Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shame on the Iron Grill

When a new, upscale restaurant comes to town and a business women’s group makes a reservation for a networking event, one would expect that the manager is there to greet the group and there would be a private room available, with customized menus on the tables with drinks and dinner suggestions and maybe a “come back” coupon for next time. One would think that a restaurant that has 20+ business women walk through the door on a Tuesday evening would jump for joy and think of all the new business that might come from such a group.

One would think . . .

Chef Lamar’s Iron Grill in Athens did not think this evening.

We were herded like cattle into a corner of the lobby (while the upstairs private room went unused), where a kitchen table with eight chairs had been set up. Twenty-some women, eight chairs – you do the math!

The bartender was charming, the pomegranate martini was delicious and there were complimentary appetizers on that table in the lobby corner (Who cares? Who could even reach them?), but if I were a restaurant manager and had 20 business women walk in the door at dinner time, I would see a $600 to $1,000 tab for that evening and an endless string of repeat business – you know . . ., husbands, boyfriends, clients, prospects, colleagues.

Shame on the Iron Grill. This is clearly not a restaurant that wants to have business women as customers.


Lya Sorano said...

This is what Anne Egros, former Atlantan, now living in Brussels, posted on my Facebook page: "Hello Lya, I had a very similar bad experience recently in Zaventem. Obviously it is a global trend, some business owners don't care they want the cash now and don't want to spend more for an hypothetical ROI later. Hopefully I know you care and that is why you bring so much value on the table to anybody, clients or not, living in Atlanta or Brussels !"

I'll have to look into this a bit further -- do restaurants treat groups of women differently from the way in which they treat groups of men?

LamarT said...

Hello Lya Sorano,

I offer all apologies on the seating that you were given at our restaurant.

I was busy making the appetizers (pecan big eye tuna tataki on watermelon and ginger slaw; shrimp mashed potato bruschetta) and was quite happy on having your business meeting here. A great deal of time was put into preparing complimentary appetizers that best represented the restaurant. I am sorry that you did not get a chance to have any of the foods offered.

You are all of course important to us and there is no gender bias.There is no trend, just a neglect on proper handling of your group at that time. I offer all apologies to you and the Atlanta Business Woman group. I take all criticisms to heart and was excited about the group meeting here.

If there is anything that I can do for you please feel free to contact me by email or in person should you come into dine.
If you have dined here I am open to opinions on the food and service. Shame is a harsh word to levy on anyone and all I can say is that I apologize, I did my best to present complimentary foods beyond any expectations, and was not clear on the seating for your group. I would have happily moved your group to the blue room/private dining room had I understood that the smaller private area and bar was not big enough.
All customers are equally important to us and I truly do care.

H Lamar Thomas
Chef Lamar's Iron Grill

jpk said...

As one of the organizers for our meeting that night, it would have been nice of you to contact me before making this post. As some one said there is the story than there is the whole story. Clarity is needed before shaming a business publicly and I would have been happy to answer any questions if I had been asked.

Denise the other organizer and I got there early to assess the area of where we were to meet. She wondered if this space would have been big enough. I assured her that our group had met there several times in the past and it had always been very accommodating.
With our recent attendance being light I felt comfortable that this space would meet our needs for our meeting. Our group started arriving and it became very obvious that this was going to be challenging for the amount of women who attended. Love that we are growing!! Our discussions got under way and everyone seemed to make the best of it.

Your comment on the management. When we arrived Shirley the GM greeted us and asked if we needed anything. She was very attentive. I asked if we could have a few more tables set up, she and her staff were happy to oblige. Than she announced the Chef Lamar was making offerings of free food with no charge. The food was amazing and it was more that just appetizers. If anything appreciation is in order for the hospitality that was extended to us.

Thank you Chef Lamar and Shirley!!

The private room that is available was being used by a pharmaceutical group. Shirley did offer another space upstairs and I declined for the reasons previously mentioned.

As for the error on keeping our group in the same location. After the meeting was over I stood and apologized for the lack of space and assured everyone that our next event would be in better circumstances. I called the other organizer and apologized to her as well. We really do want our meeting to be accommodating and for us all to have experiences that enrich us after we leave.

For the future, before making criticisms or offering shame on businesses that are involved it would be wise to talk to the the organizers. You can reach me on Linked In, Face Book and I have given you my card.

I am easy to find.
Janet Prince Kilpatrick

Lya Sorano said...

Thanks, Lamar – apologies accepted! I look forward to being at the Iron Grill under better circumstances.

Janet, your point is . . . “I made them do it” . . .?

It is clear that you have divided loyalties. You (and your husband) want the Iron Grill to do well (so do I!) and you want the business women’s group to do well (so do I!). I have already mentioned to Denise that it would be of interest to me to have a monthly luncheon or dinner meeting of serious business women and the Iron Grill would be a perfect location.

This was the third time in a row that as a group we were not taken seriously (Hotel Indigo and Ciné did not seem to appreciate us being there, either). We carry economic clout; we do not have to have a $6.25 presentation fee or a $5 admission fee as our centerpiece and rely on free hors d’oeuvres, with some attendees having a glass of water as their sole beverage. We can afford a $20 lunch or a $40 dinner. Just like our male colleagues . . .