It seems that never before have there been so many options available to us to go out to eat. Food prepared and served to us is available virtually at any hour of the day or night. We can eat in, take out, or have it brought to our homes.
And as a Real Woman, I look forward to those special days or nights when I can venture out for a meal that I have not had to plan, cook, serve, and clean up after. It really is a treat.
Or is it?
For as quickly as our options have been on the increase, it seems at the same time the quality and service experience is decreasing. Sure, there are some restaurants out there that still deserve a 5-star rating. But they seem to be few and far between, and that great experience seems to come with a much higher price tag. Why is that? Shouldn’t we have an excellent experience wherever we choose to go?
Here are just a few recent personal examples:
- During a weekend away, my family and I went exploring to find a place for breakfast. We decided to go solely by food choice listings on our car’s GPS, which I realize was a gamble. We found a place that looked like it had been in business for at least 4 decades. Sadly, the interior looked like it had not been cleaned or updated in all that time. The carpet was so filthy I tried not to look at it. We would have changed our minds, but we were hungry – and often the “best” food can be found at “those little holes-in-the-wall.” I didn’t want to think about the condition of the kitchen. It took so long to get our food, we almost told them to cancel the order so we could get on with our day. And after the long wait, and no apology, the food was mediocre at best. We left wondering why they were still in business.
- There is a sandwich shop (part of a national chain) near my work. Without fail, anytime I have gone there, one of the food preparers has been sitting on the bench directly next to the front door, smoking. I am an avid non-smoker, so inhaling this as I’m walking in to order my food is repugnant to me. Invariably, as I walk in, the smoker puts out their cigarette, follows me in, thankfully washes their hands, and begrudgingly gets behind the counter to take my order while talking to one of the other workers. Somehow that diminishes my appetite.
- Over the weekend, my son and I had a “date” night for dinner, and he chose a place that is a fairly typical family-friendly chain. Shockingly, we were seated quickly, having apparently arrived in between the usual rushes and long wait times. However, the place was incredibly noisy. We placed our simple orders with the perky waitress. Eventually, a different member of the wait staff brought us our food – which is something else I’ve noticed, that often there are frequently up to 3 different people who visit a table during a meal…and since the person delivering the food is not the person who took the order, they must guess or ask who’s meal is who’s. The food was basic and ok, not stellar. My burger bun looked like someone had sat on it. But more challenging was the fact we had not received any utensils or napkins. Yet ANOTHER wait staffer stopped by with a plate of food looking for a home. I said “no, not ours, but I’d be thrilled if you could bring us utensils and napkins.” A couple minutes later, she brings us forks, saying “the knives will be coming.” Then followed a few napkins. Then followed the knives. Later, the nice family next to us asked if we could spare a couple of napkins, as they had not received any either. I told them utensils and napkins were apparently by request only.
These recent experiences got me to wondering if we are just growing accustomed to inferior service and food quality? If my husband is with us, he has no qualms about airing his disenchantment. But even then, when we walk out, I doubt any changes will be made based on our complaints.
If the experience is bad enough, we will avoid going back there, and will most likely tell our friends. And yet I don’t see the trend truly changing for the better. So we keep going out and about, bravely entering restaurants, our expectations at base level, hoping for at least two stars.
One of my favorite shows is “Restaurant Impossible”, where Chef Robert Irvine goes to failing restaurants in an attempt to save them. He launches a crusade against disgusting kitchens, bad food and poor cooks or wait staff. So very often I find myself sitting in a restaurant thinking “what would Robert say or do to this place?” But sadly, there aren’t enough Roberts to go around to fix them all. And apparently we Real Women and Real Families are so happy to get a break from our own kitchens that we’ll put up with mediocrity.
So let me ask you: When was the last time you had a truly wonderful dining out experience? And when was the last time you had a poor to mediocre dining out experience?
I’m guessing you could answer the second question much more quickly than the first. Perhaps it is time to launch a crusade: RWACDE (“Real Women Against Cr-ppy Dining Experiences”)….. But first I have to go make dinner – where I can be assured of the outcome.