Black Bear Diner And The Thrice Cooked, Twice Eaten Steak Of Disappointment

The Black Bear Diner in Colorado Springs twice served Jason the same undercooked steak. When he asked for a new steak, the server returned with the same steak cooked for a third time. When Jason told the server that the steak looked unappetizingly familiar, the server responded with “some story about her eating the old steak, and (unprompted) said that she couldn’t bring out the other steak because she had ate it, and got in trouble with her boss about it.”

Jason cc’d us on the letter he sent to the Black Bear’s den:

I am writing to let you know about my experience recently at the Black Bear Diner in Colorado Springs.

My family and I are regular customers at the restaurant. In fact, when my extended family comes to town, our first stop is usually ‘The Bear’. The food is always excellent, with generous portions, and the servers are attentive and friendly. Plus the sugar free peach cobbler is a rare treat for a diabetic like me. I can not recall a negative or unpleasant experience in your restaurant, until last night.

My wife and I stopped in for dinner on Wednesday night, 2/25/09 at about 7pm. I decided to order the $15.99 cowboy cut steak. When it was served, the first thing I noticed that one corner of the steak was burnt, and the inside was a purple mush. Being an experienced griller, I recognized that the steak, being as thick as it was, would have been difficult to cook to medium rare, as I had requested. I brought this to the attention of the server, and the (I assume) manager on duty. They agreed that it looked raw still, and sent it back to be put on the grill.

About 2-3 minutes later, my server returned with the steak (smaller, minus the part where I cut into to inspect it previously) I cut into another side, and notice that it is still purple, and the outside is almost black. I asked the manager if instead of recooking the steak for a third time, to please just cook a new one, and I would take it to go. (at this point, my wife is nearly finished with her meal) The manager looked clearly uncomfortable with the request, offering several excuses as to why that would be inconvenient, finally saying that it would take too long. When I asked how long we were talking, she said 10 minutes. I told her that I found that acceptable for a new steak, and had no problem waiting. She furrowed her brow, said okay and went back to the kitchen, loudly exclaiming “Hey wants a new steak!”.

About 7 minutes later she returns with the steak, and asks if it is cooked. I checked, and it was all brown inside. She leaves to get a to-go box. Inspecting, the steak, I realized that it was infact the same steak we started out with, complete with the missing sides cut off. I mention that to the server, and ask her to just be honest with me, and she told me some story about her eating the old steak, and (unprompted) said that she couldn’t bring out the other steak because she had ate it, and got in trouble with her boss about it. Deciding against calling her and the manager liars to their face, we opt to pay our bill (including the 15.99 for the mystery steak) and leave. Had that server actually eaten that steak, she would have gotten sick from it being so undercooked.

Once I got home, I took the steak out and tried it. It was incredibly over cooked (as a steak that’s been re-cooked 3 times would be), and had a funny chemical taste to it. After two bites, I had to discard it, over concern for my own health.

Now, I understand that mishaps can happen in a food service environment. Sometimes, things just don’t cook right. I can accept that without issue, as long as it is resolved appropriately when brought to your attention. What disturbs me the most, is that I was so blatantly lied to about the food. When I frequent a restaurant, I place a certain amount of trust in them to not sicken me with unsafe food. With the actions of the server and manager last night, my trust in Black Bear Diner is severely damaged.

While you can’t put a dollar figure to what trust is worth, I am also bothered that I paid $15.99 for this horrible experience. I respectfully request a refund of the amount I paid for this dinner. I can be contacted at the information at the end of this email to arrange for a refund, and to discuss this further if needed. I hope we can work to a satisfactory resolution of this issue.

Jason wrote a great letter and earned exactly the response he wanted from Black Bear:

I just got off the phone with Fay, the General Manager at the restaurant.

She acknowledged the mess up on their part, apologized repeatedly, and made assurances that the issue would be resolved by retraining the staff. She offered to not only refund for my meal, but our total ticket, as well as free dinner for my wife and I at our convenience. I am very pleased with the resolution, and her response.