Thursday, December 17, 2009

A New (Social) Dimension to the Dining Experience

I'm going to be honest, I have been eating like a champ recently. Between vendor outings and foodie friends, my opportunities to dine out are seemingly endless, and I never pass up an opportunity to try a new place to eat. In the last month alone, my spectrum of restaurants include: Avec, Webster Wine Bar, McCormick and Schmick's, L2o, Twin Anchors, Chilam Balam, Zed451, Coobah and Sushi Samba to name a few. This list includes very respectable establishments in which well prepared cuisine and proper service are to be expected.

I was more or less satisfied with each of these dining experiences, although some stood out more than others -- especially when it came to service. 

I used to be a waitress, and I'll be the first to admit that I was decent at best. I was barely over the legal drinking age and I worked at a wine bar. I didn't know a thing about wine at the time and my mobility skills were certainly questionable. As a server, you get really good at faking things. I went on and on about different wine selections I had never even tasted. Oh, and that plate you just saw me drop? I meant to do that.

...Well, that's more or less how it worked. 

You learn these tricks as a server, but you also notice immediately when another server pulls it on you. In the past month, I have certainly had servers that didn't know their menus, wanted to get out of work early or knew how to convince you to buy one more bottle of wine. The others did a fine job. One was exceptional.

Sushi Samba had the best customer service of all the places listed above. Oh, and did I mention I had carry out??

I had zero interactions with any Sushi Samba employee prior to eating my meal. I walked into a conference room at work, the food was laid out on the table and I stuffed my face. End of story.

Well, not quite. 

The lunch event from Sushi Samba is something that I have been looking forward to for the past week. I love sushi and I hadn't eaten any in quite some time. Sushi Samba is one of those places in Chicago that I have always wanted to try. I have heard that the food is great, but it is quite pricey for a recent college graduate. Luckily, I found the perfect resolution to this dilemma -- our reps from work covered the expense for me. Perfect!

It was 11:30 a.m., the day of our Sushi Samba lunch. The food was to be delivered at 12:00 p.m. sharp. I was was anxious, to say the least, so I did what any person in my situation would do. I tweeted about it.

12:00 p.m. came, along with the containers upon containers of Sushi Samba delights. It was love at first taste. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and I ate way more than my fair share.

The Sushi Samba story doesn't end there, however.

I came home this evening and checked my Twitter account. I was first confused and then suddenly excited to find the post below directed at me:

If you are confused about who @ChefCDT is, let me explain; @ChefCDT is Chef Dan Tucker, the Chef de Cuisine at Sushi Samba Rio in Chicago.

Am I getting this right? The Chef at Sushi Samba saw my tweet and took the time out of his (presumably) hectic schedule to respond to my tweet and even proceeded to make a very generous offer to prepare a special dish for me?


The conclusion of our conversation is posted below:

I thoroughly enjoyed this kind exchange, and to be honest, it kind of made me feel like a rockstar.

As I mentioned before, I am newly graduated and I thankfully found an entry-level job in this terrible job market. Still, eating out at a place like Sushi Samba is certainly something I can't make a habit out of. Honestly, I am not quite sure that I would make it to Sushi Samba anytime soon if I was going to be footing the bill -- even though I loved my meal.

The fact that Chef Tucker took the time to reach out and connect with his patrons made me reconsider this decision. I will certainly plan a trip to Sushi Samba in the near future.

Let this be a lesson: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT, REGARDLESS OF YOUR INDUSTRY. I have absolutely no qualms anymore about throwing down a few $20's to enjoy a nice meal at Sushi Samba, simply because I feel appreciated as an avid sushi lover and potential long-term customer by someone that is actively engaged with the product he represents. 

I just hope Chef Tucker's offer still stands!

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