won’t mention the place by name.
I’ll probably type the franchise name into this article a few
times. Once or twice it might even be in that humorous way of
saying something where you almost wink while slipping the details
out there ever so innocently. Then I’ll laugh, debate erasing
it, and finally remove it. Every time I give one of their locations
a shot though, they disappoint me -- at their best I find their
meals decent but no better. Still, they don’t deserve to be named
because of the problems on one night in one restaurant. Right?)
was a Thursday evening, and Tigg and I were running some errands
after work. A long day… going to be a late arrival at home… still
at least one more stop to make… and a matter of convenience became
needed to get dinner.
was a place right there. As in… right next to the car
right there. It wasn’t a question of debating what we
wanted to get, it was simply a matter of heading in.
already said I’m not a huge fan of the restaurant. And just the
menu provides a good example of why…
sat down and I opened the menu. One column offered a salad bar
with your meal. Another page said if you didn’t want your two
side items, you could pick the salad bar instead. A different
place said you could add the salad bar for an additional fee.
And really, all I wanted was a salad. Oh I’d enjoy a burger or
a sandwich or a pasta dish as my meal. That would be swell. But
what I wanted was to include a salad.
I was confused. The two main items I was considering really didn’t
list the salad bar in any direct manner.
particular, I was looking at an item that offered two side items,
but didn’t mention the salad bar. At all. Didn’t say something
like “add the salad bar to your meal” as an additional purchase.
Didn’t say “exchange your two sides for the sald bar” the way
it did in another spot. So, I asked -- since, after all, in a
different place it did say the salad bar and two side items were
interchangeable -- could I say no to the two sides with this item
and get the salad bar.
waiter told me no.
there isn’t enough comedy in our evening, I’ll add this. After
being told no, I ordered a different entrée, which was
actually my third choice, simply because the menu said it came
with the salad bar. As our waiter wrote down my request and told
me that I could help myself to the salad bar, he added: “…and
what two sides would you like with that?” Tigg was there. I have
a witness. There was no way to avoid the sides. But getting the
salad bar was a challenge. Anyway…)
our water arrives at the table, as does a plate with two complimentary
dinner rolls. The appetizer arrives and eventually I’m back with
my salad. Water glasses are refilled. We move the appetizer plate
to the side. Two more rolls arrive. Manager brought them. Wants
to know if we’re enjoying our meals so far. I finish my salad.
Salad plate gets taken away. And… the conversation is slowing
at points as Tigg and I are beginning to become very much aware
that our dinners haven’t arrived. Water glasses get refilled.
We ask about dinner and get told it’s on the way. More conversation.
debated where to include this little nugget of information, and
it seems just about right to place it here. It gives you some
details to have in mind before the manager returns. And, it also
allows me to finish with the great story of the manager.)
left our table for a few minutes. Went to the salad bar. I thought
I recognized someone at the next table, but she was talking to
her dinner partner and I couldn’t immediately recall her name,
and I didn’t want to interrupt if I was wrong. When I returned,
Terry was talking to her. She works with us. And, polite conversation
involved, we were now a bit more aware of what was taking place
at her table.
the time I arrived with my salad and our asking the waiter about
our dinner, our co-worker (and the person she was with): was brought
her meal, ate dinner, requested a dessert menu, read the dessert
menu, ordered dessert, had some leftovers wrapped, was served
dessert, ate dessert, was brought a bill, paid her bill, said
goodbye to us and left.
know that all took place because I watched the entire show.
-- after that took place -- Terry and I asked about our
dinners and waited another ten minutes before asking again.
that time, the second inquiry, our waiter said they were almost
done and should be out soon. He apologized saying the kitchen
was really backed up. So… we cancelled it. We told him we had
been waiting too long, and if it wasn’t ready we’d like to pay
for what we had and cancel the order.
the waiter… and, quite predictably, before the check arrived…
enter the manager, this time without dinner rolls, wondering if
we were ok.)
we explained that we had been waiting far too long and just wanted
to leave, the manager told us he checked the ticket and the food
was just about done. Then, after we explained again that it was
taking too long, he dropped this beauty. He told us that normally
they like to give people a chance to eat and not feel rushed during
dinner, and… well… I was really ticked off and stopped listening
so I could concentrate on keeping myself composed, nodding, and
the waiter had told us the kitchen was backed up. Manager never
mentioned that. Nope. What he had just told us was the problem
wasn’t the restaurant, or the kitchen, or business demands from
a full dining room… it was that Tigg and I didn’t understand the
pacing of their service. They were trying to help us relax and
unwind, and darn it, their customers enjoy that. It was our fault
for not being patient.
we know is sitting next to us. Has the same waiter. Before we
became truly aware of her presence and her table, we ordered.
We had been to a home improvement store, so both Tigg and I separately
went to the restrooms and washed our hands. When Tigg returned
to the table, I got up and made a salad. Then, after my return
from the salad bar, at our friend’s table… dinner service, eating,
dessert order, dessert service, eating, bill presented, paying
a bill, and departure. Still no meal for us. Waiter tells us it’s
on the way. Ten minutes pass. We ask a second time.
it’s us. That’s what the manager says. He checked the ticket.
Couldn’t be them. Most people prefer a relaxed and well-paced
service. We’re ignorant.
where it gets really funny.)
makes a prediction.
we asked the first time about our meals, at one point she saw
our waiter was walking toward us -- she believes to get the check
at our friend’s table, since that is what he did immediately after
this -- he made eye contact with Tigg… froze… in her opinion looked
like he was horrified and spun around to head the other way.
thinks he never completed our order in the system and forgot the
she is telling me this story, she explains that over my shoulder
she sees the manager at a computer and the waiter is talking to
him. She is betting he is explaining that he forgot to place our
manager returns with the bill. He explains that he cancelled the
meals and didn’t charge us for the salad bar. He then says that
he isn’t sure what happened, and perhaps there was some delay
in getting the order to the kitchen. (Which, you may note, he
never said before.)
once while I was there… not once… did he ever say anything
even remotely close to an apology. Right now though, after first
trying to get us to understand that most of the world dines at
a leisurely pace... and after Tigg sees him talking with his waiter...
there’s this off chance that maybe the order didn’t get to the
kitchen right away. (As if… you know… like screws fall out all
the time, the world’s an imperfect place.)
could ask about that ticket he claims he checked. I might point
out that he says he didn’t charge me for the salad bar as if that’s
the huge favor to be found in his gracious nature… which sure
seems nice, until you remember that I didn’t order the salad bar.
It came with my meal. So he would have had to cancel my entrée
(which he did) and then add the salad bar to our check. (Which
would have been fine since he wasn’t doing us any favors in this
process. I mean, I did eat a salad. Still…)
tells me to go to the car while she pays. I do. When she comes
out she’s laughing. The manager returned as she was signing the
bill and said he hoped we’d give them a chance to make it up to
the guy who -- from what we can tell -- accused us of being the
problem, learned from his waiter that it was his fault and not
ours, then did us a favor by allowing us to pay for the appetizer…
that guy is looking forward to our return.
going to happen.
let you pause to consider the story again.
never said something like: “I’m sorry for the inconvenience and
that you’re upset. Please stay with us, your meals are ready so
let me get them for you, and I’ll take care of your check tonight.
Dinner’s on me and I hope you’ll join us again.”
He actually thought a good solution was bringing us a bill for
$6.99 (plus tax) and smiling while saying he didn’t add the salad
bar to it.
me though. Obviously it’s me. I don’t expect something for nothing.
Apparently though, hoping to be appreciated and treated as though
my patronage is valuable is too much.
but true… this experience is one I’ve seen in different ways in
other places. Too many businesses no longer care about frequent
and repeat business. They care about the bottom line from a single
unfortunately for this place, this experience is just the final
event. And with my friends… the ones that live in my neighborhood
and where the name does matter… when I tell them the story in
person, I will include the actual name of the restaurant.