Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Where's The Service?

Yay! It’s Friday night, the end of a long hard week. Time to celebrate and kick off the weekend! So the hubby and I load the kids in the car and head to one of the dozens of local restaurants for a family dinner and some fun bonding time. Well, that was the plan.

We picked a pizzeria that we had tried once before when it first opened, and didn’t quite enjoy, but decided to give them another try. I’ll call them “Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza”. We waited just a few minutes for our table, and when the friendly hostess brought us to our table, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the table was already set with the 2 highchairs that I had requested. It was all downhill from there. When our server finally came to our table to take our drink order, I learned that the only drink choices were soda or lemonade, neither of which is suitable for a young toddler. This restaurant has a bar that serves beer and wine, but no juice or milk for children? So after ordering my diet soda, I walked down the street to an (in)convenience store to buy milk for my kids to drink. After bringing our own drinks we waited for several minutes before the server came back to our table and in a very snotty tone said “So, do you want menus?” Uh, yeah! We didn’t come here to drink our own beverages and sit in your dimly lit, overly noisy restaurant and watch you ignore us. We want food! I asked her if they have kids’ menus, which they don’t, so our family agrees to order a plate of chicken wings, a salad and a large pizza. When Miss Congeniality returns to take our order, my husband tells her that we would like the chicken wings, a large pizza…AND SHE LEAVES! Is she returning? Did she forget something? At this point, I am so flabbergasted, that my typically passive personality has turned me into the Incredible Hulk and I’m pretty sure my skin was turning green. When she walks by, I say “Excuse me, we were in process of ordering and you walked away. Can we finish ordering? We didn’t even get to tell what we want on the pizza! And can we please have a salad?” Where is the manager in all of this? He is leaning against the take-out counter with several other employees watching the hockey game.

When I was a kid, we went out to eat when it was someone’s birthday or anniversary. It was a celebration of something more than just the survival of another week or because Mom didn’t feel like cooking. According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry receives 49% of the average American’s food dollar, and with over 945,000 restaurants in the US, restaurants need to be fighting to get my hard earned 49%. At www.mykidsplate.com, our customers tell us that “overall good service/servers” are one of the Top 30 Attributes they look for in a Certified Kid-Friendly restaurant. This particular restaurant was not only NOT kid-friendly, they weren’t even people-friendly. In 1980, we were on the brink of a recession that started in January 1981, and unemployment was 7.5%. Today, unemployment in this country is 9.9%! So my question is, why are these servers not trying harder to keep their jobs? Restaurants are closing their doors left and right and I can almost see tumbleweed rolling down Main Street in my town. Do the restaurant owners not care that their staff has become so callous towards their patrons?

Dining out is becoming a luxury again for many families like it was 30 years ago when I was a kid. When was the last time you had to wait an hour for a table at a restaurant? My husband and I usually try to go out to eat when it’s Kids Eat Free night at one of the local restaurants, and www.mykidsplate.com has a calendar for visitors to search restaurants in their neighborhood that offer Kids Eat Free deals. But as far my neighborhood pizzeria is concerned, unless service improves, I’ll spend my 49% elsewhere and ask, “Where’s the Service?”