Tag Archives: restaurant

What’s for Dinner?

Just reading the title you’ve already thought of the last few places you’ve repeatedly visited, and maybe even the conversation that preceded the chosen destination.

“Let’s go out.”

“Okay; where?”

“Oh, I dunno, you pick.”

That conversation loops around until a decision is finally made. Chances are good that there are no new restaurants in your area, and the one you pick, just like all the others, has a menu that you now know mostly by heart.

The reason, I think, that it’s so hard for people to make a restaurant decision is that they’ve phrased the question incorrectly. When choosing a place to dine out, it’s not really the restaurant you’re choosing, but rather the particular dish on that particular menu that keeps you coming back. Instead of “where”, the question should be “what”. If the answer is pizza, you already know where to go. Same for chili, spaghetti, and anything Chinese or Mexican.

Unless there are kids involved. In that case, you’ll have to go to the place that has the stuff the kids will eat, without too much whining, and you’ll find something that will simply have to do just because you’re hungry and you don’t want to think about it anymore.

Adults are not unlike the children.  We have our favorite places, too. And when you get to the particular place because of the particular something you favor, the thought always occurs to you to mix it up a little, order something different this time. But you don’t because you’ve already discovered your favorite thing there. Every time you’ve deviated from the preferred item, the new thing didn’t rise to any level of excellence at all, and the ensuing disappointment makes you wish you’d just gotten the thing you wanted in the first place, the same order you always place, that something that was immediately pictured in your head and made your mouth water when you originally picked the place you were going to go.

Eat Here Sign2

Husband is different. He likes to try new things at the same old places. He likes the adventure of it. For him it’s a culinary experience in diversity. My opinion is that I’d rather be satisfied with something I already know is going to be good than be disappointed later with something I wasn’t sure about when I ordered it.

We did recently begin an adventure in Indian food. Understandably, we only have one Indian restaurant from which to choose. At first, simply because we were totally unfamiliar with it, we both experimented with different options every time we went, sharing each other’s choices, and sampling when the restaurant offered a buffet.

It didn’t take long for me to find something I really enjoy. I’m not all that interested now in placing an entirely different order from the menu just for the sake of variety. For me, the experimenting is over. I don’t want to be disappointed. Husband still likes to mix it up. I think his goal is to have everything on the menu at least once. The bonus is that I get to taste whatever different thing he’s gotten, but so far I’m still preferring my now-standard choice.

A new restaurant in our area is under construction. We pass by it and always discuss when the other thinks it might be open. It will have a menu with which both of us are unfamiliar. Husband will have an entirely new set of options to change up and switch around. I will eventually find something on the menu that I enjoy there more than anywhere else. We will immediately add it to the places of choice when we ask “where”.

And I’ll remember that the next time the squabble starts over “where”, I should change the question to “what”.

The solution should be almost immediate.

 

 

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Daily Life

The Lunch Rush

You’ve all been there.  You only have so long to get where you’re going, place your order, and either dine in or carry out.  Your boss won’t like it if you take extra time, and if you have to hit a time clock, it can mess up your pay.

Usually, brown-bagging is the better choice.  It’s more economical, it’s usually healthier, it’s more efficient, and it’s almost always more expedient.  But there are some days you just want to get out of the office for a bit and go a little wild with the lunch selection.

I’ve often thought that an hour was too long.  Half an hour is never quite enough.  I’ve done the math – the perfect lunch break is 47 minutes.  Unless you wait until noon to go, along with everybody else in town.  At that time you can’t accomplish much of anything and the whole hour can be whittled away in what seems like no time at all.

When my co-workers and I want to go out, we try to go at 11:30 in order to beat the lunch rush.  That usually works.  Except that sometimes it doesn’t.

Obstacles are everywhere.

Like the guy in front of us in what appeared at first glance to be a very short line.  He was placing individual orders to carry out for everybody in his office.  Or the lady that just couldn’t make up her mind at another location on a different day.  Or the pizza guy we’d commissioned to deliver who was fifteen minutes late in his arrival.

But the one I’ll always remember was the guy in front of me at the ketchup counter.  It’s that place where a vat of ketchup is hidden underneath the ledge with a periscopic pump used to fill up little tiny paper medicine cups.  I don’t know about you, but an order of fries for me usually requires about five of those things.

Three of us were seated at the table and at some point I wanted more ketchup.  I got up to go get it and there was a guy in front of me, blocking the ketchup pump, and so I waited.  When an appropriately sufficient amount of time had passed, I began to get curious to know what was taking him so long.  He wasn’t reaching for napkins, straws, or anything else that was provided for our dining convenience.

I’m fairly tall, so I was able to peek around his shoulder from a short distance behind him and watched with amusement at his activity. I watched him take the straw out of the plastic lid on his cup of lemonade, then take the lid off, and then dump the contents of one sugar packet into the cup, replace the straw to stir, then the lid, return the straw through the hole on top, and sip.  Unsatisfied, he removed the straw, removed the lid, replaced the straw, dumped in another sugar packet, stirred, lidded, and sipped.

Still unsatisfied, he removed the straw, then the lid, added more sugar, stirred, replaced, and sipped again.  This process was repeated until the girls were pointing at their wristwatches to signal that it was time to go.  I couldn’t leave.  Much like an impending train wreck, I just couldn’t look away.  The precision with which this guy was repeating his remove, remove, dump, stir, replace, replace, sip process had me dumbfounded.

At one point he noticed that I was behind him.  It didn’t slow him down any.

It certainly didn’t speed him up any, either.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Daily Life

Prom Night

I don’t normally suffer from anxiety, but my youngest has some trouble with it.  It’s attached to her ADHD.  I have just enough of a susceptibility to it that when she’s anxious, I’m anxious.  It’s as though I can feel it coming off of her and into me.  It permeates my very core so that I share her emotional state.

It doesn’t bode well for our tempers when we have a disagreement.

With my oldest, the emotional trade thing was in reverse.  If I was calm, she was calm.  I’ve seen her be the calming influence for her own two daughters in the very same way I could always be for her.

Not so for Youngest.  And tonight is the culmination of weeks of frustration and anxiety where her senior prom is concerned.

It started with the dress shopping, of course.  And then we had to make an appointment at the hair salon two months in advance – and then call them once a week to confirm the appointment lest something go wrong, somebody spill soda on the appointment book making her name illegible, or the place catch fire and burn down.  Then it was a personal visit with the stylist three weeks out to discuss what she wanted.

Then it was shoe shopping, costume jewelry, nails….

Throughout the whole process, the only thing that remained certain was that a group of four would be going to the prom together.  Nobody was dating anybody among them, but they all wanted to go together.  Everything was planned out.  Youngest didn’t care what the plan would be, she just needed to know that a plan would be in place.  Who was picking up whom, who would be driving what, parking, restaurant, the time to meet at the capitol building for pictures, etc.

At the last minute one of the guys in the quartet decided that a different restaurant was in order.  Youngest is so averse to change that I could feel her frustration levels rising, and the anxiety was about to take over.  It hit her hard while she was in the stylist’s chair and the text messages were flying.  Nobody was going to be where they were supposed to be according to the pre-determined arrangements.  Her hair was looking more and more beautiful by the minute, but her makeup was threatened by tears.

Her sister calmed her when I was unable.  I wanted to strangle a boy who didn’t understand what his plan-changes were doing to my little girl.  Oldest handled it well, though.  I was too busy feeling Youngest’s anxiety.

After her hair was made glamorous, and her make-up restored to perfection, we came back home so she could change into her dress.  She was running late for the meet-up at the capitol, and she wanted to hurry.  I wanted pictures, so we took both cars.  She followed me.

At a stop sign, she rear-ended me.

I put mine in park and got out to check on her.  She was fine physically but she was an emotional wreck.  “It’s okay; stay calm.  Everything’s fine and nobody’s hurt.”  But we were in the middle of the street and needed to move.  “Just be more careful and try to stay calm.  Take deep breaths.”  Back in my own vehicle, I wondered how I was going to tell her about the hole in her front bumper and my cracked tail light.  Learning it at the moment would have just thrown her over the edge.

We got to the capitol in one piece with no more accidents, we took lots of pictures, and Oldest was there with her two kids as well.  It was a wonderful experience and Youngest started showing signs of calming down and actually finding some enjoyment.

Then the guys told her they had gotten a limo.  That threw another kink in the arrangements.  If they had told her about the limo earlier, she could have arranged to park her car at the auditorium in order to ride with them to the restaurant.  The plan was that they would all ride in her car.  They wanted to surprise her.  She doesn’t do surprises.  She told them to go ahead and she’d catch up with them at the restaurant.

Then the restaurant changed.

By the time we started to leave the capitol complex she was a wreck again.  We spent a few minutes talking on the way to the parking lot, and just as soon as I thought she was starting to feel better again, we approached our vehicles and she saw the hole in her front bumper.  My pick-up truck’s rear tow-bar really did a number on it.  I tried to soothe her again, and when I was satisfied that she was in good enough shape to drive, we left the capitol complex.  She headed to the restaurant to meet up with her crew while I headed home.

I had intended to start working on her graduation announcements when I got home.  I figured if I was going to be up half the night worrying about her, I might as well be simultaneously productive.  But just as I had gotten all the announcements out of the box, the phone rang.

A phone ringing while a child is out is never a good sound.  That awful shiver just goes up your spine like a serrated blade.  It’s a moment of dread like no other.

“Mommy where are you?”  The sound of her voice was just pitiful.

“I’m home, Honey, whatsamatter?”

“I locked my keys in the car and we’re here at this restaurant and I don’t know what to do!”  I could hear that she was fighting back the tears.

“Stay calm, go inside where it’s warm, and order your meal like nothing’s wrong.  I’ll take care of it.”

“Mommy, I’m sorry.”  She was about to cry again.  It broke my heart into a million little pieces that this one day that is supposed to be the most special for her in her entire life thus far has absolutely fallen apart for her.

“It’s okay.  I’ll call the road-side people and somebody will come get your keys.  I’ll be there to meet them and then I’ll bring your keys inside.  It’s all good, Baby.  Just try to stay calm.”

I made the call while I was putting my shoes back on, left home for the third time, and beat the mechanic there by about ten minutes.  I had a little trouble finding the car in all the prom-night pre-prom madness.

Youngest came outside when I texted that I almost had her keys.  I got a free hug out of it, a hug that I usually have to fight for.

We spent a few more minutes talking.  Well, I was talking.  I was stressing the need for her to not stress so much.

“Why do you keep telling me that?”

“’Cause bad things happen when you’re upset.”

“Oh.  Yeah, I guess.  Okay, I’ll try.”

I’m home again, and have been for a couple of hours.  Prom won’t be over for another half an hour.  There’s an after-prom plan at the home of one of her friends, unless the plan changes.

I may not see her until the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  I’ll be pacing until then, driving the dog nuts in the process.

And I’m afraid to take off my shoes.

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Daily Life

Gourmet Road Trip (Part III)

 

Husband was pointing out some of the favorite spots he and Wife like to spontaneously visit.  We didn’t enter any of the establishments, merely walked by them and listened while Husband told us what fabulous thing was inside.

Finally he stepped into a doorway and announced what we’d spent that last three or four hours waiting to hear, “Ahhh…here we are.”

It didn’t look like a restaurant at all from the outside.  There was a guard at the door, a hefty individual, that I was sure would not let us in.  Two of us were tired and cranky, and none of us were dressed very well.

Reluctantly, the large dude held the door for us.  We ambled down a rather long corridor before we reached the hostess.  I could see her try to hide her disappointment in us, but the questioning eyebrow could not help itself.  She, like me, wondered why we had been allowed inside.

As we were shown to our table, I saw that everyone seated was in high-class business suits.  The chatter in this very full dining facility was kept to a respectful minimum.  There was faint music in the background’s background.

My sneakers, jeans and I did not belong here.

I hadn’t paid attention to the details before so I stole a glance around at my companions.  Buddy with his khaki shorts that hosted numerous pockets and a less than crisp shirt.  Husband with his work coveralls that were still greasy from his last mechanical function.  Wife with her stained t-shirt sporting a remnant of her last meal.  She and I both needed to comb our hair.

It was the kind of place where one must hold one’s pinky out whenever one sips from a too-small cup that has a very dainty loop on its side that must be properly pinched between thumb and forefinger.

We were so far removed from “..not a Burger King or McDonald’s…” that we might as well have been on another planet.

As we approached the table, two waiters with practiced blank faces appeared out of nowhere to guide expensive and well-polished chairs under Wife and me.  Before I had a chance to quietly berate Husband for this embarrassment, a waitress arrived with menus.  I put my tongue in check, not wanting to do this in front of the wait staff.  Besides, it was so eerily quiet in the place, even though it was crowded with well-to-do people, that all I would’ve been able to muster was a whisper anyway.  Husband deserved so very much more.

I opened the menu.  I was thinking that maybe my twenty would get me a small house salad with a glass of water and I wouldn’t have to beg off completely.  What I wanted to do was leave – immediately.  I couldn’t.  My only options were to stay seated or stand outside on the sidewalk and await their departure.  I stayed seated.

I mentally scrolled down past the sixty-dollar entrees and thirty-dollar side dishes to the salad options.  Turns out my twenty would barely get me the glass of water.

Unless I wanted a lemon.

I began to frantically search the menu for something, anything, that I could order with some dignity.  There was nothing.  I took a deep breath, hid my face with the menu, and leaned over to Buddy.  His ear met me half-way.

“When we left the hotel, I put a twenty in my pocket.  It’s all I have on me.”

We both rose back upright and continued gracefully looking at our menus.  Meanwhile, Husband and Wife were planning out all the things they were going to order.  I grew tired trying to calculate what that expense would be.

I sensed Buddy starting to lean in my direction.  My ear met him half way.

“Me too.”

So there we sat, forty dollars between us, in a place where to even share one entrée we were falling miserably short.  I had no idea what to do.  Fess up?  Walk out and wait?  Order nothing and pout?  I had no clue.  How should one behave in such an extraordinary circumstance, one in which not many like me might ever find themselves?

Finally, Buddy spoke up, giving me hope that I would not have to act after all.  Maybe he knew just what to do in this situation as he had in so many others.

He had to get Husband’s attention from the menu in which he was highly engrossed, and about which he was incredibly excited.

“Um…Kat and I don’t know how to tell you this, and we appreciate that you brought us to such a nice place and all…”

Buddy was always very diplomatic.

“…but we just can’t pay for this.”

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Daily Life

What Consumers Want – Or – Dear Business Owners – Listen up!

First, what exactly IS a consumer?  Well, it’s everybody.  I happen to be a mom, a wife, an employee, a customer service provider, and I, like everyone else, am a consumer.  So what is it that I consume?  Well, I only consume food and drink, but our society has labeled anybody who buys anything anywhere a ‘consumer’.  We are consumers of goods and services.

Regardless of any factor, trait, or circumstance that might otherwise separate us socially, we are 100% of the population.

As a consumer, someone who spends money, I am more apt to spend said money when I am happy with a previous purchase, when I am satisfied with the store, and when I am confident that I’m not wasting it on a bad product or service.  I am more apt to simply walk out with my money still in my purse if I am aggravated by the practices in any establishment that do nothing to assist me.

So here it is.  What consumers want you to know, what we want, and what we are not getting:

IN DEPARTMENT STORES

  1. We want to see the employees at the check-out counter out-number those at the customer service desk.
  2. We want the return of department specific associates who actually have real knowledge of its wares and spend their work-day in that same department.  And we want the number of associates on the entire work floor to outnumber the cashiers.
  3. We want legible pricing, on the item, so that we don’t have to hunt somebody down who probably knows nothing about it anyway.
  4. We want cleanliness, organization, and order.
  5. We want the answers to our questions, not the standard ‘everything we have is out’ in answer to everything.  We’re not stupid.  We know how big your stockroom is, and we know it’s not always completely empty.  We stopped believing you years ago.
  6. And for heaven’s sake, please put a couple of hooks on the back of the stall doors in the bathroom.  We don’t want our coats and purses on the floor.  While you’re at it, please make those doors open outward instead of inward.
  7. If you have to have a sign asking us to notify if your bathroom needs attention, you’re not inspecting/cleaning it nearly often enough.
  8. We want your displays to be crisp and clean.  We don’t care how you arrange it on the shelf, we just want to be able to identify it, price it, and know that it will work properly and/or is capable of assembly when we get it home.
  9. We want single file lines so that the next customer in line waits his turn behind us, not beside us with a faster clerk.
  10. We want availability.  Please don’t wait until an item sells completely out before you re-order your stock.  And if we ask you to start selling something, we’re telling you we’ll buy it regularly.  Please don’t tell us you’ve got a pre-fabbed order form from which you’re not allowed to deviate.
  11. The first rule of marketing is presentation.  Don’t follow all the flow charts and reports so far that you forget about the work floor and how it looks.  If I wanted to shop at the local bargain bin, I would instinctively know to expect messy racks, disheveled shelves, and helter-skelter placement.  If it looks like a bargain bin, it’s not likely that I’ll spend the amount you’re asking on the price tag.
  12. Standard operating procedure incorporates the word ‘standard’.  It means it may only be possible in ‘standard’ situations.  If your chart says that you must have these shirts on a round rack and those pants on a t-rack, please don’t sacrifice appearance or spacing to only comply with the SOP.  Use common sense based on your space availability and the comfort and convenience of your shoppers.  If my buggy can’t get through, or my kid is playing with a broken t-rack, or other shoppers have squeezed through and knocked off the clothing entirely, then you’re doing it wrong and I probably won’t be back.
  13. I realize the chart you’ve been given says that the rack must be full so shoppers will be tricked somehow into spending their money.  Your associate has already told me that ‘everything’s out’.  Now I’m telling you to put some of it back in the stock room.  There is such a thing as too full, and if I can’t neatly, quickly, and efficiently pull an item off your round rack to get a better look, and replace it just as easily, quickly, and efficiently, it will get thrown over the top for you to take care of later.  If your store looks like this, then reference #11.
  14. We’ve given up on ‘friendly’ customer service.  What we want now is ‘available’ customer service.  Please don’t make me hunt all over the store for an associate that won’t know what I’m talking about anyway.
  15. If I’m in your store and I hear one of the associates remind me over the loudspeaker that item X is on sale in aisle 3, I’m probably going to go check it out.  I might even purchase something while I’m there.  If I don’t hear from you, I might not be in aisle 3 at all.  And if the voice over the intercom is a pre-recorded operator-like and/or digital message, I’m liable to just walk out empty-handed.  We’re sick of computer-generated and pre-recorded voices.
  16. If you’re going to provide us with carts to conveniently hold our purchases, please provide enough space between your clothing racks to pass through.
  17. If you stock an item in your store that requires replacement parts, please also stock the replacement parts.  If we bought it there, we’re coming back for the consumables.
  18. We want to spend our money close to home and in the local store.  Please don’t drive us to the internet for our purchases.
  19. Made in the USA means a lot to us.  Please make attempts to stock those items.  We will pay for them, and in fact, we’re consciously looking for them first.
  20. We want you to turn the music down.  Regardless of what your engineers have told you, not everyone enjoys classic rock and/or pop.  If you MUST play it, please turn it down.  We’re having conversations in your establishment or listening to our own IPods in the store, and we shouldn’t have to talk overtop of (or try to drown out) what should be background music only.  Put it in the background where it belongs or turn it off completely.
  21. Please don’t bother me with how ‘short staffed’ you are.  If you know you’re short staffed, then fix it.  It stops being an issue when you consciously decide to keep it that way.

IN RESTAURANTS

  1. I am not impressed when you don’t write down my order in a restaurant.  When you do that I am expecting that you will get something wrong.  Usually, I am right.  I start out thinking in terms of a 20% tip.  That number routinely increases and decreases while I’m sitting at the table.  It’s a running score.
  2. Please don’t give me two glasses of soda at the same time to save you a trip to my table to check later.  The second glass gets watered down when the ice starts to melt.  My tip will reflect the laziness.
  3. We don’t mind if you use us to train your new employee, but please be kind and courteous to the new guy in our presence.  We’re more likely to return to the establishment if kindness and courtesy are openly exhibited.
  4. If I have to ask for more napkins, butter, dressing, rolls, etc., you’ve already not taken care of me.
  5. See numbers 6, 7, 19 and 20.  These also apply to your establishment.
  6. If you have a double drive-thru lane at your fast food chain, I’m passing you up for the next one.  Those things are usually not working properly.  If there’s congestion, most times the vehicular order gets messed up and my order will more than likely go to the guy who got to you faster than me.  Your clerk has a hard enough time doing one at a time in single file.  You just doubled her workload and frustrated me to the point that I don’t want to come back.
  7. If you put 2 for $3 on your marquee and don’t specify the items covered, I will complain.  And if you make me feel like *I* misunderstood, I won’t be back.  Please do not wait until I’m handing you my $3 to inform me that my order somehow does not qualify.  Clarify your advertisement BEFORE you publish it.

IN GROCERY STORES

  1. All of those cardboard displays in the middle of the aisles need to go.  You barely give us enough room in there to begin with.  Don’t clutter the aisles with displays that nobody wants to have to maneuver around.  I get that you’ve placed it in front of the popular items so that I’ll see it, but all I’m doing is shoving it out of my way to get to what’s behind it.  Or I’m running my buggy into it to move it aside.  Or the kids are playing with it.  But it is NOT serving its intended purpose which was no doubt designed by someone who does not do his own shopping.  If you want to promote an item, use an end-cap.  Yes, we know what those are and where to find them.
  2. And if you’re going to use an end-cap to promote something, please make it relevant to the surrounding items.  Clearance facial care items should not be placed on the end-cap farthest from the entrance next to the wine and liquor section adjacent from the dog food.  This neither does you nor me any good whatsoever.
  3. If you do not know the answer to a question, please don’t make one up.
  4. See numbers 6, 7, 9, 19 and 20.  These apply to your establishment.
  5. If you are a large grocery store chain, chances are you have a House wares aisle that contains oil of some type.  For heaven’s sake, use some on the buggy wheels so that I’m not fighting with it at every turn.  If it won’t roll, please remove it from the floor until it is completely repaired so no one else gets it by mistake.

OFFICES/BUSINESSES/COMPANIES 

  1. When I call you for something, I want someone to answer the phone stating the name of the business and providing a warm/friendly hello.  I do not want a computer generated menu of items from which I have to choose a corresponding number depending on my issue.  If you can own a business you can hire someone to answer the phones.  Most of us already know to hit a series of random buttons or just keep pressing zero and we’ll get somebody anyway.  Your menu items don’t help us at all.  We don’t care if they help you.
  2. If you’re going to tell us in your out-going message that you will call us back, please do so promptly.
  3. If you’ve provided both a television and magazines to your waiting clients/patients/constituents, please turn the volume down on the television so the rest of us can read the magazines or our own e-readers or listen to our IPods.  Please do not turn up the television to a volume satisfactory to your hearing from the back of the building.  The television, if not tuned to the channel we want individually, just frustrates us.  Not everybody enjoys your political views, and tuning the station to your news channel of choice will not educate us enough to come around to your way of thinking.  Either give us our own controls and individual television sets, or take them out.
  4. In some form or fashion I am paying you for your time and your expertise.  Please treat me with courtesy and respect.  If I have made an appointment with you for 11:30, please don’t leave me in a waiting area with others who also have an appointment with you at 11:30 (or within at least 15 minutes of MY appointment time).  Know that your clients/customers/constituents are talking to each other out in your waiting area.  We ask about our concurrent appointment times and we’re already angry with you before our meeting if we discover you’ve double-booked.
  5. If I have made an appointment with you at 11:30 and you’re running behind, please do not go to lunch at 12:00 and leave me sitting in the waiting area, without explanation, until your return.

 

So there it is, in no particular order of importance, what we as consumers want from you as business owners.  We are becoming increasingly frustrated every time we walk into one of your establishments.

Thank you for listening.

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Daily Life