Yesterday our lunch group picked a restaurant that was about a block from the firm because it was too cold for a long hike. It’s a place that specializes in sandwiches and hamburgers. When we arrived at about 12:10, there was — literally — not a single patron in the place, and the wait staff near the front door were glad to see us. We were seated promptly and given menus and water.
After a few minutes, our waitress came by to take our order. We ordered three burgers and a sandwich, then began talking about the issues of the day. Another table of patrons came into the restaurant, and shortly thereafter another group arrived. The waitress came and gave us water refills, and our pleasant lunchtime conversation continued.
After about 20 minutes of chatting, however, we started to get antsy because the food hadn’t arrived. When we hit the half-hour mark, we asked the waitress where the food was. She was a friendly young woman who apologized for the delay and said they were working on it. More minutes went by, and . . . no food. We’d reached the point of inexplicable ridiculousness — after all, we’re talking basic food orders here — and our comments to the waitress became more pointed. JV noted that we had been waiting a long time, and the Unkempt Guy reminded the waitress that we all needed to get back to work. Of course, the delay wasn’t her fault, but we had to voice our exasperation to someone, and she was the only option.
At that point, the direction of our conversation began to focus exclusively on the delay. We noted that there were only three tables occupied in the restaurant, so the long wait couldn’t be due to a busy, backlogged kitchen. The two of us who were seated facing the kitchen kept an eye on the kitchen door, and we began speculating about what had happened. Was our order not begun promptly for some reason? Did somebody just drop the ball, or was there some other issue? The next time the waitress stopped by, she swore that she had seen our orders being prepared and it wouldn’t be much longer.
Sometime between 45 minutes and an hour after we had placed our order, the waitress brought out the side salads the Bus Riding Conservative and the Unkempt Guy had ordered, and a few minutes later two of our burgers and the sandwich arrived. JV, alas, was left waiting for about another 10 minutes for his burger. In the interim, the waitress — knowing we needed to get back to work — asked if we wanted to get our checks, and I think JV actually got his check before he got his food, which has to be be a first. We wondered how in the world our three orders were finished so long before his, but at that point we weren’t capable of being surprised by anything. The waitress finally brought his order, and then took the checks, apologized again, and said we were being comped. No one ever explained why it took such a ludicrously long time to serve us with our orders.
We finished our food — which was fine, by the way — and left cash tips for the waitress, and talked about whether we would ever come back to the restaurant. JV took the position that the comping was an effective cure for the bad experience, and the UG noted that in prior visits to the place he’d been served promptly. As for me, I don’t think I’ll be going back. The waitress was put in an unenviable position, but she clearly was not telling us the truth in giving us initial assurances that our food was on the way. And I think if you make people wait for such a long time you owe them more than a comped meal, you owe them an explanation. Somebody — the manager, or the chef — should have come to our table and told us what happened and assured us it won’t happen again. As of now, if I went back to the place and had a similar experience, I’d have only myself to blame.
By the way, by the time we left the other two tables hadn’t been served yet.