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Still steaming like a clam.

May 18, 2009

Back from Philly.  And, while I did not get to eat a cheesesteak (which I’m disappointed in how the one thing I really wanted to do, didn’t happen) I ate some excellent food and had a great time.  During the trip, the issue of good/bad food service became a focal point.   And you know, of course, I’m going to go into detail.

1) The first experience I had with food in Philadelphia was fair.  The restaurant, La Cucina Varallo, was empty for entire course of our dinner, so one would assume the wait staff couldn’t mess up our orders, or forget to attend to us.  That’s a given.  They were polite, prompt, etc.  And the food was amazing — the main reason Katie took us there.   But, when it came time to pay the bill, they couldn’t be more distant.  It seemed as if they saw us slip a poisonous snake into the charger, and didn’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole.  When the waitress finally came to collect the bill, which was handwritten, we explained we needed to split the bill.  We had already written on the bill which entree belonged to which card.  [Now, I know many waitresses would argue against splitting a bill — that you should say you want separate checks from the outset, or that you shouldn’t ask to split at all.  BUT, let’s be honest, you’re probably going to get more of a tip if you split the bill, and 2nd, who really pays with cash anymore??? Come on, cash is going the way of the dino.  AND, again, the restaurant was FAR from busy.]   So, she says, let me see if I can do that.  Umm…k.  She comes back with our checks.  She split the bill equally.  Now, again, normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but one friend had a bill that was half the bill of the other.  So, it didn’t really even out.  And, really, the bill was HANDWRITTEN.  How can it be that hard???
Verdict: Unacceptable customer service.

2) This experience was fast and quick.  It was at a local Wawa, a convenience store.  We got some MTO sandwiches.  The guy making them was very efficient, so there was no wait time and the check out girl was super nice and friendly, and again efficient.
Verdict: Great customer service!

3) This time, we were in Jersey City, NJ at a little Italian place, Cafe Capri.  Excellent food and service.  The waitress was sometimes difficult to understand, but overall, very prompt, quick and polite.
Verdict: Great customer service.

4) The last experience that I actually had in Philadelphia, at a quaint restaurant called North 3rd, was very good, as far as our waiter was concerned.  He was polite, prompt and observant.  However, when I attempted to make change at the bar, the bartender ignored me for a full five minutes.  At which time, I got annoyed and walked away.  Didn’t really affect my experience there, but it sure put a slight bitter taste on the excellent food I had there.
Verdict: Good customer service.

5) On my list of must-go-to places was a great gelato place.  I can’t remember its name, but the gelato there is to die for.  The first problem there was the bathroom.  It’s an upscale place.  But, they had “WC” on the bathroom door, not “restroom.”  And, it was locked.  The key was on the sink and you had to ask.  Ridiculous.  2nd, the food experience itself, ie. ordering.  Kayla couldn’t pronounce the name of the gelato she’d like to have.  So, she gave very clear direction to it.  The girl behind the counter: “it has a name.”  Yes, and her name? Pick any vulgar foul word you’d like.
Verdict: Bad customer service.

6) As always, the best, or worst in this case comes last.  On the way home, on the wonderful PA turnpike, we stopped at a service area.  We chose the Burger King.  Kayla was served at the 2nd of the two registers while I was figuring out what I wanted.  I followed suit, as a family was waiting at the 1st register.  I stood waiting while the register’s owner messed around behind the counter.  Finally, she asks me if #31 is my order.  I say, no.  Have you ordered yet?  I say, no.  Well did you bypass someone?  By this time another family is at register one, and she acts as if she isn’t going to serve me.  So, I say screw it, I’m outta here.  Bad customer service doesn’t get my money.   I went to the gas station instead.
Verdict: Horrible customer service!

So, my thoughts. It seems to me in a poor economy, restaurants would be trying harder to get customers, meaning excellent food and even better service.  If your crappy service makes your food go sour in my stomach, I won’t be back.  However, I do realize, coming from my retail experience, that when money is tight, businesses have a habit of treating their employees poorly.  So, instead of blaming the waitresses, etc., the real blame should go to the owners or managers.  In this case, the bottomline becomes the end of the line and a business with great food has to close its doors forever — the worst and unnecessary way to go.  All I know….that worker in Burger King probably won’t forget the sight of my ass in a purple sundress storming out of her restaurant.  That’s good enough for me!


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