going back.

    • ZachPA says:

      I run a pizza restaurant. I do this, and I tell my employees to go above and beyond also. To the customer, $50 worth of food is $50 they don’t have to spend. To the restaurant, $50 worth of food is really a food cost of only $10-20. So, why not spend $20 to bring a customer back? I might not make any money on them that time, but they will buy food from me 20 more times this year because I comped them $50 once.

    • alvysyngr says:

      The one in Merrick, NY has made the same mistake every time I’ve been there (4 times) – Ask for Medium Rare and it’s literally warm/raw on the inside – all I ever got was it thrown back on the grill. I will no longer go to any of them.

      • LanMan04 says:

        Ask for Medium Rare and it’s literally warm/raw on the inside
        ————-
        Um, that’s what Medium Rare is! Maybe you should order Medium?

        Medium = pink and firm
        Medium Rare = warm red center; firmer
        Rare = cold red center; soft
        Extra Rare or Blue = very red and cold

        • alvysyngr says:

          I am aware of the differences – this had a tinge of coolness to the meat

          • MattSaintCool says:

            I always describe cool/cold things with the word “warm” so I see the confusion

            • petrieslastword says:

              Sounds very much like alvysyngr doesn’t know what a steak is actually supposed to look like, and should order a damn medium if it keeps coming out that way.

          • Putaro says:

            Every time I’ve been to the Outback they’ve always explained that their idea of cooking meat is more rare than what people expect. So I think you were getting the “Outback medium rare”. Why they can’t just do it the way people expect I don’t know.

            • aphex732 says:

              Because they are actually serving a steak true to temperature. The issue is that other chain restaurants overcook their steaks (and some won’t even do a rare steak) because people constantly send them back due to ignorance of steak temp.

  2. Bladerunner says:

    Well played Outback.

  3. Phildogger says:

    Wet beer pants is not a pleasant experience “down under”!

  4. kaptainkk says:

    I have experienced this type of generosity at Texas Roadhouse as well.

  5. Hi_Hello says:

    that’s cool.

  6. axhandler1 says:

    Interesting. There is one near me, but I’ve never been. I think I’ll go check it out one night. Well played, Outback manager.

  7. Cicadymn says:

    Wow, talk about customer service. Well done.

  8. Coffee says:

    If only it were a good restaurant, stories like this would make me want to go.

    • "I Like Potatoes" says:

      How do you know it’s not a good restaurant if you don’t go?

      • Coffee says:

        Because I’ve been there before and thought it was overpriced for the quality of food I received. I didn’t imply I hadn’t been there before.

  9. QrazyQat says:

    Very smart as well as nice. Just from a greedhead standpoint it’s amazing more places don’t do this. Turns any possible ill feeling into goodwill, plus they often get free publicity beyond the inevitable word of mouth… not to mention the customers involved returning. The cost? less than a day’s worth of local advertising.

    • pamelad says:

      Agreed, smart and nice. Plus they don’t get all the negative publicity and potential loss of customers that an unpleasant episode could generate. If I owned a restaurant, I’d nearly be tempted to “accidentally” spill a drink on the table then be super-nice about it! (Nearly, not actually.)

  10. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Things aren’t going very well back there.

    The poor cook’s son has been put away again, and poor old Mrs Dalrymple who does the washing up can hardly move her poor arthritic fingers, and then there’s Gilberto’s war wound – but they’re good people, and they’re kind people, and together we were beginning to get over this dark patch … there was light at the end of the tunnel . .. now this . .. now this…

    • greatgoogly says:

      +1

    • pop top says:

      You are awesome.

    • Cat says:

      You bastards! You vicious, heartless bastards! Look what you’ve done to him! He’s worked his fingers to the bone to make this place what it is, and you come in with your petty feeble quibbling and you grind him into the dirt, this fine, honorable man, whose boots you are not worthy to kiss. Oh… it makes me mad… mad!

      Great minds think alike. I apparently type slower than you, however.

    • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

      /gives a standing ovation

    • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

      Now this time, I don’t want to catch anyone not drinkin’!

    • nybiker says:

      You guys obviously have watched MPFC way more than I have (granted, I saw them back when they first were shown in the US), and have committed the dialogue to memory and for that I commend you. Even having watched them last year (netflix & roku) I didn’t keep track of all the lines.
      I am waiting for a story where I can use the “I’m not dead” line.

      • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

        Don’t worry Bank of America, Chase, or Social Security will undoubtedly mistakenly mark someone off as dead this year. Never fails.

  11. shamowfski says:

    We always get great customer service at outback. I forgot my credit card once. Came back a couple days later to pick it up and the manager gave me a gift card “for my trouble”. It was my damn fault…It is a great way to keep a wait going at your restaurant during a tough economy though.

  12. az123 says:

    Outback is just so use to screwing up they are pre-programed to fix things so they have customers. My GF and I get a reasonable supply of gift cards for them through work and also occasionally go otherwise. We go to two different outbacks in our area and probably 75% of the time they screw something up and we get either discounts through free meals.

    It would be nicer if they would not screw up as much, but I at least give them credit for knowing how to keep the customer happy when they do and acting without question

  13. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    This is why I always get a kids’ menu and ‘accidentally’ drop the crayons on the floor next to our table.

  14. Cat says:

    Manager: I want to apologize, humbly, deeply, and sincerely about the spill.

    It gets me here. I can’t give you any excuses for it – there are no excuses. I’ve been meaning to spend more time in the restaurant recently, but I haven’t been too well… things aren’t going very well back there. The poor cook’s son has been put away again, and poor old Mrs Dalrymple who does the washing up can hardly move her poor fingers, and then there’s Gilberto’s war wound – but they’re good people, and they’re kind people, and together we were beginning to get over this dark patch … there was light at the end of the tunnel . .. now this . .. now this…

  15. sirwired says:

    Damn… the last time I had a bad meal at Outback (steaks way over-done, appetizer order screwed up, cold mashed potatoes) I didn’t get a single dime of it comped.

  16. Marlin says:

    Foods cheap(most of it), losing a customer is not.
    Something everybody in food business should know.

  17. kidstechno says:

    Not sure about Outbacks everywhere but the one here has gone downhill big time. It used to have a somewhat pricy but good tasting food. Now it has Bojangles quality food for the same price.

    No thanks. Haven’t been back since.

  18. OttersArePlentiful says:

    Wow! I’m impressed, especially with the final vouchers and offer to pay for dry cleaning. I’ve read a few stories of baristas or waitresses spilling drinks on customers and they usually refuse to pay to clean the customer’s clothing. This manager definitely knows how to do her job!

  19. Jim M says:

    My local Outback does this as well. Think I picked my dinner plans.

  20. Murph1908 says:

    I had a bad experience at Outback last year. First steak came out way undercooked, and the baked potato was hard, lumpy, and cold. Steak came out a second time, cooked the wrong way (wood fire grilled instead of seared, or whatever their new options were).

    My wife and 3 year old were done by this time. The manager on site did nothing about it, except give me the option to wait another 15 minutes for another steak to be cooked, or eat the one delivered. I ended up eating the steak I didn’t order.

    I wrote in to complain, and the response from the owner was very good and apologetic. Must have gotten a manager on a bad day or something. I was irritated on the second mistake, but not rude at all.

  21. Vox Republica says:

    You know what? I’m going to invert my usual response to bad customer service: because of this one particular Outback Steakhouse manager, next time I get the chance, I’m going to pick Outback over any other food option in the area. Take THAT, Outb–wait, no… I’m not sure what the opposite of righteous indignation is, but I’m working on it.

  22. Pigfish99 the randomly insane says:

    I never really liked outback’s food, but this gives me faith. Hopefully, other places will follow in their footsteps.

    Then again, my comments never get posted, so meh.

  23. hmburgers says:

    That’s cool… hopefully they are equally “cool” about it with the waitress, otherwise I’m guessing she won’t be working there anymore…

  24. HoJu says:

    My Outback gave us free apps for waiting….3 minutes… for a table when there wasn’t a line.
    THREE
    MINUTES.

    We told the manager that it wasn’t at all necessary. it’s no big deal to wait a couple minutes. He insisted so we just accepted.

  25. humphrmi says:

    I’ve always had great service from Outback.

  26. kingdom2000 says:

    I bet the waitress got fired. Usually if the cheap labor (which waitress usually are with their $2 or $3 hour pay) do something that costs the business money (like the around $75 with $50 gift cards + $10 for comped appetizer + $15 for comped dessert), they like to “correct” the cost by kicking someone to the curb.

    • rdaex says:

      It must be awful to live your entire life in such a foul stink that you think of THAT when this story comes up.

  27. I just blue myself says:

    I’ve always gotten great service there. One time my boyfriend and I used a giftcard to get something from their carryout. When we brought it home, I found a hair in my salad and my burger was raw in the middle (I like well-done meat. I’m very picky about that). We called, just to let them know our experience but weren’t expecting anything from it because it was carry-out and there was really no way to prove any of this unless we brought it back. Anyway, the offered us free appetizers the next time we went. We tried again a few weeks later to use up the rest of the giftcard and as I was about to hand my payment to the waitress, she informed us that our entire meal had been comped. It was a very nice suprise.

  28. jenniferrose76 says:

    The one and only time hubby and I went to the Outback, he got kicked out. I was a bit dolled up, and 2 guys across the bar were checking me out. Hubby got there after I did, and sat next to me. We were having a great time, just hanging out (we have a slew of kids, so “us” time is pretty highly valued lol.)

    After about an hour the manager comes up and tells hubby he has to leave-that he made “obscene gestures” at a customer, but that I was welcome to stay. I objected, stated that hubby was literally next to me the entire time and made no such gestures. Manager states that some off-duty employees saw it, and hubby had to leave, but, after I expressed my displeasure, that they would comp our bill. He also repeatedly told me that I could stay, just not hubby. It was all pretty sketchy.

    As we were leaving, I notice that the gross guys across the bar both had crumpled up aprons on the bar in front of them that looked suspiciously like Outback aprons. Tried complaining to corporate and was told, for all intents and purposes, to go pound sand.

    Glad to see this manager knows how to manage!

  29. kerry says:

    Sometimes huge gestures like this put me off a little, it’s like they’re overcompensating, especially if they’re bowing and scraping over the kind of small things that just happen sometimes, like spilling a drink. Recently I went to a (local, non-chain) restaurant and had a pretty good meal. When the server collected the plates from one course she asked if we liked it, and I said it was “just OK.” She took it off the bill entirely, which was not just unnecessary but a little weird. It’s like some restaurants go beyond caring and straight into pandering.

    • rdaex says:

      Yea! How dare they want a customer to be WOWED with their experience!
      What jerks, Ill never patronize a place that goes overboard with customer satisfaction

    • aphex732 says:

      The other thing to remember is that the manager’s bonuses are heavily dependent on customer feedback – it’s much better for their paycheck to make sure that everyone leaves happy, so they give a TON of stuff away to ensure that they don’t lose out.

  30. Tiffymonster says:

    I forgot my purse at an outback once and the next morning I had a flight to LA for a funeral (I found out at 3am and booked the next available flight) while getting ready I couldnt find my purse anywhere and I was hysterical. It finally dawned on me that I may have left it at the restaurant and I completely freaked out. One of the janitors picked up and then called the manager at home. She rushed into the store to get me my purse so that I could make my flight. I was already running super late but somehow I managed to get on that flight. I was super impressed.

  31. Robert Nagel says:

    I was traveling on vacation in California and at a local chain restaurant the waitress spilled some sauce on my new sports jacket. They immediately asked me to leave the jacket so they could get it cleaned for me to pick-up the next day. I advised them that I was flying to Hawaii the next day so they asked for my address and said they would send it to me. Needless to say, I never got it. Years later, maybe 3 or 4, I stopped at another restaurant in the chain in Indianapolis. When the manager came by I mentioned the previous incident i passing. He immediately called the offending restaurant and determined that the jack was still there, hanging on the managers door. They lost my address.
    They then sent me my 4 year old new jacket. The stain didn’t come out, but their heart was in the right place. And it was a cheap jacket.

  32. Serenefengshui says:

    Wow, I got spilled on at Outback and didn’t even get the darn beer on the house! I was pissed–the mess was huge and ruined the dinner.

  33. DonnieZ says:

    If the food was 10% as good as the service report, I’d actually maybe consider dining there once in a while.

  34. bkdlays says:

    My particular Outback is usually good except for the takeout. I have had a few problems lately and finally called to complain. They put me on hold for 10 minutes while my food got cold while they “got a manger”

    This has happened at least twice and the manager keep promising to send me a certificate to cover the meal that I never got. After 3 times of hearing this from 3 different owners (2 are/were managing partners / owners) I received nothing.

    Outback is high volume and they get about 90% right. What other restaurant do you know that only serves dinner and makes all their money from 4pm-11pm? When dining in they have a great system when they are busy utilizing runners and other help. Every table is everyone’s tables is their system and it works great, unless they aren’t busy. Then it falls apart badly.

    The takeout is also a joke. The website says 20 minutes and the food is ready anywhere from 20 minutes to an average of 40. It asks for your car type, but the people still come out and ask if its you. They also strategically leave out things such as your salad or side order. Calling to complain just ruins your meal and you are lied to. No joke, I dealt with 3 people that work there and they gave me absolutely nothing in the end but a bunch of BS.

    Oh well, they are better than most. I guess I should be happy for that.

  35. cheezfri says:

    I’ve never really had anything go wrong at my local Outback, so I can’t attest to their customer service in times of spillage or anything else. But once we ate at a Buffalo Wild Wings and their service was incredibly slow & shitty, including the waitress spilling iced tea on me, shrugging her shoulders and saying a sarcastic “sorry”. We called a manager over to discuss the whole service situation, not just the spill, and he was no help at all.

    Another time, we ate at an O’Charley’s, where my husband’s salad contained a metal bolt. They shrugged their shoulders as well, helpfully stating that they weren’t missing any bolts in the kitchen area. They didn’t even offer to give him a fresh salad.

    And the most painful of all, I was eating a berry pie at a nice restaurant whose name escapes me at the moment. I broke a tooth when I bit down on a small rock. Zero empathy from the manager who said both, “it’s berries, there’s bound to be rocks in there” and “how do we know you didn’t put the rock in there?” Customer service for the win! (NOT!)

  36. some.nerd says:

    COOL STORY BRO