Appetizers
December 11, 2012
Ask the expert: Was it cool of me to go nuts when OneSpeed ran out of bread?

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Here's a little behind-the-scenes look at customer service at one of the area's better casual restaurants.

I'm going to give away the ending: The customer was not happy. At all. Picture Michael Douglas in "Falling Down" trying to order breakfast. Only without the scary glasses.

It starts innocently enough. Woman is a regular at OneSpeed. Woman takes client there for lunch. Woman orders steak. (Really? A steak for lunch?) Woman is told the restaurant is out of bread. Woman fires off email to yours truly. And yours truly promptly puts down everything he is doing and heads over to Folsom Boulevard demanding some answers, and fast.

OK, no I didn't.

Let's start with the email. Then I'll ask how you would have handled it. I'll leave out the name because, well, the writer might just need to enroll in a 12-step "turn and walk away from the bread" program. The email is actually a copy of an email she fired off to OneSpeed. I'll sign her O. Crusty One.

"Mr. Robertson, FYI, below. I thought this was pretty ridiculous.

"Hello. My husband and I are regular customers at One Speed. Today, I was there with a client. Each of us ordered the flat iron steak. Delicious. Not cheap for a lunch plate. I asked for bread and was told you were out of bread. I asked if we could have some pizza crust. Answer: no, how about some crustini? Trader Joe is right next door and has Truckee Pugliese. Your staff could have gone next door and purchased a few loaves for the lunch crowd. I considered doing it myself, but really, a restaurant, especially a pizza place to be out of bread.

Sincerely,"

Before I could gather my thoughts and reply with some form of expert analysis of this crisis, I received a second volley: "P.S. next time, I'll bring my own slice of bread when I eat at One Speed!"

Oh, where to begin? Like most things related to food, it's important to have a sense of proportion. Running out of bread is not a crime. It's a misstep. Bread is good. Bread can be very good when it's warm and there's butter melting and you just finished a 10-miler in the rain. But bread shouldn't make or break a meal. This, coming from a longtime baker of bread (that's my bread in the photo).

It's a little unusual for a pizza-oriented restaurant to even offer bread. Lots of restaurants no longer serve complimentary bread. But OneSpeed is going beyond expectations and providing it. Except this time. Could they have sent someone over to Trader Joe's to buy bread? Sure. Would it have been weird? A little. Is the bread generally terrible at Trader Joe's? Last time I checked. Could the OneSpeed server have done a little bit better job of reading the table and realizing that this customer was really, really put off? Probably.

Not much time passes. The manager responds and his email is forwarded to me by O., who typed in the subject line: "No bread today?! Update." I couldn't wait! C'mon, OneSpeed, make it right! Did they offer to pay off her car? Hardly.

"I'm glad you enjoyed the steak yesterday. I agree that your request for bread should have been fulfilled. I'm sorry that your experience was soured due to this simple issue. Please be assured that we will discuss your concern with our staff and make sure that it will never happen again.

"We appreciate your email and thanks for keeping us on our toes. Please introduce yourself next time you're in, I'd love to buy you a glass of wine for your effort to keep us informed of how we're doing!"

Believing that the reader wanted some kind of expert opinion from me, I promptly opined: "Hi ___, I thought that was an excellent response. Thanks for sharing.

"Fellow bread lover."

But it wasn't not over. We'll give O. the last word.

"I thought it was a little squirrely myself. And at our lunch, I think they should at least have offered us more roasted vegetables to replace the missing bread. Oh well, I'll get over it."

Something tells me she will. But just in case, I'm thinking about sending her a gently thumbed copy of the instant-classic low-carb tome: "Paleo Indulgences: Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes to Satisfy Your Primal Cravings" by Tammy Credicott, who will make you feel dumb for ever wanting bread.

We care about what you think. Was this customer right to feel so wronged? Did she over-react? Did OneSpeed respond appropriately? Do you have an outrageous restaurant experience you would like to impose upon me and pretend to care what my opinion is? Fire away.

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

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