Frankness

We had just completed a meal in the recently opened branch of a very famous restaurant from another city. The manager came to our table and asked us for our feedback about the food and the service. I replied that, while the service had been excellent, the food was good but below our expectations. Seeing the disappointment and disbelief on his face, I explained that, since we had visited their original outlet in the other city some time back and had found the food there really delicious, we had very high expectations of this branch as well. The food we had just had wasn’t bad. It was good, but definitely below their standards, which, in our opinion, were higher than the general standards.

As we left the restaurant, my companions told me that there was no need to disappoint the poor manager by telling him that the food had been below our expectations. I could have just told him that the food had been good.

I replied that I had told the manager exactly what we had discussed amongst ourselves. The manager had asked for our feedback, and that’s exactly what I had given. I had paid the restaurant a compliment by saying that their standards were higher than general standards, and I had told him the truth when I said that the food we had had that day was below their own standards.

Later, I found that Oxford Dictionaries define Feedback as ‘Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.’ Obviously, if feedback has to be used as a basis for improvement, it must be frank.

To quote Benjamin Disraeli: There is no wisdom like frankness.

Of course, let us also remember the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: We are franker towards others than towards ourselves.

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35 thoughts on “Frankness

    • On second thought, I would also like to add that there is no harm in saying what you feel given that the place and time are appropriate. In your case, I believe your feedback was genuine and what was definitely required. In such a position, you are expected to say what you feel. Sugar coating your words would not have proved beneficial to either you or the restaurant. I agree with you and your decision and I hope others will also realize that there are times when you have to say what you have to say but it can always be done in a pleasing way like how you did. In fact, I would say you actually complimented the restaurant’s quality of food and the manager should have been elated that you felt that their standards are higher than average. Oh well. It is easy to misinterpret people. 🙂

      • Most people who ask for feedback or an opinion are actually asking for praise or approval. If my feedback was received in the same spirit that it was given, the restaurant would have benefitted.

  1. Constructive feedback when specifically sought does go a long way in drawing the attention of the management to bring about improvements – some outlets are known to encourage serious opinion by waiving the amount by making it on the house in appreciation. I do it often but not all waive payment!

    • I have seen table mats in a restaurant that say, “If you are satisfied with our food and our service, please tell others. If you are dissatisfied with our food or our service, please tell us.”

  2. I wonder why frankness is a bad word in India! I have got into a lot of hot water both online and offline from people who had a problem with me speaking out. In groups too, people have sometimes felt the need to soft pedal what I am saying so that others don’t get hurt! 😛

    • When most people say, “Let’s discuss,” they actually mean, “Listen to my discourse and agree wholeheartedly with me.”
      Honest feedback, even when politely worded, is considered offensive. 😦

  3. When I was sailing years back the big boss came to visit the ship. All the crew members had a meeting with him & when he asked how they found things on board all said super/ tops/ excellent etc, I told him it’s nice. He got pretty upset at that & asked for an explanation. I told him if all said that everything was excellent then things would stagnate & there would be no room for improvement. He later called me aside & thanked me.

  4. This is a great post! As a person, I am very frank, not able to sugar coat my words. I have been many a times advised by friends and family to relax…I am polite and frank…both are possible, I tell them. Why is it that being frank is considered rude??

  5. The thing about most people is – when they ask a question, they already have the expected answer in their head. If it is any different from their expectations, they get upset. Honesty is the best policy. At most, we can be gentle. But we cannot lie. I’ve gotten into trouble for giving honest feedback – most prominently during employee appraisals. In the long run, though, some of them have come back to thank me 😀

    People and their attitude makes all the difference. 🙂

    • Sometimes the question is asked in such a way that anybody with the slightest intelligence will know the expected answer!

      Did you give honest feedback while appraising or while being appraised?

  6. If the honest feedback is taken as a feedback and not criticism, things will work out fine. You’ve done the best thing here, by speaking it out to the manager. He knows his standards are high, and that that’s what is expected from him. He will strive hard to achieve that. And that is quality improvement. 🙂

    • Based on his reaction, I don’t think he took my feedback in the right spirit. He probably thought I’m a ‘difficult customer’, or that I was just acting smart. Sometimes, an organisation’s fame makes the employees complacent.

  7. We are not good at accepting feedback. I usually get into problems because my honest answers are not received well by the people around. People like to listen only what they want to hear!! You did the right thing!!

  8. Let us hope the manager took the constructive feedback in the right sense and took corrective measures to improve food quality.

  9. A “FEEDBACK” given at any hotel is not meant to be either a “appreciation” or a ”criticism” it has to be a genuine feedback. Any hotel will appreciate any of this either positive or negative provided it is genuine feedback. as only this gives scope for improvement. I know lots of hotels pull up their staff if they are not able to get a certain no. of feedback forms filled in daily. This in hotel lingo is called CUSTOMER – GUEST SATISFACTION SURVEY-(GSS in short). So there is nothing wrong in giving it. Keep doing this even in future. Nowadays see that even Limited cos. ask for feedback from their shareholders when the annual reports are sent to shareholders.
    I fill up every single form received by me either on Airlines or hotels or these cos. ..

  10. If everybody says that the food is good, just for being polite, they won’t try to improve. Feel happy and continue serving food in the same quality. If the manager is sensible, he will look into the complaint/true criticism.

  11. It is sometimes hard for people to hear what they really don’t want to hear. It is important when asked for feedback that we be honest and still respectful, which is exactly what you did. Hopefully the manager will take that feedback and use it to improve the quality of their food instead of letting it fester like unwanted criticism. You gave him the feedback, now he gets to decide what he’ll do with it.

  12. Both the quotes are apt. Being frank is difficult for most people, as those who are are undoubtedly not appreciated much. However, what needs to be said, needs to be said, as sensitively and honestly as possible. Sometimes it isn’t, so one does what one does, no matter what the response is! Trouble invariably follows, but well, if both the giver and receiver of feedback are proactive (and positive) learning and progress happen 🙂 More power to more honest feedbacks and receivers of feedback!

  13. I generally just tell the servers/managers that the food was good even if I dislike it. But that is just me. I do think honesty will actually help them evaluate themselves, and in turn, improve and profit. Only reason I can’t give honest feedback is because I fear hurting the person in charge. It is kind of stupid.

  14. Frankness is misunderstood if you ask me.
    People are very easily “frank” about others than they are towards themselves…

    But, you did the right thing – good and constructive feedback is required for improvement 🙂

  15. the problem is people don’t value frankness, u could be understood as rude, mean, arrogant, someone with an attitude, etc..etc..trying to be frank!! so i reserve my frankness to the people closest to me, and with others, i keep my opinion to myself, so i don’t have to agree to or appreciate something i don’t!!!!

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