Restaurant Bonding Revisited

April 15, 2009 at 7:04 am 68 comments

Refresh your memory of a post I wrote at the end of last month that drew a flurry of excellent comments from readers:  Restaurant Bonding. I wrote to Outback Steakhouse suggesting they re-think their policy of having wait staff sit down next to customers, citing my blog and your responses to it.

With the permission of the person who wrote the email, I am sharing Outback’s response:

G’day,

Thank you for contacting Outback Steakhouse, we always encourage and appreciate feedback from our guests.

Our servers are not directed to sit with guests while taking orders (unless invited), however we do encourage that they get to eye level.  Outbackers are encouraged to be warm, friendly, and let the true love of their job at Outback shine through.  Our goal is to make every dining experience at Outback an enjoyable, relaxing and memorable one. We believe the service we provide is the best in the business and a true point of difference.

Thank you for passing on this feedback from your blog, we always welcome and consider feedback from our guests.

Sincerely,
Your Friends at Outback

I guess I’m stumped. Your comments?
Ami Simms

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Entry filed under: Miscellaneous Musings.

Most Boring Job OK, I Changed My Mind. Again.

68 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elizabeth  |  April 15, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Interesting…the ‘eye level’ things creeps me out too because it’s not like the waitstaff crouch down with their backs straight, rest their pad on the edge of the table, and jot down your order. Instead, my experience has been that most of them are young adults and they do what young adults do; slouch with their entire weight on the end of the table and curl their around around the order pad like they’re working on a term paper that’s due in five minutes when the bell rings. Again – it’s a business transaction and nothing more. I expect that the waitstaffs eyes will be higher than mine because I’m sitting down. Nobody crouches down to meet my eyes when they bring my drinks or bread so why do it when you’re taking an order?

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  • 2. Kalli  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Sounds liek they’re going to completely ignore what your readers have said and continue with their usual training!

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  • 3. Mary Lou Nutterfield  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:08 am

    For me, myself and I, don’t want them at “eye level”.
    I have never had a server sit down with me but I’m afraid I would have a few choice words for them…mln

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  • 4. Christine Ricart  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:10 am

    That reminds me of the time I wrote to Quaker complaining about an undisclosed change to their dog food formula that made my dog deathly ill and cost me $1500 for veterinary care. Their response? Thanks for writing and here are some coupons for the dog food.
    If a human reads the mail, apparently the responses are pre-programmed and they are not allowed to deviate.

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  • 5. Melinda  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Thanks, but we’ll continue to do it “our” way.

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  • 6. Sue  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:15 am

    They are without a clue! Just yesterday my friend went to Outback and the server was kneeling on the floor to take her order, then had to put her hands on the floor to get up. Do you think she’s washing her hands before she brings the food to the table? Yuck!

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  • 7. MARILYN KIRCHNER  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I guess that the only alternative is for you to stand up when you give your order…thus, you will be at “eye level” Marilyn

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  • 8. Martha  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:21 am

    I have friends! I brought them to the restaurant! I don’t want new friends on the wait staff! Be nice, be polite, and don’t interrupt my conversation to tell me about the special. I’m such a curmudgeon.

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  • 9. HelenMarie  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:26 am

    1. He can’t read English?. Only Australian?
    2. He thinks we are a bunch of cranks?
    3. He and the rest of the corporate world are going nuts?
    4. He really really really believes that for ALL the workers at ALL the Outback Steakhouses, this is the happiest place, with the best job, where everyone is giving to the best of his or her ability all the time and giving back to society to the level of his or her incompetence!
    5. He and all employees at Outback Steakhouse have been watching too much Dr. Phil.
    6. The first thing all employees do, when putting on the Outback Face, is turn in their brains.
    7. think I”d better quit now………..

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  • 10. Karen  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Well, that was certainly a ‘no response response’. And you have to admit your experience was memorable!
    Karen

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  • 11. Anne Lancaster  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:34 am

    OK, if Outback management encourages their wait staff to get on eye level with the patron, maybe after squatting down at countless tables all day long, they get tired legs, and so they sit at the table to give their legs a rest! Sounds reasonable to me. I guess the management doesn’t realize this is happening, and they don’t sound too concerned about our complaints, either…

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  • 12. pati  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:35 am

    This sounds like the classic form letter plus the personalized line inserted. I am put in mind of a parrot… does the parrot really understand the words he mimics? I have no problem with looking upward when requesting what I would like. It is not long enough to give me a stiff neck. I may be old school but to me it is a sign of respect. Smiling, being pleasant and quickly getting my order right shows they enjoy their job.

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  • 13. georgia  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Ami—Guess we’re getting to old and the gracious hospitality is no longer alive and well!!!!!!!

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  • 14. Patricia Hutson  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:44 am

    As far as eye-level; if the server is rather tall, and someone has a neck problem i.e. it’s hard to look up – the eye-level would be appreciated. There is “friendly” and “over-friendly.” I want my server to be friendly but not act like we are big buddies, etc.!

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  • 15. Julie J  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Amazing, isn’t it, how someone can say so little with so many words?

    Guess we can count on the staff sitting in the booth next to us the next time we go there.

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  • 16. Beth  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:58 am

    That sounded like a “canned” letter with no thought behind it.

    Obviously, there are people who like to have wait staff sit with them but the majority don’t. Since the majority don’t, it seems to me that you go with the majority……

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  • 17. Linda Ferguson  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I guess they don’t get it!! I don’t want them that friendly-just take my order and let me eat. I love my water glass to stay full, but they don’t need to join my table. Fergie in WA

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  • 18. Ellen Cabluck  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Ami, I am in total agreement with you. I want my server to be polite, take my order correctly (and cheerfully is helpful) and deliver it to me in a timely manner. I dine with my friends, and do not intend to become friends with my server. Don’t get me started on loud music that makes it impossible to have a conversation.
    Thanks for calling this to the attention of a restaurant manager.

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  • 19. Kaye Richards  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Yakes, as a former wate person there is a big difference between looking some one in the eye, to being at eye level/
    think of it- every time you take an order you must eather bend; neal down; set down.; to be at eye level / I feel sorry for the wate person/
    and would feel very uncomfortable having some one trying to get into my eye level. I would not eat there!!
    Kaye in Montana

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  • 20. Judee  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:09 am

    I want to see IN the servers eyes that they CARE and that is not the same as looking at them at eye level.

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  • 21. Marcia Middents  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Sounds like a polite way of saying they know better than their actual customers what their customers like. Perhaps thay need to do a market research study. What they call friendly, most people find to be annoying and intrusive. I don’t remember that the server at our local Outback sat with us or kneeled by the table, but he constantly interrupted our meal to check on things. Being ignored by a restaurant server is bad, but encouraging your servers to stop by a guest’s table every 5 minutes and calling it “friendly” service indicates a misunderstanding of the reasons people eat out. Polite is good, efficient is good, hovering is bad, and trying to be our new best friend is bad.

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  • 22. Jane  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Maybe it’s time to send your original, along with their response, along with these posts, to the next level.

    My husband and I haven’t gone to Outback in ages. We can’t stand the noise level at the one near us, and we figured they wouldn’t hear us if we complained.

    Just wish someone, somewhere would listen to the people who spend money and keep them in business, but I guess that’s just too much to ask.

    Let’s start posting the names of the businesses that listen and really do take customer concerns seriously. We can all spend our money in those places. Costco is one I’d recommend!

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  • 23. Carmen  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I think that Outback corporation just doesn’t care, because of this, I just wouldn’t/don’t eat there and would tell any friends about their precedure of taking orders down and let them choose if their method is okay with them. As for me, no.

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  • 24. Norma  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:29 am

    We solved the problem. We have a new Texas Roadhouse. The food is even better than Outback, the service is great and the servers don’t try to make themselves part of the family.

    One time at Outback, the cute little blonde that was our server slid into the booth next to my husband. She was wearing a very tight t-shirt and shorts (and I mean SHORT shorts!) The look of surprise on my husband’s face was something to see. I don’t know what look I had on my face, but I definitely was NOT amused!

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  • 25. Betty Alofs  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Pretty much a canned answer! Or a non-answer! Not a good response to your concerns.

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  • 26. Janie Grohs  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:46 am

    The best was to solve this is to not go to the restaurant. Have you checked out the calories in their bloomin onion? The bloke didn’t understand nor want to understand what you were saying. A letter back telling him that you won’t return, with a copy to corporate head would be satisfying?

    That WAS corporate!~~Ami

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  • 27. Kathy A Merris  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I prefer my wait staff standing thank you very much. I love people but prefer them not to be in my face until I actually know them. Besides, watching them bend down and get back up makes my knees ache. Kathy

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  • 28. Marian Mathewson  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Translation: This is how we do it. So just get over it and pay us.

    I’d stop going there and let the manager know why. There are enough creepy things in this world to deal with! JMHO!!

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  • 29. Debbie Harmon  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Last week I visited a TGIFriday’s with four other ladies. We were seated at a table for six and the server sat down with us to take our orders. He was extremely friendly and called us all ‘Honey’ (we were all at least thirty years older than he). I was offended and really thought about asking him if he were going to eat with us. Sometimes I really have to bite my tongue.

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  • 30. cathy  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:53 am

    i liked marilyn’s idea… we can stand up when we give the order. haha… that’d be funny, if every other person in our party stands up, they will have to crouch down, stand up, crouch down, stand up, etc… just to keep at our eye level. :)

    yeah, so Outback is saying we’ll do what we want, thank you very much. end of that story.
    guh-day, mate!

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  • 31. Peggy  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:54 am

    I understand that many of you don’t care for the way Outback handles it’s customer service but I think the whole idea was to have a restaurant that was different than all the rest. I think the general opinion in the US of Aussie’s is of how friendly they are. That said, while this may not be a popular opinion, maybe those of you on this list that don’t like the way they serve are not the majority. It doesn’t bother me that they get down at eye level and I frankly find it sort of refreshing. Many people must agree with this because the Outback’s here are always packed. Different strokes for different folks…Is there really no one else out there that agrees with Outback? You are sort of asking them to change the one thing that really sets them apart. JMHO

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  • 32. Willa  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:57 am

    If they want to sit down they need to get their own table. I don’t like them to be that close and I am not their best friend. I love to meet people and be friendly but many times it is just too close. They will get a much better tip if they are a good waitress/waiter …. They can be really nice and I love being nice back, but that isn’t why I am there.

    I don’t mean for this to sound harsh…but it makes me uncomfortable when they pull up a chair..

    Thanx Willa from Iowa

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  • 33. Debby Brown  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Seems like “customer service” has become the biggest oxymoron around. Recently had an experience when I ordered a Quilter’s Cruise Control on-line. Got a call on my home telephone from LightenUp (the Cruise Control people) saying they needed more info before shipping. I responded to the message but because it was after hours, left the requested information and specifically told the message machine that if they had further questions to call on my cell phone. The next night same person calling at home asking for the same information. When I called during business hours and talked to the person, was told “Oh someone else takes the messages and I don’t ever get them”. Now for the real “customer service” part. When I did receive the Cruise Control, I also received an e-mail from the on-line order company asking about my ordering experience, I related all this information. Got an e-mail from the on-line company saying “those calls weren’t from our company.” My response was “they are/were your agent” and how astonished I was at their indifference to a customer making a large purchase which I promised would not be repeated.

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  • 34. Laura  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:03 am

    It must be a business formula that works for them. They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t think it improves their business. Maybe younger folks like it, and maybe that’s the majority of their customer base. They will need to get many more complaints before they re-think the policy. Apparently Ami’s note with a few dozen comments wasn’t enough. (Or they didn’t even read it.)
    P.S. The eye-level thing is bogus because when they are squatting, they are always lower then my eye level. Besides, it’s reminiscent of a kindergarden teacher :-)

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  • 35. Mona  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Well, it seems the respons did get one thing right………

    “…dining experience … memorable one.”

    Sadly, it probably is the memory of the LAST visit to eat there.

    I am in total agreement with your displeasure of their policy.

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  • 36. Anne Mains  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:24 am

    This is an interesting read. I gave up going to chain restaurants a few years ago because I didn’t enjoy the food and the music is too noisy – I hadn’t experienced the upclose and personal touch. I much prefer the quiet pub in my home village where I know the owner and the food is healthy and great tasting. I also don’t like it when staff in stores call me by my first name after I hand them my credit card. That isn’t the way I was brought up.

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  • 37. Ruth Garrett  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:25 am

    This is too bad. I love the steaks at Outback, but I am really put-off by this attitude of ignoring your (our!) concerns. I think I’ll find another steak house. I actually haven’t been to an Outback for quite awhile. So it shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid them.

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  • 38. Bidwell Drake  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:31 am

    The Ouback Steakhouse in Conroe, Texas is on the right wavelength! I’ve eaten there three times recently (now that the lines aren’t so bad) and the wait staff has been courteous, cheerful, attentive, and none of them slouched, much less sat down with me.

    The rack of lamb is fabulous, as is the prime rib!!!

    A happy Outback customer, who will go back.

    Gram

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  • 39. PegDeyoe  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:52 am

    I’m with all others. I don’t like my server/wait person kneeling in front of me. I want respect and efficiency–not cutsy pie friendness. I don’t like to be called cute endearing names, either. Hon, Honey, Sweetie, etc, are demeaning to me. What ever happened to Ma’am and Sir??

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  • 40. Linda Kramer  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:52 am

    I’ve solved the problem at Outback- I don’t go there any more. Besides, they salt their meat so intensively that I’ve had heart problems the two times I went. Now I go to a local steak place. I know they are instructed to do these dumb things but if people stopped patronizing the place of business, maybe they’d truly get a clue. My pet peeve is when they insist on callling me a “guest”- if i was a guest I wouldn’t be paying. I’m a customer and should be treated like one. As one person said, I have my own friends-they waitpeople aren’t my friends. I do cut them slack though-no matter what their employment. They are only doing what they are trained to do and need to make a living! So be patient and be kind.

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  • 41. Carole  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:53 am

    You should send that same person who answered your response a link to all these responses. That was definitely a “no answer” couched in polite terms. I definitely don’t want my wait-person crouched down beside me. I think it’s great for them to look me in the eye, but I’d prefer they be standing up!

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  • 42. Susan  |  April 15, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Ami: Please don’t be stumped! This is the usual “twadle” companies express when confronted with one of their policy decisions. (Like calling customers guests! I am NOT a guest at JoAnne, Target, the grocery store etc. I AM A CUSTOMER or A PATIENT or ….. and am made to wait, put up with any and all of their interruptions such as squawking walkie talkies, their untrained and sullen staff, and expected to PAY, in money, accordingly). Outback’s staff do NOT ALL LOVE THEIR JOB. They need their job to live. They may enjoy this job more than some other job they have had, but to assume that all their staff LOVE THEIR JOB, is absurd! I don’t want my server to be eye level with me. I want a space and feeling that it is them and me (not us together) and they are there to SERVE me. We can be friendly–we can laugh–we can have fun. But, the fact remains–they are there to SERVE ME. Outback is telling you that their decision is where it is and (they may not realize it) but take it or leave it. I choose to leave it!

    Susan

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  • 43. Denise  |  April 15, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I guess it’s pathetic that I’m not surprised at the response you got to your complaint, Ami. My husband and I recently went to a Boston’s restaurant, and the server started to kneel down at our table, and I told her not to, that she should not have to kneel to take an order. She looked relieved! Sadly, though, she did have to lean over to hear us over the noise – some of it loud music, some of it other diners. *sigh* What ever happened to quiet restaurants?!?! Sometimes I’m glad we live in Alaska where there aren’t many chain restaurants, so we don’t usually run into these types of problems. But that’s changing, too. Sometimes I’m not too crazy about this world we live in!

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  • 44. Cam  |  April 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Do send all these comments to corporate. Maybe you can start a poll about this practice of “eye level” order receiving (which makes me think of placing a take out order at a fast food place with an order summary machine at eye level!) and forward that to corporate. Other than that, consider voting with your feet instead of your wallet. There are loads of other restaurants around!

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  • 45. Mrs. Goodneedle  |  April 15, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I really like the idea of standing when ordering from the waiter. I would consider the letter in response to your contacting them a typical, corporate, non-response.

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  • 46. jan Canyon  |  April 15, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    You just got the corporate non-answer! I agree with standing up to give your order or saying when they sit down -“Do I know you? Were you invited to this dinner? Please leave and send me a real waiter!”

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  • 47. ssk  |  April 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    I recently had a similar “non-response” from a busines, one of those “we’re sorry you were not happy….” but it never answered my concern. I emailed back and told them I thought their response was pointless and a waste of both our times – I haven’t heard back – apparently there is no “boilerplate” response for that! LOL I’d prefer they ignore my comments than insult me with a pre-written response.

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  • 48. Viv (VivLyn)  |  April 15, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Quit going there! That’s what I did, and the Flint area has other fine steak restaurants…much better than Outback in my opinion. I won’t get there for all the rice in China now!!

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  • 49. chris  |  April 15, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    ‘get at eye level’ ………..how do you do that? Well, you can either lean over with your butt blocking the aisle and your neck back at a 90 degree angle or squat down on the floor with knees, ankles and hips bent. You will hold this position while everyone disagrees on the appetizer, questions you about half the entrees, grills you about what can be substituted for their specific dietary requirements, and changes their choices a couple times. Or you are so sore from the last table that you sit in the booth just to rest your joints.

    Amie, who but young athletes is peak condition could possibly do this job? Certainly no one in our age group! They may advertise this as a ‘make the customer feel at home’ policy, but it actually sounds like plain old age discrimination. If they really wanted wait staff to be at customers eye level, they would hire dwarves. (Bet the food pick up counter is higher than any dwarf can jump.)

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  • 50. sandy  |  April 15, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    My take is …. they’re gonna sit down whether you like it or not.

    Personally we don’t like Outback … never, ever go there.

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  • 51. Joanna  |  April 15, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I don’t mind it so much, but I can’t stand Outback Steakhouse! Having lived in Australia, I find Outback’s food to be quite un-Australian and very American LOL!! It does give me a good laugh when I go :)

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  • 52. Sewlooselea  |  April 15, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Next they will be sitting on the floor to take your order! They definitely didn’t take your response to heart!!

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  • 53. Marianne Urban  |  April 15, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Stand up every time the wait staff approaches you…when confused enough perhaps they will ask why you are popping up like a jack in the box…then feel free to tell them that you are getting to their eye level so they will not sit down

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  • 54. OHSue  |  April 15, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    “Your friends at Outback”, you have really bonded wtih everyone at Outback from all levels.

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  • 55. Bonnie  |  April 15, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I agree with the suggestion to send the original letter and blog posts and a new letter with all of these posts. Polite and friendly are different from in your face, interjection in the customers personal space. Equality of position does not mean interjection into my life, conversation, meal.

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  • 56. mary t. martin  |  April 15, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    If management ignores our pleas – we have the ultimate weapon, choice – to never frequent their restaurant or to put up with unwanted invasion of space. Seems as if most of have voted to find other places to spend our money.

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  • 57. Katherine  |  April 15, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Poor excuse for a response. Their “eye level” policy is absurd, and I will never again go there.

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  • 58. Kathryn Stewart  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    I don’t get it. I LOVE Outback, and I don’t mind their style at all! I’m really surprised that so many of you are so bothered by this. I have never had a bad experience at Outback, with the food or the service. I have never had a waiter touch the floor or slouch or any of the negative comments I have read on this blog. Every year when I go to Paducah for the Quilt Show, our one big night out is at Outback. It’s always SO crowded…. I guess I will not try to talk the rest of you out of your disgruntledness…. less of a wait for me!

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  • 59. M. Carol Price  |  April 15, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Great comments….glad I am not alone in this uncomfortable problem. We have an Applebee’s……..oh, I always watch carefully and hope the manager is not on his way to check if we are enjoying ourselves………….Well, why would we be deep into a conversation and want to be asked that? he bends, asks about things….oh, just dislike it a lot!

    I think the people are trying very hard to please us and keep the job, and I have not thought of anything not rude to turn it off, but Ami….good for you to bring this up.

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  • 60. susan arkles  |  April 16, 2009 at 9:01 am

    I never liked Outback because of the noise level. So we don’t go there more than once a year. However, the reply they sent you clearly indicates that they don’t care how the guests feel. I for one will never go there again.

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  • 61. Katie  |  April 16, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Outback is crowded (heaven knows why) overpriced and the food isn’t anything special. And more than that, there’s nothing Australian about the items on the menu, though they’d like you to think so. The “outback” hype is pretty dumb really. We just don’t go there.

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  • 62. Mary  |  April 16, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Considering our present economy, especially in Michigan, it is incredibly poor corporate policy for any business which depends on the public to answer a comment from a customer with such a reply.

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  • 63. Barb Smith  |  April 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Whoever wrote the reply should get a job working for the government. Lots of words to say they aren’t listening and don’t really care what we think.

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  • 64. virtualquilter  |  April 17, 2009 at 4:18 am

    Real Australians are not going to kneel for anybody, not even the Queen to get a Knighthood!
    And yes, if you are getting up and down to get to eye level you would definitely need to sit if there was an oportunity. Where is Occupational Health and Safety?

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  • 65. Kathy Noack  |  April 18, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Perhaps a call to the local Health department would be in order. I have eaten at an Outback and our waitress did not get to eye level with us. I agree it it noisy and its seems like that is the norm, esp with the sports bar types such as Applebees.

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  • 66. Denise in PA  |  April 20, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Hmmm, nope, don’t like it. Guess I won’t be eating at Outback.

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  • 67. Ann McCay  |  June 2, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Much more than my dislike of their waitpersons sitting with me, is the extent of my displeasure with their personnel who fill the order/pickup requests. Never once have they gotten it right! Last time we tried, two of the 6 orders were correct. My grandson who ordered a shrimp “dinner” got 5 shrimp. Period. No sides, no bread, no salad. My hungry son who ordered a salmon “dinner” got salmon. Period! We have had it with them. And my e-mail to them has resulted in no response.

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  • 68. Nancy M.  |  June 4, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

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