“Most disappointing”: a new way to rate a restaurant

Posted on August 29th, 2009 by

Some months back, a restaurant meal to which I had been particularly looking forward sent me on an in-depth, ten minute study of the nature of disappointment.

My extensive, multi-screen scan of google, using several forms of the word “disappoint”  quickly led me to the concept of quality. According to the quality management professionals, quality is the gap between what customers expect, and what they experience. And according to some other researcher whose study was described to me twenty years ago and which I could not find again if I tried (which I did, for upwards of three minutes), our expectations go up once we’ve had a good experience of a place. It seems to me, then, that this increase in our expectation makes the size of the potential gap increase dramatically. You can, it turns out, be really, really disappointed by a mediocre meal at a restaurant where you’d expected a really wonderful one. And you can be not disappointed at all by getting exactly the same food you always get at a chain restaurant serving pre-prepared meals. (The study from twenty years ago, I recall, showed why return visits to restaurants were so often disappointing; our rose-colored memories of our meal could never be matched by our current experience.)

To be honest, this seems like kind of an odd way to define quality (but of course perhaps my ten minutes’ research have not introduced me to all the concept’s subtleties and nuances). It did, however, suggest a great new subcategory of the  “worst meal ever” category, namely “biggest gap between what I expected and what I was served.”

So, how about it; what was your biggest disappointment ever in a restaurant–and why?


One Comment

  1. BJ Heldke says:

    Far and away my greatest disappointment is when a very good restaurant serves really inferior coffee.

    Second worst is when they change the formula for a favorite dish – like removing the figs from the Skizza Bianca and replacing them with fig paste.