The hardest part about asking for feedback is listening and changing

2015-09-03 18.53.17 2015-09-03 18.58.45

In the restaurant that I own, I Privé in downtown Burlingame we receive a lot of feedback from our customers.  Yelp, Travelocity and Facebook users send us both positive and negative reviews, all of them public.  We solicit private feedback from our diners via email.  We leave paper forms in the final bill before they pay.

While most of the feedback is positive, there is roughly 20% that is very negative, or areas where the diners tell us things could improve.  The negative feedback could be related to service, the music we play, a particular dish they didn’t like, cramp seating or just a small change like the brightness of the TV’s


I read each feedback every day, our team discuss about each feedback and talk about whether it’s something we should change.  If we agree, then we tell our team leads on the floor, in the kitchen or sushi bar.  While we believe we listen objectively, I think there is a human bias to either brush off some comments as a single person’s point of view.  We have to also keep in mind of our own subjective view.

Truly listening to negative feedback is difficult, realizing our own bias and gut reaction is the first step.


After hearing and listening to feedback, reacting and changing is the hardest.

First we can tell our team leads and they can tell the other team members, but to actually make fundamental change is hard.  It will take repeating the message, noticing when we revert back and reinforcing the message again.

In the restaurant business, the easiest type of changes to make are concrete black or white ones. When customers complaint about being cold, we add heaters.

The next hardest is to respond to complaints about food.  When a customer does like a dish, I go in and try it and tell my chefs if I think something needs improving.  In order for me to know whether something has been fixed, I will need to try the dish again.  I think we are getting better in responding to specific dishes. This is also subjective, so I try to make sure to focus on the quality instead of my personal preference.

Finally, responding to comments about service is the most difficult because we have to figure out which server it was that evening, whether the complaint is legitimate and working with the server over a long period to improve training and their behavior.

As an engineer working in the food industry, most the restaurant work is rewarding and it exercises another part of my brain and let’s me spend some time on my passion for food. Fast iteration based on realtime feedback is a lesson I learned that I can bring to my restaurant.

Tony Tam