Poor Service on Purpose?

January 22, 2007

Posted in Small Business.

I’ll have to go track down a photo of this place.

My friend Oak went to dinner at a restaurant here in the South Bend, Indiana area. He was telling us about it today when he turned to me and said, “you wouldn’t like it.”

Intrigued, I asked why he thought this. He explained that the restaurant had a sign on the wall stating that, in order to keep costs down, service may be slow but that their food was worth the wait.

Now on the surface, this made me mad. The owners are saying that they are fine with delivering poor service just to save money. But the last part of the notice made me think: if you’re up front about the service, and your customers are willing to accept it, I don’t mind so much. Two reasons:

1. Managing expectations – if customers know what to expect, they’re more satisfied because they get it. In fact, if service is better, they’ll likely be impressed.

2. Making up for it elsewhere – the food is excellent. People go out of their way to find quality, and this is a perfect example.

Now it turns out the restaurant that Oak went to was Papa Joe’s – one of my mom’s favorite places. I’ve heard her rave about the food for so many years now that I can see that service isn’t always number one.


  1. oak — January 23, 2007

    to be fair, the letter to clients is actually on the front of the menu. It’s really hard to miss, and I was impressed that out of a table of six, all three of the people who had never eaten there before read and commented on the whole passage, and we’re not talking about a sound bite…this is a pretty dense paragraph that takes up most of the front of the menu.

    i think the note is weird, myself. It’s basically an admission that they don’t have the money to hire more staff. (the service is generally okay, it’s just that there are fewer people working there then there would be in an ideal situation). The market capitalist in me wants to tell them to raise their prices. Clearly they feel their food is worth the extra time, so why wouldn’t it be worth two to three more dollars a plate? Prices there are pretty reasonable, 10-20 dollars for pretty much all items on the menu. If it’s such a great place (and it is), why couldn’t they raise their prices and add staff? or…OPEN THE RESTAURANT MORE.

  2. oak — January 23, 2007

    something else occurred to me: you’re title for this is wrong. Ed DeBevic’s gives you poor service “on purpose.” it’s part of the show, and most people know that before they eat there. Papa Joe’s menu statement is more of a pre-apology in the event of poor service. They’re very polite, just not remarkably fast.