Old Habits Need to Break

Sue Smith, owner of Denver's Cody's Cafe and Bar and Bettola Bistro, on how she says no in an industry built on saying yes.

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Light tan sand with bulls-eye indentation and wave vertical lines to the right of the bulls eye.

At Cody’s Cafe and Bettola Bistro, we have stood up to some unfair and unrealistic demands from customers. But not always. Old habits are hard to break.

Since I have been in business here for more than two decades, I still get long-time customers showing up, demanding special treatment, and asking for dishes we haven’t served for many years. We most often politely tell them no, and encourage them to try something from our current menu. It’s not easy for us to turn on a dime and make certain Vietnamese dishes, when we now serve mostly Italian and new American seafood. Nevertheless, I admit to sometimes running to the store and buying special ingredients just to prepare a dish from yesteryear to appease a loyal customer.

I regret that we too often accept the “customer is always right” mantra instead of standing up for what is fair—for what is right for us. Restaurants are vulnerable to negative online reviews, and customers are eager to write damaging reviews instead of confronting restaurant staff in person about the quality of food or service. Recently, we turned a would-be customer away because we would not exceed Cody’s 50 percent dining capacity. She gave us a one-star review, even though she never dined at the restaurant.

We have consolidated Bettola Bistro and Cody’s Cafe into the Cody’s space and have resisted the pleas and demands of some customers who want to eat at Bettola. We have denied customers the option of sitting at the bar despite their protests. Mask wearing is still mandatory, even though we still hear complaints. It has been a tough year for all of us, but aren’t we—the restaurants that make up the fabric of the city—entitled to hope for better times ahead?

Talk to us! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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