'Forgive Us,' Punch Bowl Social Pleads After a Shaky Launch

January 08, 2015, 4:05 PM by  Alan Stamm

It's a clear sign of trouble, and damage control, when a new restaurant offers free Sunday brunch to 100 pissed-off guests.

"Mistakes are not free," the Punch Bowl Social group's chief executive acknowledges to the Free Press, adding that its peacemaking meal for a prominent patron and friends "will cost us several thousand dollars."

Robert Thompson, CEO: "We haven't been able to handle the response." (Photos by Alan Stamm)

The goodwill gesture is part of a rough first month for the downtown newcomer that opened Dec. 10 and attracted larger holiday season crowds than it could handle.

The two-level Broadway attraction "opened like a train wreck last month, drawing hundreds of complaints in social media," Sylvia Rector of the Freep says in her first sentence.

"We haven't been able to handle the response and generosity that Detroit has shown us," CEO Robert Thompson tells the restaurant critic. 

Guests have complained on restaurant review sites and even the restaurant's own Facebook page about food taking an hour or more to arrive, uncaring attitudes by employees and managers, overwhelmed and undertrained servers, and games that were broken or unavailable.

In one case, the company offered to host a free Sunday brunch for well-known Midtown shop owner Rachel Lutz and 99 of her Facebook friends to apologize for the treatment she and her companions received earlier this week.

Posting on Lutz's Facebook page and a ticket site, a company official wrote: "We're sorry — so sorry — and sincerely hope you'll forgive us and give us another chance. We've changed our staff, upped our training, fixed the entertainment offerings and fine-tuned our bar and kitchen to ensure we're delivering the top-quality product we're known for. We hope it's not too late to make it up to you."

Rachel Lutz: "Something offensive happened."

Lutz, owner of the Peacock Room apparel and accessories shop, wouldn't say what went horribly wrong beyond telling Rector: "Something offensive happened to us."

Another pissed-off patron is Justin Brown, who posted Dec. 28 on the restaurant's Facebook page:

Somehow Punch Bowl Social - Detroit managed to make my second visit worse than the first. . . . Completely under-staffed and under-prepared.

A friend, photographer Scott Spellman, comments on Brown's thread: "I was ready to be impressed, but was also very disappointed.‬"

The four-restaurant group's Denver-based CEO, who contacted Lutz, says Punch Bowl has boosted its Detroit payroll from 175 workers to about 235.

On Twitter, meanwhile, a Detroit writer lobs this quip about Thursday's news:

Earlier Deadline coverage:

Gallery: Punch Bowl Social Brings ‘Camp’ for Adults to Downtown Detroit, Dec. 9

Read more:  Detroit Free Press

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