If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. That was the case in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Texas Cattle Company left much to be desired.
When we had checked into our hotel just down the street, my mother had mentioned that she would be celebrating her birthday during our stay. The front desk clerk noted that the Texas Cattle Company had a great birthday deal that we should check out. To sweeten the pot, she gave us a VIP card to entice us to try the restaurant, ensuring that we would have a wonderful experience.
Never having heard of the restaurant before, we thought we would give it a try. Our experience was less than stellar. In fact, to say that we left deeply disappointed would be an understatement.
On the menu, it clearly stated a birthday dinner offer. If one person buys an entrée at the price of $26 or more, then the birthday person can enjoy a free steak. If you got out a magnifying glass, you might be able to read the fine print that said a Florida drivers license is required.
As fate would have it, I happen to have a Florida drivers license. My mother is a Snowbird, but her husband is a permanent Florida resident. In fact, the credit card bill goes to a Florida address, and my mother is a licensed Florida real estate agent.
None of this mattered. The manager came over to see us, and we were planning on still eating at the restaurant just to check it out; however, the manager did not handle the experience in the most pleasant manner. He chastised us, and spoke loud enough for neighboring tables to not only hear but also snidely comment, an embarrassment that is not exactly what I consider a happy birthday celebration.
Honestly, we are not big red meat eaters. The offer of a free steak would probably be nice to be average person, but it's not something that we were overly enthused about. It's not like we were about to lose sleep over the loss of a steak that we didn't really want in the first place.
Having worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry myself, I know that a manager has at least the power to authorize a free soda, and that a manager should never let the customer leave upset. A manager should at least make an attempt to pacify a patron. Hospitality is one of the elements that separates fine dining from the lowly diner.
Let's closer inspect this birthday offer. The free steak dinner is conditional upon another person purchasing an entrée at the value of $26 or more. A general rule of thumb for any retail marketplace is that the cost is inflated by at least 50%, as that is how money is made; therefore, with a BOGO deal, costs are at least covered.
Contrary to what the average person may think, they are not losing money on this birthday deal. According to EconoMagic.com, the average price per pound for a T-bone steak is about $6.75 per pound; therefore, $26 should at least cover the cost of two steaks. Sure, A restaurant has additional costs of cooks, food prep, side items, and the like, but they're not operating at a loss.
Comparatively speaking, when you look at other establishments in the area, such as Firehouse Subs and Denny's, they really are operating at a loss offering a free birthday meal. If it is your birthday, you can walk into either of these places with no questions asked, and they will give you a free meal. They actually are taking a loss and handing you a free meal with no strings attached.
Sure, they may not be considered fine dining, but their hospitality is noteworthy. I would much rather eat at one of those places than endure the embarrassment and the lack of professionalism the manager showed at Texas Cattle Company. To add insult to injury, the manager asked us to write the owner of the company, who offered us the chance to share our email for discounts.
Now I don't know about you, but when I have a bad experience at a restaurant, I don't really feel like hurrying back to them. Let alone, I do not feel compelled to share my email. Why would I get on the mailing list to a place I don't even want to patronize?
When I did a simple search online, I came across other people who are less than pleased with Texas Cattle Company. One of the first reviews on Trip Advisor is a person complaining about their experience with this birthday deal in a totally different fashion. Reviews on other websites show many people saying that the quality of service has changed over the years, and this coincides with my personal experience.
Again, it is not the point about trying to get something for free. When I am celebrating my mother's birthday, the most important thing to me as a warm, welcoming environment. If we do not feel welcomed at an establishment, why would we ever consider going back?
It's not that I need to be treated special, even though I am a travel writer and a food critic (and had a VIP card that obviously meant nothing), but I at least want to feel welcomed. Everyone is entitled to dignity and respect. It's a special dining experience is what you're seeking, you may want to look elsewhere.
Oh, and you can bet that we told the front desk clerk and the manager of the hotel that we are staying in about our experience. They assured us that they would no longer be referring patrons to their establishment. Be forewarned, read the fine print, and when dining at Denny's is a better option than Texas Cattle Company, the owners should reexamine their hospitality practices.
Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University. For more by Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/Thorisaz. For more articles by Marisa, http://www.examiner.com/tourism-in-detroit/marisa-williams.