Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Valentine's Day Disaster - or Why We Won't Be Eating Here No More!

“We don’t get out much anymore” is the anthem of parents everywhere. Once children enter your life there never seems to be enough hours in the day and eating out goes to the bottom of the priority list. As the children grow you would think dining in restaurants could become a little easier, but it is then THEIR commitments which prevent such transpiring as you become the world’s busiest transport system for them and their mates.

Which is why, on the rare occasion you do manage to dine out, a bad experience magnifies into gigantic proportions. We had a restaurant, a favourite place to dine. One that served a choice of meals the children would happily devour - a very important requirement. One that also offered us a variety of culinary delights that made braving the night out more than worthwhile for the adults. Living in a small community we heard rumbles of discontent with the service, but figured, ‘Hey – you cannot please all of the people all of the time!’

Over the past twelve months this restaurant became THE place for us… you know; the birthday place, the anniversary place, the celebration place. Then IT happened. On one of the family nights three of the four of us dined as usual, with abandonment and sensory joy, whilst the fourth sat and waited, and waited, and waited. The head of our family, unable to eat with us as his order had been forgotten. Forty minutes after the rest of his family had satisfied their hunger, and only after we chased the waitress to ask the chef, his order arrived. ‘Okay’, we thought, ‘everyone is entitled to one stuff up’. 

It remained OUR place. The next time we were dining with another family. Laughter echoed around the table, wine flowed freely, conversation continued without falter… and my husband was forgotten once more. A little embarrassing when it was your suggestion of venue and you had talked the place up to the others. Again we waited, his meal finally arriving but by then the chatter had dried up somewhat and awkward pauses had infiltrated the scene.

Yet still we returned; until the 14th of February this year. We do not traditionally celebrate Valentine’s Day. Like many, we feel it is an over-commercialised American money-spinner, but this year, with one of the kids’ after school commitments ending at 7pm, we figured why not? Booked. Arrived. Ordered. Being a school night, and as one had a mass of homework awaiting his return, we opted for the quick choice on the menu, or so we thought. Pizzas. Not that difficult or time-consuming, right? Wrong. Entrees came, though mine was only lukewarm, not good with prawns; kids’ meals came. After quite a bit we asked the waitress how long the pizzas would be. It became very obvious they had not even been started as we watched her race to the kitchen, grab our order and run it out to the pizza chef. She returns to say they won’t be long. “How long?” I ask. “Five minutes.” she replies, “The oven is hot, it will be quick.”

Five minutes pass, then ten. I tell my husband to take the boys home to let the fifteen year old start on his homework, and I will ask for them as takeaway. He leaves, I move from the table to the front counter. And wait. Another five minutes goes by, the owner’s wife asks me what am I waiting for? “My pizzas”, I tell her. The waitress comes to the front, and I ask “Where are they?” She grabs the order which is still THREE BEHIND on the pizza bar, and tells the chef it is urgent. He mutters something about the others in front of us. She tells him we have been forgotten and should be first. At this point I tell them not to bother and that finally we have had enough and will not be returning. The chef then turns and grabs two plated pizzas and tells her to box these as I am saying we are never coming back. The waitress grabs them and telling him he cannot do this. They are not even what we ordered.

During this farce not once did we get an apology from the owners. The waitress yes, it was obvious she was mortified, the pizza chef/owner nor his wife did not appear to give a damn. As I said in the beginning of this article, once you become parents you become time poor. A restaurant is a customer service driven business, and it is an industry where many fail. No matter how good your food may be, total disdain for customers and the arrogance in believing you can treat people anyway you want and they will still be your customer is not only unacceptable, it is sheer stupidity. You will eventually fail.

As for us and our Valentine’s Day dinner? We came home, made tasty, home-cooked pizzas which we devoured whilst like any good, modern day writer I vented on Facebook. Then I sat back and read and read of other’s bad experiences at this same place. But this time I understood exactly why those rumbles had begun, and why they were turning into a roar.