UPDATE: On January 9th I received a call from the person to whom I addressed this letter (below). He was absolutely terrific and managed to restore my faith in the 'wichcraft franchise. We discussed point by point what I had written and gave me some background on the situation. I now have a restored interest in heading back to the restaurant, and am hoping my friends will do the same. This is a place with terrific potential, that really cares about customer experiences and feedback.
Every once in a while I get irritated enough to fire off a feedback letter. My husband has done this as well. It might be part of how we try to make the world a better place. I complained to Target via a letter about how miserable their Atlantic Terminal location is. I got a letter in response. My husband complained about an American Airlines credit expiration policy. He got our credits re-instated. Slowly, the world will come around. I really like Top Chef and think Tom Colicchio has created some amazing restaurants, so I was more than dismayed when I had a bad experience at his place 'wichcraft at Rock Center. Here is my letter:
Dear Mr. [REMOVED TO PROTECT THE GUILTY]:
I am writing to tell you about a disappointing and depressing experience I had at the Rockefeller Center ‘wichcraft. I met a friend at the restaurant on December 23rd at 8:30AM. We were meeting for breakfast. There were several issues.
First, the restaurant was nearly impossible to find. I realize you might have little control over this, but the Concourse at Rockefeller Center is barely navigable, with directories nowhere to be found. Finally, after asking three people, I found your restaurant (and sadly, after passing a very full Starbucks, where, had I not been meeting someone, I may have landed after probably giving up on finding ‘wichcraft. Thankfully, this did not happen, but it was a near miss).
So there it was, at the end of the corridor. I had to stop for a minute and really look because it appeared to be under construction. The doors were open and the lights were on, but other than that, the space is bare and unwelcoming. Yes, there were chairs and tables, but nobody was there but the two ‘wichcraft employees. I suspect other potential patrons had the same impression – this is not a place to eat.
But I pushed ahead and went in. What does ‘wichcraft sell? Not an easy question to answer in a space that seems to go to great lengths to hide the menu. Not a word on the wall behind the counter. Had I been walking by, I am not sure I would have known this is a place one can eat. No food even for display. No wait, not true. There was a small, half-full bowl of oranges on the counter. Décor, perhaps?
I met my friend and we spotted a beverage cooler to the right. Ah, food. Or, drink.
As people who live in NYC and have enjoyed other ‘wichcrafts, we knew what to order. The oatmeal was good. My friend enjoyed the yogurt. Coffees were rich and delicious. Clearly, the food is not the problem.
But as you have shown by your commitment to creating restaurants with inviting environments, the food is not enough. So, we got our food and then thought, should we stay? There are tables and chairs but it’s just so dull and depressing. No, let’s sit in the common space out there, we concluded. Honestly, we could not get out of there fast enough. It was the beginning of the day, and a festive season, and there was no need to remain a second longer in such a mind-numbing locale.
So what next? Well, I doubt I will recommend said ‘wichcraft again for any coffee/breakfast/casual meetings. It’s just too depressing. For what it’s worth, I suggest the following:
– A little music would be nice.
– A menu, visible and attractive.
– Entice me with say, food. Yes, baked goods in sight might lure a few people in.
– Having something baking in the back would also be interesting. Nothing like the smell of fresh baked goods to get people thinking “Wow, suddenly I am hungry. Wonder why.”
– Maybe some mugs. I realize it’s a To Go sort of place, but everything about this ‘wichcraft screams “Get me out of here.” Mugs might make people feel more welcome. Or a few comfortable chairs. Maybe lighter lighting. Wifi? I know you are not trying to be Starbucks but what has been created in terms of an atmosphere is a shade away from a rest-stop on the Turnpike.
Lastly, perhaps I am not your target consumer, but I doubt that. I have attached my bio below for a bit of context on who I am, for what that is worth. I do hope you will take this feedback to heart. There is a big opportunity to create an alternative to a cookie-cutter coffee chain, that offers real food, a nice aesthetic and a taste of greatness as you partake in food and drink that is part of such an esteemed family of restaurants. It would be a crying shame for you to miss this opportunity.