The Way Things Are






Restaurant rant
2005-03-14, 10:16 a.m.

My new favorite verb: mash. Try to work "mash" into as many sentences and conversations as possible, mmkay?

The weekend was another one comprised entirely of productivity and not so much of pointless fun. The front yard is mowed (mewn?), the house-under-construction has some painted walls, tomatoes are planted, and several good meals were cooked on the grill. By me, of course.

I have an observation, and I may have observed this here before, but as I continue to observe this same thing over and over and over again, I have to keep commenting. I should be a restaurant reviewer, or restaurant professional shopper or something. I have such a wealth of valuable information for the owners of restaurants in our little town, and none of them seem to care. They should, though!

There are five aspects that make a restaurant successful for me: location, food, service, price and atmosphere. Only two of these need to be really really good to ensure success in our little town. I will happily suffer mediocre food in a bland atmosphere if I get good service at a great price in a location that's easily accessible. Likewise, I will suffer marginal service and a corporate formula atmosphere for super food at a decent price. You don't have to get all 5 of them right - two or three are enough for success. And sadly, in our common sense little town, atmosphere really doesn't count for that much.

But here's what we encountered Friday night, in our quest for Italian food. We went to a locally-owned restaurant that is part of a small local chain. I have eaten lunch at this restaurant's sister in San Antonio for lunch many a time, and the lunch menu is good, the service is superb at this location, and the prices are good, too.

But at the location downtown in our little town, it was missing the service aspect entirely. BAD service. The food was marginal, and the dinner menu prices were pricey, for what we are accustomed to. So out of the 5 points that a restaurant should try to hit, let's add it up: location - good! Atmosphere - fine. Service - dismal. Food - nothing special. Price - too much for the bland food and dismal service. So I predict that this restaurant will go out of business within a year. I'll let you know.

The thing is, I can cook at home if I want to eat okay food with horrible service. That's me in a nutshell.

I have emailed a restaurant owner before to complain about the dismal service. It was an Italian restaurant belonging to a larger, regional chain. With wonderful food, good prices, decent atmosphere, fine location, and SURLY service. I told the owner that a certain malady affects many of our local restaurants, in that there is a wealth of unskilled teenage help, a wealth of summer tourists who clog our restaurants all summer, a dearth of adult supervision for said teenage staff, and a lack of care by the owner about the shoddy service the unskilled, unsupervised staff doles out to the captive tourist audience.

Honestly, tourists are not going to be repeat business, no matter how good or bad the service is. But the locals are. We notice if we get bad service over and over and over again. If I were a restaurant owner, I would care - I would want to make sure that my repeat business would actually have a chance of repeating. Bah! Bad service! Bah! Hello, 8% tip.

I hope you all have enjoyed my restaurant rant today. It's just harder and harder for us to go out and get a decent meal with decent service. The food, service and prices are aimed at tourist, and it's disheartening for a local like me who likes to go out to eat but finds fewer and fewer choices that I'm willing to take a chance on.

There are such obvious mistakes being made and as always, I have all the answers.

I think I'll make a point of letting the managers of the good places (what? two or three of them?) know that I appreciate the efforts they are making to rise above the tourism-oriented common denominator of mediocrity.

That's all for today. Can you tell I'm hungry?

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