Friday, August 25, 2006

So what's YOUR problem ?!?!

We were Chappified!

The rest of the story: Tonight, we were heading out for dinner because Mrs. WonderDawg's sister and husband were in town from Atlanta. We had a big evening planned to celebrate their 37th wedding anniversary and Mrs. WonderDawg's birthday! After having such a great experience with Chappy's on Church (previously reviewed here), it was the determined pick, thus reservations were made in advance.

Again, here's the bit of history: "The original Chappy's Seafood Restaurant opened its doors in December of 1984 and remained one of the premier restaurants on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina completely demolished Chappy's restaurant and his home. In June of 2006, Chappy's Seafood Restaurant re-opened as: Chappy's on Church in Nashville, TN."

Our party of five were all jazzed from the previous great dining experience, food and excellent service from our waiter David and the hype that the restaurant was "designed to exude New Orleans charm". My brother-in-law had never dined at Chappy's, so he was hyper to see what all the fuss was about.

We met up at the restaurant at 7:40 pm for our 8:00 reservation for drinks. One of the staff came out and said that we couldn't be seated until 8:15 because there was a big party of fifty being served in the back dining room and all of the waiters were tied up until then. The restaurant was sparse with seated guests, while the rest of other patrons waiting to be seated were waiting at the bar just like us. We noticed that the resources were being overwhelmed with one bartender and the staff scurrying in and out of the kitchen. No problem - we were just jovial being in a celebratory birthday and wedding anniversary mood.

Seated at 8:15, we started with double orders of appetizers - Fried Green Tomatoes and Grilled Barbecue Spice Shrimp, both delicious. Our assistant server made a big deal that whatever we needed - water, bread or drinks, she would be there Johnny-on-the-spot. We never saw her again!

Our waiter was new - and having never worked the floor before, was taking our orders (# 2 of 5) when another staff person came up behind and kept poking him. Without excusing himself, he took off! Ten minutes later, he comes back sweating and apologizing as someone else in the restaurant was either being arrested or having a feigned heart attack. We didn't quite understand what the story was.

Wait! It gets better and/or worse!

We ordered four Grilled Tuna Steaks, as last time it was sushi quality and tender as a filet mignon, a salad and baked potato. At 9:00, the salads came out with no bread, water refills or table cleared; one drink order went unfulfilled and our wine glasses were empty.

At 9:45 (remember we got seated at 8:15), no entrees in sight and the dishes still were not cleared. The table across from us got their food first though they came in later. Our two hours of birthday and wedding festive conversation was quickly running out of celebratory talk - especially when the topics turn to Hillary Clinton, illegal invaders and Ann Coulter. So my brother in law - a well-traveled CEO of a major German auto manufacturer got up and chased down our waiter. We saw him pacing the floor after talking to the rookie waiter - I thought he was blowing off steam before he came back to our table. Nope - he asked for Chappy - the bossman himself.

Apparently, the big party of fifty had a $50 per person tab going that included not only dinner, but also... BIG MISTAKE... a open bar! So they were getting soused on the company dime, running the staff ragged and another BIGGER MISTAKE... not servicing the other tables, i.e. potential repeat customers.

John "Chappy" Chapman, chef and owner stopped by...

"Hello, I'm Richard ______ and we drove up from Atlanta for our wedding anniversary ...."

"So, what's your problem ?!?!"

"Whoa, we just been here two hours..."

"So, what's your problem ?!?! Do you want your food or not ?!?!"

Richard was done when Chef and Owner Chappy walked off - the food came out - we refused it - and at that point (10:00 pm) we were over it. Now we were nice about it - we just got tired of waiting and were completely over it after we witnessed the exchange.

Ten minutes later, we had to hunt our credit card held from the bar. So we paid for what we had as we were not going to accept a free ride - total bill for five included wine, and appetizers - $117.00 plus a modest tip. Mr. Chappy lost out on an additional $100.00 in lost food; $50 for wine; respect from his staff in the way they saw how he treated his customers on the floor in front of other diners and gained a "I am not ever coming back anymore to this place" vibe from me and others. We were sufficently chafed or chapped in the booty by this experience.

So I don't know how Mr. Chappy talks to his customers in Mississippi and I'm sorry for what happened with Hurricane Katrina. But this is Nashville and we have a dining courtesy of "Howdy, good to have you here!" and "ya'll come back now, here?" attitude whether in our homes or a restaurant. Even Walmart says "Welcome!" and hands you a shopping cart.

"Oops, we screwed up - please, I am so sorry - how can we reconcile this?" works on this planet too. Pluto not being a planet must have wacked out the comos at Chappy's restaurant as nothing was working right all night or any bank deposit of karma got washed out to sea during Hurricane Katrina. And this has nothing to do with President Bush, so keep him out of this.

"So, what's your problem ?!?!" doesn't work here or anywhere else for that matter. I think Chappy's bigger problem is going to be figuring out how to get out of the lease with an empty restaurant. Church and 18th might be a good spot for a homegrown BBQ joint. The tragic thing is as we were leaving, the staff was embarrassed - and asking us to please come back and try the restaurant again.

Sorry, everything rises and falls on leadership. And good thing I forgot my camera - I'd been all over the smack down. Thank God the parking valet got it right!

Not the end of the world - we could have been canoeing down the Harpeth River!


Michael said...


Man, that totally sucks. There's just NO excuse for that kind of behavior. I'm from Louisiana and that kind of attitude plays even worse down there.

Clearly Chappy doesn't have his act together to allow one large party to completely crater the entire restaurant. If you're going to dedicate your entire staff to a private party, then you don't seat other customers. A simple sign on the door saying "Closed For Private Party" would have been sufficient. That little sign would have helped not only the party he was hosting, but all of the customers that he clearly turned away for good.

Your most recent experience seems to confirm what I heard from the guys that installed my new water heater earlier this year. It seems that they were originally contracted to do the build for the restaurant, however once they got into the job it became clear that working for Chappy was going to be a problem. There were no blueprints and every day things changed, walls were moved, you name it. After a few days of this kind of chaos, the contractor had a nice long talk with Chappy and they walked off the job.

The one good thing was that all the workers said that the food was fantastic. That, coupled with your previous review of the place, I was eager to give Chappy's a try, but now I'm not so sure. For service to go THAT far downhill, I don't think that is a gamble I'm willing to make.

jag said...

That's some of the worst customer service I've ever heard of! I would've gotten fired if that's how I spoke to a customer.

Thanks to this, I will never eat there and will dissuade others from doing so. Local business owners need to realize that any customer could be entwined in the always growing blogosphere and be on their best behavior!

SistaSmiff said...

This is the same place you went to before, right??? That is unreal.

Kathy T. said...

You know I was at an O'Charlys a couple of years ago enjoying lunch with a friend. As we left, we saw a sign on the front door saying it was closed due to an emergency. We asked the hostess about it and she told us the chef had died during lunch of a heart attack. It was a horrible feeling knowing we were in the dining area laughing and talking while someone died in the room right next to us.