Winner! Winner! . . . Big Shrimp Dinner! Cinco De Mayo 2013.

What do you get if you win? . . . . . . . .     (The Tubes) “Well, you can’t have that, but if you’re an American citizen you are entitled to: a new Matador, a new mastodon, a Maverick, a Mustang, a Montego, a Mercury Montclair, a Mark IV, a meteor, a Mercedes, an MG, or a Malibu, a Mazda, a new Monza, or a moped, a Winnebago–Hell, a herd of Winnebago’s we’re giving ’em away, or how about a McCulloch chainsaw, a Las Vegas wedding, a Mexican divorce, a solid gold Kama Sutra coffee pot, or a baby’s arm holding an apple”. . .

cinco-de-mayo-pilot-petesCinco De Mayo, 2013 in Carlsbad, really may have challenged many restaurants, especially those serving and catering to the big traditional Mexican/American celebration by being associated with Mexican fair and flair during this wonderful day. And a wonderful day it was in Carlsbad, CA. Today we challenged the folks at Casa De Bandini with our group of 9. We knew we were going to be a hard seat especially showing up around 7pm with this large group without reservations. We thought WE were going to be challenged!casa-de-bandini-logo-web

We were immediately seated in the outdoor bar area and the server helped secure us a spot and closed off access to us since we had dropped an all out assault on the bar area. He closed the gate so others wouldn’t try to cross our party. He did all of that without asking. We were told by the greeters that we were in for a 45 minute wait. We thought that was a stretch. we actually thought it was going to longer. To our surprise, we just barely got our drink order delivered and our buzzer went off . . . in like 20 minutes.

Casa De Bandini has been around for a few years, Like maybe hundreds (not really) since they started out in Old Town, San Diego. They were known there for their larger than life margaritas and tantalizing renditions of Mexican favorites and authentic Bandini creations. Just before we sat for our dinner, I made my way around the very large newer facility. I had been to the restaurant when they were in Old Town, but had not visited since their move to Carlsbad. Carlsbad is a very nice restaurant. Very large (seats 475, inside and outside) and quite lavishly decorated with a beautiful outdoor dining garden. I met a gentleman named Salvador. I think he may have been the GM. He will from now on be known as the guy in the green shirt. He was very nice and welcoming. We spoke just momentarily about the facility.

We placed our orders and had some drinks. I was the DD tonight so I just had a few good straw-fuls of my wife’s 32oz giant strawberry margarita. Pretty darn good, but never enough tequila (my standard only). But a good drink. Another at our table ordered the Cincorita, a Strawberry, Mango and Melon layered margarita. That one was pretty good. A few shots later and everyone was feeling pretty good at our table, except me. I was still having a good time. Chips, dip and wife . . . I’m good! We all placed our order. The wife and I were craving shrimp so we ordered the Tequila-Lime Shrimp.

casa de bandini garden2This place was busy so we anticipated waiting a bit for our meal. Finally it came out and every service helper that brought plates out stopped by to ask me what I had, briefly attempting to place a plate in front of me. I said, “no, I ordered the Tequila-Lime Shrimp”. Finally everyone got served except me. ME? Really, . . . the Dick? Ok, the server said she’ll be right back with my plate . . . 5 minutes later she shows back up and says, “sorry, your order will be right out”. I was very patient. My wife was very concerned why I was so patient. I told her I took a Valium before we left . . . only kidding. I don’t know why I was so calm . . . maybe I felt bad for the staff, being such a busy day, I wanted to give them an opportunity to get it made and served. Obviously they missed it . . . shit happens. Me? Really, . . . the Dick? Finally I notice that everyone at the table has just now passed the 1/2-way point of their entrée’s. I said aloud to others at the table, “now”, is when the restaurant should feel obligated to make my experience right. Just as I said that, my plate arrived. A very plentiful plate of expertly prepared Tequila-Lime Shrimp, maybe 12 decent sized (13-15 count) served atop of their arroz Amarillo. I don’t know what was in that rice, but it tasted like a cilantro style sauce or almost Chimichurri style topping, minus the garlic. Absolutely delicious.  My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed that plate. Rare, cause I don’t normally get all hyped about shrimp, and they were actually cooked correctly, not tough or de bandini garden1

Well as the server presented my plate, I asked her politely to send the Manager. The guy in the green shirt (Manager) arrived and I again politely asked if he had been made aware that my plate was missed and it arrived later than the 1/2-way point of the meal. He acknowledged and asked if I he could buy me a drink. I told him, “I’m not drinking tonight, I am the DD tonight”. He said, “I’ll make it right”, and walked away. I don’t know what he said to whom, but now a guy in a blue shirt was speaking with the person at the end of the table, whom apparently slapped a credit card down for the meal. Turns out, Salvador (green shirt) had ordered taking $50 off the dinner for our table. Holy crap, we expected him to take my meal off, and maybe a couple of drinks, but $50. Wow!, That’s how you make it right. I even mentioned to another person at the table, as we were trying to guess what his (green shirt) next move was (e.g. comp dinner and desert), laughing about the flan. “Watch him bring a flan”, we laughed!

After the meal, as I was leaving, I again spoke with Salvador (green shirt) and thanked him for the “comp”, explaining that I didn’t expect it (that much), that I appreciated the gesture and that I’m leaving with a good experience (read – previous writing). Salvador said, “no problem, my job is to make sure you don’t come back again . . . but, again and again and again and again”. Wow, someone was paying attention during “customer experience” week. I told him I was very satisfied and I did have a great experience after all. I passed him my CritDicks card (you expect anything less?) and told him to read about how great this long-standing San Diego landmark did tonight. I think our entire table had a great time. Now, if my plate wasn’t as good as it was, I may have had a different story.

Hindsight – I look back at what the total cost was to the restaurant. We were originally faced with a $150 dollar bill without the first round of bar drinks (still a great value for 9 people). Green shirt took off $50. That’s still a profit margin of 50% over cost (assuming a 30% food cost, which should be slightly high). Maybe I just learned a valuable lesson from a service standpoint. I think I would’ve gone for the complimentary drink, then the desert, then the plate. I never took into account that the restaurant still made a 50 percent profit on their food cost; AND they’re going to get a lot more from me because “I’ll be back!” (Arnold).pinata

It really makes a difference when you have the customer in mind. Good job tonight!

I think today Casa De Bandini gets the big piñata.



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