Bad mouthing a local business — the post I didn’t want to write.

This is a post I’ve been sitting on since last week Thursday — the night of our Gluten-Free Get Together at Rustico Pizzeria in Milwaukee.

I debated just letting this go, hoping things would just die down and I could just not return to their restaurant or never recommend it again. I thought maybe I was over reacting to the manager’s extremely poor (and insensitive) customer service skills and defensive responses in emails.

But then people got sick from their gluten-free food at that get together dinner… and I knew I had to write this. Because as much as I love to share with you the success stories and the restaurants in Milwaukee who ARE feeding us safely, I feel responsible to tell you this story — as much as it kills me to have to talk negatively about a local business, I thought you should know.

I always check out the restaurants before we dine at them with our group — the mistake I made this time was just picking up a pizza to-go, instead of dining in and spending some time there.

I should have known when I emailed Dan the manager, letting him know that the crust was mushy and gave the suggestion to crisp it up for Thursday, and his response was pretty defensive — never once apologizing for it, but instead saying I should have had it at the restaurant rather than to-go… I should have known there were going to be issues.

But in the end of his email he said, “We understand the growing number of individuals affected with this condition and are ever vigilant in providing the best experience possible, every time. We look forward to serving you and your group on Thursday.”

That sounds pretty reassuring doesn’t it?

I arrived early on Thursday to grab a glass of wine (it was a horrible) and met the manager at the bar — he introduced himself and then (after eyeing up my platter of rice krispie treats) said, “you aren’t planning on serving those tonight, are you?”

I said that was the plan, to which he responded, “well you can’t… Wisconsin state law doesn’t allow it… and even if they were pre-packaged, I’d have to charge you $2 per person for a “plating” charge.”

At this point, things started to go downhill. I explained that we do that at every single event, and that we’ve never had a problem — especially when the restaurant doesn’t have a dessert option for us. He disagreed saying that they had gelato that we could have, then started in on statistics about how many millions of people in Italy consider it a great dessert. (I’m a huge gelato fan, but we are also sent treats or supplies to make treats that we have been enjoying for 2+ years) He also compared me bringing in treats to bringing in a flask of vodka to a bar and then ordering a cranberry juice and pouring the vodka in. What the what?

He did eventually say he would “allow it to slide” just this once — why not just say that at the beginning?

I tried to stay cool — but his tone was defensive and condescending, not at all welcoming. Not one bit. If we wouldn’t have had 12 other people about to show up at any minute, I would have already left, (and gone to Transfer) but thought it would have been too much of a hassle to move everyone. (I thought wrong, totally should have.) And I told him that straight out, explaining that his tone — as it was in the emails — was defensive and lacking any kind of customer care.

Our conversation ended with him saying he had “bent over backwards” for our group by bringing in New Grist. (the day AFTER we were there) And then he left. (but not before he went over and talked about me with the bartender — as I was sitting there)

Luckily we had a great server (the servers’ manager, who split our bills up with a smile and was quick on his feet all night) And Brittany — their social media person — was awesome. She is a great example of GOOD customer service, welcoming us and apologizing for the bad first impression. (we didn’t get into details with her, to avoid putting her in the middle)

Half of the pizzas came out under cooked. Two people got the wrong pizzas. And at least THREE people got sick from eating there.

Not how I wanted the night to go. At all.

I felt responsible for all of it — like I let the group down. I have been hosting these events every month since February 2010 and haven’t ever had people get sick.

It makes me sick to even think about it.

Yes, we may require a few extra steps to be fed safely — but we just want to eat out, like everyone else, and support our local restaurants. We are a strong, supportive little community. And we stick together.

I for one will not be going back to Rustico. Ever.

And pretty, pretty please — if I suggest a restaurant that you’ve gotten sick at, or even had poor customer service at, let me know — there are plenty of other places in Milwaukee to check out — places that will provide us with the best experience… every time.

12 thoughts on “Bad mouthing a local business — the post I didn’t want to write.

  1. That’s good to know. I went there about a year ago when I was just diagnosed because they said they had a “crustless” GF pizza option. It was a skillet of cheese with a few veggies, and disgusting. When I told the manager I was disappointed and would have rather they just didn’t offer it as an option, he reacted in the same way he did for the GF night. Very diffensive and agressive. I’m really sorry for your night, but you’re not the only one!

    BUT…you doing this work is what helps all of the rest of us know where to go. We need to hear the good AND the bad. It’s too bad people got sick, but that is not your fault! If a restaurant claims GF food, one would hope they know what they’re talking about. You can’t be in the kitchen watching, so we have to learn from experiences, and others experiences. Again, thanks for all of the great work you’re doing!

  2. Once again, you should be very proud of yourself for writing a great article. Wether it is good or bad people with celiac need to know what they are facing out there as far as places to eat. Keep up the good work and let those fingers do the walking across the keys:) I can only say I am very proud of you!

  3. I am so sorry everyone had to deal with that. I have had horrible experiences with them prior to them getting the gf pizza. I hope everyone is feeling better and thank you for keeping everyone informed on the restaurants that actually care about our health.

  4. I know you REALLY didn’t want to write this. But you REALLY had to. I was there and it was as bad, or at times worse, than you described. You are so kind it’s hard for you to be critical. This post needed to be written to save others from the experience we had. Please let the blame lie where it belongs…this was NOT your fault in any way. Hindsight is 20/20. We thought it would be too hard to leave and go somewhere else for dinner that night. In fact, things ended up being much harder on us because we stayed. You should be proud for 2 1/2 years of gluten free get togethers without a really bad experience. Thank you for all the great times…and having the courage to try and protect others from experiencing our bad time. We really appreciate you. 🙂

  5. Wow! That makes me sick too 😦 So sorry you & fellow gf friends had to go through that. You are right though, there are WAY too many great restaurants to patronize in Milwaukee that go out of their way for us, instead of a place like this!!!

  6. I read your accounts often of your great restaurant experiences and am usually in awe. This is what I always fear. I so understand your reluctance to write this post and applaud you’re going ahead with it.

  7. Have you posted your experience at Allergy Eats? (allergyeats on FB) They keep a record of gf friendly restaurants and I’m sure they have a place to say ‘watch out for this “gf friendly” restaurant’. I experienced some really bad customer service recently also. My husband and I were just dumbfounded. It was a local (in Adams cty) second hand store that we’ve frequented almost every time we’re up there. We’ve spent at least $75, indicated by 2 ‘loyalty’ cards that they punch every time you spend $5. Well, I happened to have 2 cards, one that needed one more punch and one that was half full. The owner (who looked like he never skipped a meal in his life…) wouldn’t take the cards and combine them together and give me a new card. He kept saying, “I have to follow my rules. Just wait until food increases by 30% in November”. Yeah, and I can see food is way too important to him! He said, it would be a waste of money to give me a new card and throw the other one out. Like 5 cents?? The long line behind me was getting restless and the lady next to me couldn’t believe it either! I told him, “You need to learn customer service. You’re losing a customer (loyal) over 5 cents!” “I have to follow my rules” he just keeps saying. Needless to say, we will never go there again. I think it changed hands, because the people there used to be really nice. Oh, and I heard him complaining that the storm took out his Direct TV. Really, you can afford Direct TV (or whatever that’s called) and you can’t afford a 5 cent piece of paper???? Wow. I’ll go to Goodwill in Portage, 20 minutes away now. And the other second hand store across the street, where the owner (last time we went there) was really nice.

  8. I enjoy your post’s and believe in your sense of welfare for the whole GF Family, do not let one bad experience with a poor restaurant as this one do you any injustice! Please keep up the great work you do, and Thank-you for all you have taught my wife and I about Celiac.I always look forward to seeing your posts!

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