How Surprise Dress Codes Can Erode Customer Service

Every establishment that serves the public, whether it be a restaurant or a night club or concert venue, has the right to have a dress code. Don’t have a problem with that. Often, dress codes help maintain a certain ambiance. Some higher end establishments may often require a formal or semi-formal dress code that requires men wear a dress coat and women wear dresses at a certain length. Less stuff establishments won’t be this formal, but may require that customers not wear flip flops or bikinis at a dining table. That’s all fine. The problem comes when such establishments don’t clearly articulate their dress code policies or have it clearly posted at the front door. By asking someone to leave for violating a dress code they knew nothing about is very poor customer service.


Such is the case at Kona Grill in Plano

As many of you know, on most Fridays, you can find me at Kona Grill as a lot of professionals, many from our network, go to Kona Grill. Some call it “Black Friday” affectionately, though the ratio of brothas and sistas varies. But by and large, since at least February of this year, a growing number of black professionals frequent Kona Grill in Plano on Fridays, and we documented this trend very early. I’ve come to know the staff there pretty well, which is why I was surprised at what happened when a friend in my party of 5, and later my own son, got asked to leave because they were wearing tank tops on a very hot Friday, yesterday (July 22, 2016). Temperatures outside were at or above 100 degrees, so several guests, both men and women, were wearing tank tops. Not wife beaters, but nice, designer style tank tops. The women were allowed to wear tank tops, but the men are not permitted to do so (sounds like the basis for a sex discrimination complaint, but that’s not the objective of this post).

The first incident happened with the male friend in our group who I met through his fiancée, who also was part of the group and was wearing a tank top. They were at Kona Grill before I got there, and when I arrive, they told me he was asked to leave or go change his tank top. This was the first we ever heard of Kona Grill having a dress code. But fine, so be it. As we were talking about this, a lady over heard us and was also surprised there was a dress code that did not allow tank tops. So she asked her man if he had a shirt in the car to give him, and he did. But my friend instead went home (not far away) and changed. It was a huge inconvenience, quite obviously. To me, it makes more sense to provide a warning as the July heat in Dallas makes people wear less clothing. Just say something like “Hey, we know the dress code wasn’t posted anywhere or very well known, but for the next time, we don’t allow tank tops on men.” No problem. Next time, no tank tops.

We finally get seated after waiting, and some time later, my son, who was at home, came to join us, also wearing a tank top. We were seated at an inside patio bar table near the back door, and my son and I would usually enter through that door instead of going all the way around to the front, and my son entered through the back door. Not long after that, a manager, who I thought I knew well, came and informed him that they can’t serve him in a tank top, asking if he had a shirt in the car he can change into. Of course, who just happen to have an extra shirt in the car? Not common. Instead, my son decided to leave. No problem or anger, though it was inconvenient once again. My son was just going to blow it off as a misunderstanding and leave it at that.

But what happened next was the nail in the coffin of good customer service.

We overheard the manager lock the back door and tell the waiter “Don’t let him back in,” as if my son, who is in college, were a trouble maker or worse. That crossed a line and was clearly uncalled for. When I later told my son this (we ended up going to Blue Fish in Plano at 121 near Dallas Tollway), he was insulted by that and vowed never to return again. So I ask Kona Grill to revisit their dress code and common customer service to make sure this doesn’t happen again. It leaves a sour taste in the mouths of frequent customers like us who have been visiting that Kona Grill since it opened last year. I’m sure somewhere in all of this there is a misunderstanding. Time will tell.

So I am taking this opportunity to mix it up and visit other establishments for Friday happy hour. We’ve noticed Shell Shack has been having a vibrant happy hour, as does Ra Sushi, Truth, Prime Time Carrollton, Park Avenue Fridays, and other spots. Let us know of other spots we haven’t gone to that we should check out. And a word to the wise: Please be sure to clearly articulated either on signage or on a website or just warn people if not posted clearly anywhere. We’re pretty easygoing. Take care, and have fun this weekend, my friends.


One comment

  1. Thank you. I am new to the area and was thinking about going here after seeing a movie. I will try some of the other restaurants that you have mentioned.


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