A snarky ‘reply all’ email to Canlis restaurant results in a big donation
Canlis is one of many Seattle restaurants that has cleverly pivoted the way it’s serving food during the COVID-19 quarantine. Arguably one of the city’s most tony restaurants, open since 1950 and run by the third generation of the Canlis family, it is now offering contact-free dinner delivery. The Monday meal is the most affordable and the price ticks up as the days move on, reaching its peak at about $100 per person on Friday nights.
“We like to finish off with something really fun and retro Canlis,” said Mark Canlis, who owns the restaurant with his brother, Brian. “This Friday, old school 1950 Canlis, so it’s filet mignon, shrimp cocktail, crème brûlée, Canlis salad, and twice baked potatoes. Something extravagant and celebratory.”
But last week, they had an unsatisfied customer.
“Every night we send out an email to everyone that says, ‘hey, we’re just packaging up dinner now, you might want to preheat your oven if you want it to be really hot, heads up it’s coming your way.’ Normally we BCC everyone on that email, as is proper technological protocol, and last Friday we completely messed that up. We put everyone’s addresses in the ‘To’ line, which means not only did everyone see everyone else’s email address, but it means that we are subject to the dreaded ‘reply all.’ Sure enough, not two minutes later, somebody ‘replies all’ and has kind of a bad attitude about the fact that we asked him to preheat his oven. He was complaining that a dinner as expensive as a Canlis take-home meal should come steaming hot.”
‘Reply all’ can quickly go sideways, with irritable people firing back, asking to be removed from the email thread. But this time, it took a positive spin. Someone hit ‘reply all’ and said: “If you are dissatisfied with your order may I suggest you donate your $125 per person fee to Feeding America?”
“Sure enough, everyone starts hitting ‘reply all!'” Canlis said, laughing. “People are not only offering to preheat the man’s oven for him, but also offering to donate. So they just started donating. Then the guy who originally didn’t want to preheat his oven is like, ‘I’m in!’ And he donates $250.”
By the next day, the email debacle had been shared on social media and $10,000 had been donated to Feeding America, a nonprofit with 200 food banks across the country that feed more than 46 million people.
“‘Reply all’ is always such a disaster and we all cringe every time our email boxes fill up,” Canlis said. “But this one moved from being a technological ‘reply all’ disaster to one of the most beautiful things we’ve seen all week. Suddenly, you’re seeing the humanity and the generosity of a city that is cooped up and quarantined but not down and out. One that has a generous spirit. This was a total lemonade out of lemons kind of a thing.”
Canlis got in on the generous spirit and donated $500.
For more on Canlis, specifically about what they feed their staff at family meal, listen to the episode of Rachel Belle’s podcast Your Last Meal featuring Guns N’ Roses bassist, and Seattle resident, Duff McKagan.
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- Rachel Belle hosts the James Beard Award nominated podcast Your Last Meal and she's an Edward R Murrow award winning feature reporter. Follow Rachel on Instagram.