Back in the late 80’s and 90’s I was in the restaurant business in Midtown Manhattan (New York City) and that is a real tough, super competitive, unforgiving, multi-thousand based restaurant city, with restaurants virtually on every block or every other block in Midtown Manhattan. Coupled with the New Yorker attitude and unforgiving type of people there, it is a super tough market. Keeping that in mind, I experienced owning and running two different types of establishments. Since, I have been in an unrelated business since post 9/11 (most of my family was lost responding to the World Trade Center events of 9/11) I left NYC for the Midwest 2002. Now I am going back into what I love, people, restaurants, smiles and food!
In honor of my family members, I will purchase a fire truck and set it up for the kids and special events, kids love them fire trucks!!! I have a 6 year old and 2 step kids 11 and 12, and I brought them to a fire department last year and arranged for the royal tour, when they sat in the front seats with the fireman’s helmets on, ran the siren, blasted those air horns and worked the lights, their smiles and laughter were special! I want that about my restaurant as well.
Passion and Love for the people, customers, food and what we do, no? Anyway, I patronize a lot of restaurants as well. The other week I was up where my kids are at for a week and on Saturday morning we go out to a nearby Baker’s Square restaurant for breakfast. Yeah, good prices, a 20% off the total check coupon, etc. We get seated right away. The place is busy. Dirty under the tables beyond comprehension!!! We order. No problem yet. Then the waitress disappears. Running all over the place. I had to get her attention to remind her, how about my coffee and the kids drinks and I wanted a water. She said, sorry and would bring them right away. A good 5 min’s pass and she brings the coffee set up, a glass of water and the kids drinks. The water glass you can visibly see is dirty on the outside. The coffee no problem, but i put a creamer into it and it was a spoiled creamer, bad! I tried to get her attention. Big problem, she was hustling all over and kept acknowledging me, but never came over. Another good 5 min’s lapsed. I showed her the coffee, no reaction, none. I asked for an orange juice and asked for a clean glass, not like the water glass was. In a few more min’s she brought everything at once. Still not bad, 14 -16 min’s or so for a full breakfast in a busy place. Anyway, the food was okay, half of it was par-baked already sitting there and not super fresh and real hot, one can easily tell. But okay, acceptable. Coupled with everything that happened and never seeing the waitress again until I had to repeatedly flag her down for the check, Baker’s Square is there, nothing special. Like most Denny’s, Perkins, etc. The lady at the cashier asked, was everything okay. I said, I rather not answer that. She never made eye contact and took my money and gave me the change. Not even a thank you or can i please get the manager and discuss or anything, nothing, zero.
Now Baker’s Square moves even lower in my thoughts, plain and simple. Anyway, onward. I brought my little boy to school that Monday. I had some errands to run and pull into the local large C-Store chain with all the normal stuff, great coffee, good donuts and all those C-Store Gas Station pre-made sandwiches, fruit cups and such. I did not really want them, but I craved a great breakfast, and certainly would not go back to that same Baker’s Square a mile away, or the Arby’s or McD’s nearby, etc. I should have made a couple of eggs and cheese on a bagel at my wife’s house before I got the little boy ready for school but I didn’t.
I noticed a sign of a unique nature and name across the street from the C-Store Gas Station and I lived there for 4 years right down the street and never noticed it. It was a prominent sign highlighting breakfast. I said no, than I said, what the heck. I went over there and went inside. Busy place, nice size ‘L’ shaped wrapped around counter with all the waitress stuff, stations and cash register between the counter and the kitchen. The kitchen was in sight, which is what i love, of the counter and I could see the cook and his assistant working. Although a bit away maybe a good 25’, I could still see glove use, what their hands are touching and doing and some plating action, etc.
Everything was there in front of each customer seat on the counter as well as all the tables around. Sugar, sweet n low, straws, napkins, a holder with about 4 or 5 of each–knife-fork-spoons, jelly, jam, butter, etc. Wow, all the waitress had to do was delivery the food. She came spot on, asked if i wanted coffee or juice. Smiled, laid the menu down, polite, friendly. Not overly and fake but real and just plain friendly. I ordered an omelette with some unique things in it, it came with hash browns and i ordered a bagel as well. Everything was hot, fresh and real good. Not the best I ever had, but I finished it all and nothing was mediocre or bad by any means, a hundred notches above all the chain restaurants and just under what i can do myself if I cooked it. But the service was spot on, the waitress checked back at least 4 times, smiled, not rushed–although the place was real busy and she was not standing around. Large glass of water, she stayed on top of refills on the coffee. Portions were above average. Total check was $13.00. Yeah, more than lots of the chain places which would have run $8, $9 or $10, and McD’s were the fast food thing probably would have been about $6, maybe $7. Then I go to pay the check and she asks if I wanted a coffee to go??? HUH??? I am thinking what? Of course she will charge me another $1.50 or even $2.00, or is she going to give me a small cup and pour the almost full cup I had in the cup that I left besides my plate???
Since I had lots of errands to run and a drive of 25 miles across a metro area, I said yes. I would have got a large one at the C-Store Gas Station as I always do, but I came here to try the place and did not. She poured a large coffee in a 20 or 24 oz to go cup and says, thanks. I asked her about the coffee to go. She says there is no charge, and they always do that because they love their customers and treat them as the owner wants to be treated himself. A great change and have not had that kind of atmosphere in some time. Places just don’t commonly exist like this any longer.
Nothing I hate more than sitting and waiting for something like I did at Baker’s Square. It makes the customer upset and you can even have great food and great quality, but is the place is dirty on the floor, glass unclean, waitresses hard to find, being ignored and trying to flag waitresses down that just don’t care, it gets the average customer upset, IMO.
I run into the same things at several of the good pizza places with this same metro area, the food and how the food taste, is only 1/2 the whole job IMO. The other side of things can virtually ruin everything for the customer with that experience at your restaurant. I am really not that picky but just bringing out things that many never even think about.
Just a reminder that there is more than the food product itself, lots more.