An Evening with Dave & Buster’s

Dave and Buster's LogoThis past Saturday was my girlfriend’s birthday.  She was turning thirty, and as the age-old saying goes, “You only turn thirty once.”  She had a weekend full of fun planned that included lunch with her mom and brother, a night out with over twenty of her closest friends at the newly opened and ever popular Dave & Buster’s in Castleton, and a day at Kings Island with some die hard roller coaster fans.

Saturday started just fine as her and I traveled to Lebanon, Indiana, to have some chili and German chocolate cake.  I am not a huge fan of chili, but with the addition of cheese and crackers I managed to make my way through three bowls.  I do not like coconut either but I forced myself to enjoy a few pieces of the cake as well.  We sang happy birthday and said goodbye, as it was time to get excited about the night out at D&B.

A month or two prior to her birthday Sheryl had called the Dave & Buster’s here in Indianapolis to learn more about how they handle parties.  She stated that she would have anywhere between fifteen and twenty people at her party and wanted to secure the seating arrangements as it was a Saturday night that we were planning on celebrating.  They made mention to their event planning committee and sent her along her way.

When speaking with the event planning committee she was told that the only way to secure seating would be to book a party room.  With the party room the participants would get access to guaranteed seating as well as a buffet that was catered by the D&B crew.  The price was only $20 per person.  This does not sound like a bad idea on the surface, but there was a catch.  There is always a catch.  To be able to secure these seats and this buffet she would have to not only pay half of the money upfront but she would only be allowed to pay the night of the party with one check.  Imagine twenty people all having to spend $20 each and trying to figure out who owes who.  Not to mention the fact that almost everyone at the party would be paying with a credit card.

They then proceeded to tell her that if she was to call the day of they would be able to do call ahead seating and guarantee that we had a place to sit that night.  So the day of the party Sheryl picked up the phone around four that afternoon giving them plenty of time to get ready for our group, and was told they do not do call ahead seating on the weekend and she would have to come in to get the seats.  This was when it started to get a little out of hand.

The hostess on the other line did tell her that she could call back closer to the time of arrival and they would be able to make something happen for us.  This is where I stepped in.  I picked up the phone around six and called to reserve the table.  I was then told by whomever answered the phone that they do not handle call ahead seating on the weekends and we would have to just show up and see if we could get a table.   So this is the now the third time we have been told something completely different and still not happy with the way it was handled.  It actually was getting worse every time someone picked up the phone.

I ask to speak to a manager as I was getting a little irritated at the conflicting stories that were being told to both my girlfriend and myself.  After about five minutes of being on hold someone finally comes to the phone.  After another ten minutes or so of arguing I am told that there is nothing they can do as there are now multiple parties in front of us for a seat.  If we called at four and there was no call ahead seating how are these tables in front of us now?

I get angry, tell the manager my side of the story, and he then brings up this event planning committee.  I am sick and tired of hearing about the event planning and proceed to tell him my thoughts on that side of the things.  He states that the reason they do the half up front policy is that it guarantees people show up the night of the event and it also helps them prepare the food.  This I can understand.  I then ask why they chose to force people to pay with a single check.  He said, and I quote, “It makes it easier on us, the server, when we have everything on one check.”

This is where I lost it.  I proceeded to ask him why it was about making the server and the restaurant happy rather than the customer.  He said, and again I quote, “We just want to be able to get you in and out so you can be on your way.”  I do not come to Dave & Buster’s to get in and out.  They close too early the way it is but I come to Dave & Buster’s to have a few drinks and play video games.  So this proves that Dave & Buster’s cares more about their employees and their own profits than the people that are paying their paychecks and filling seats.

So we get to the restaurant around 6:30 and proceed to put our names on the list to get a table. She hands me a pager and says it will be an hour to an hour and a half wait.  This is fine, folks would not be arriving for a while anyway, and it would give us enough time to get a drink in the bar before everyone arrived.  We assume that in a perfect world people would begin arriving and our table would be ready.  Of course that is not how it played out whatsoever.  After about an hour and a half and still nothing from the pager I headed back to the hostess stand to ask when we could expect a table.

Outside of the fact that our table was still not ready, the hostess was extremely rude. She not only tells me that the wait will be another hour and a half to two hours (after we have already waited nearly two hours to begin with) but she tells me there is another party that had just arrived that got the next big top table.  Again, they tell me multiple times they do not do call ahead seating yet a table shows up and walks right to their table.  Please, someone explain that to me.

So I go back to the bar for about an hour and get to the point that I am fed up with the whole waiting game.  I am hungry, people are getting antsy, and I am ready to sit down somewhere.  So, I head back to the hostess stand and find not one but two hostesses standing there.  When I get to the podium, I notice that there are multiple tables, all in the same section mind you, empty.  I tell the lady we are welcome to be split up and that all we want to do is eat our dinner.  She states that it has been noted and I head back to the bar for the third time.

It is now after ten o’clock and we are still not seated.  So, in my last effort to get a table, I walk up to the hostess stand yet again and all of a sudden we have a table and my buzzer begins to vibrate. We sit down, get some menus, and order our dinner.  The best part about the whole night was our server.  He was funny, kept my Arnold Palmer full all night, and was entertaining to the birthday girl.  (The only thing that he did do that I was not happy about was asking the birthday girl if she wanted a dessert to help her celebrate.  That dessert, without my permission, managed to find its way onto my tab – this after the server had stated she would not have to pay for it.  I did not complain but if a server is going to charge you for something he or she needs to know that it is OK to charge someone for it.)

After this we all went to play games and lose ourselves in the magic that D&B has to offer.  About an hour into our fun the server from the bar, who we had started a tab with, began to basically stalk us around the game room.  She eventually just came up and asked if we could pay for our drinks from earlier.  I am sorry, but if you are trying to leave, transfer your tab to the closing server.  Do not, I repeat do not, follow me around and track me down to pay a tab for two damn drinks.  That is one of the rudest things that someone can do.  I was fuming at this point and just ready to leave.

I paid the tab, collected our tickets, and we left.  It was early, but I had put up with enough garbage for one evening that I just wanted out of that building.  When walking out one of the ten managers that was there that night held the door open for us, but did not say goodbye.  Again, if you are going to waste company dollars and stand there with the door open for your guests at least speak to me when I leave.  Speaking of managers, not a single one of these mangers came up to me during the evening to ask if we were having a good time.  I guess had we booked with the event planning committee they would have cared a little more.

The thing that makes me mad, and that I demand some sort of reaction from the Dave & Buster’s corporate office, is that there was absolutely no consistency in the communication that we had over the months leading to this event.  I understand that it is a Saturday night.  I understand that they are busy.  I even understand that seating twenty people on any given night is a chore in itself.  But that is absolutely no excuse whatsoever to treat your guests like that.   I hope that in this you see more than what is on the surface.  I want you to see how every little thing added up to me writing this blog post.  I have since emailed Dave & Buster’s corporate on Facebook, heard back, and have had two representatives contact me to fix my issue, both asking for my phone number.  I have given it to both reps and expect a phone call in the next forty-eight hours.

I am not upset over the quality of food as it was great.  I am not upset over the prices, as they are extremely reasonable.  I am not even upset over the service for the most part.  I am upset that from the minute we began planning our event we were treated as if we were worthless, as if we had no priority over the next guy in line, and as if we meant nothing to the company or the name Dave & Buster’s.

There is a line that you must draw when it comes to how you treat an employee.  You have seen how Fox & Hound took an issue and corrected it.  I will now leave it to Dave & Buster’s to use their creativity and their managerial skills to take care of this issue.  Did it ruin Sheryl’s birthday?  Absolutely not.  But did it put a sour taste in my mouth and potentially lose twenty Dave & Buster’s customers?  Of course it did. Until you see the follow up to this issue, whether it is positive or negative, I would suggest you do not attend an event at Dave & Buster’s.  I might only be one voice but with the power of social media I can reach millions.  So, Dave & Buster’s, the ball is now in your court and I will leave it up to you to make the next move.