This summer I had a terrible experience at Elements Restaurant (at the Sanctuary Resort) in Scottsdale, AZ. The whole experience from the beginning to the end was awful, and never resolved to my satisfaction. Here is a post I made to a private dining message board regarding the experience. Rather than making a small accommodation to make us happy, they made it so we had no alternative than to leave. To this day, I am still unhappy about the experience, and will never forget it.
I recently saw a pre fixe special mentioned in the local paper to Elements Restaurant (which everyone knows, is one of the top tier restaurants in the Valley). I had always wanted to try this place, but it is quite expensive, so without a special occassion, it was hard to justify. The pre fixe offering provided the impetus to make reservations (which I made through Open Table - which was linked to on Elements website). We invited one of my wife's co-workers to join us, as they had always wanted to try this place, but couldn't justify the price either.
When we got seated, and ordered the pre fixe menu, we were told by the waitress that it wasn't offered on the weekends. I was very surprised by this. As I mentioned, the main reason we chose to eat here, was to take advantage of the special menu (we were not prepared to pay full price).
I asked to see the manager (hoping we could work something out, and I could avoid further embarrassment with my wife and her coworkers). I explained to him, that there was no mention of restricted days on their website. At the time, I wasn't sure if I had missed the fine print (and immediately assumed I had, which put me on the defensive). I have since verified that the restriction wasn't listed anywhere (and still isn't - http://www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com/content/prefixemenu.html). I was vinidcated! During the "altercation", I wasn't sure if I had misread the exclusions, but I hadn't! This was not my mistake!
The manager wouldn't accommodate us. Quite frankly, while he was polite, he immediately began to cover his tracks with a variety of excuses, and half truths (a big one, was - even if he wanted to offer us the pre fixe, he couldn't because the food isn't on the regular menu - which is an outright lie, every item is on the regular menu). We actually went back and forth with the manager for a few minutes (I will spare you all the gory details). But, the longer this went on, the more uncomfortable the situation became, so in order to quickly put an end to further embarrassment, we left. It is obvious to me, that they wanted to clear us out, so they could seat other people at our table (who would pay more for their dinner).
I would have liked for the situation to be resolved differently by the manager. I would expect he would allow us to order the pre fixe - "Well Sir, we normally don't allow the pre fix on Fridays, but I would be happy to make an exception for you this evening; Sorry about the ambiguity on the website".
Food for thought: -Even if we ordered the most expensive items off the pre fix menu, our total food cost would have been $54 (vs. the $39 for pre fixe) - not a significant difference; If I apply the math to what we would have actually ordered, the price difference becomes even smaller. -We would have more than made up for the price difference with the wine we were planning on ordering. -We had already spent money in the bar, while waiting for our table - which we wouldn't have if we weren't coming in for the pre fixe menu.
The next morning, I contacted the hotel manager (assistant manager was the only person available at the time), told him my story, and requested a call back from the General Manager, and the Food and Beverage manager. I haven't heard back from either of them yet.
Bottom line, this was one of the more embarrassing situations I have experienced in a very long time. If this was due to a mistake I made (ie. not reading the fine print closely enough), I would take my lumps, and go away quietly. However, this was not my mistake, and wasn't handled appropriately by Elements staff, and I hoped they would have bent over backwards to make it right. In the hospitality industry, it is much easier to keep a guest happy, than change the opinion of an unhappy person.
No-one from Elements ever called be back (I gave them 4 days, which was plenty of time). I finally called them and they still did not apologize (which is really all that I wanted from the beginning). Bottom line, this place is not worthy of my hard earned money. I would much matter spend my money at a place that values my business. A follow up post I made to the same message board:
I really appreciate the feedback. What I really want from Elements, is an apology. At this point, I think there is nothing they could do compensation-wise to rectify the situation (even if they did bring us back for a free meal, at this point I wouldn't feel comfortable going back). The damage has been done, and the longer it takes to hear back from them, the worse I feel about the situation.
I would expect a certain level of service from a restaurant of the caliber of Elements. They obviously failed us on Friday, and their follow up has been poor as well.
I asked this question to a friend of mine (who writes about restaurants in the national media). Here is part of his response: "I think your expectations are perfectly reasonable. In fact it's nice of you to give them a second chance at all. Many customers wouldn't and would instead go around badmouthing Elements for the rest of their lives — literally: People never forget a bad restaurant experience, especially if it's an embarrassing one."
It is true. I will never forget this embarrassing experience. It's too bad, as I have been looking forward to dining here for a long time.
It is true, that I will never forget this experience, and will likely continue to bad mouth Elements for the rest of my life. Too bad they didn't resolve my problems quickly (as I would be happier to give them props).