A few weeks ago I went out to supper with the guys. The guys being two of my cousins whom I had not seen in awhile. We generally have a pretty good time when we go out, we drink to much, talk to loud and stay out to late. However, I was a bit under the weather so we decided to just go out for a bite to eat. We live in a pretty suburban town, so there are not restaurants on every corner of the street but about 10 minutes away there is an area that is being developed like crazy. All the big stores, strip malls, restaurants, bars, pubs, you name it, it’s getting built. So it only made sense to head off in that direction to find something to eat. We had some rules of course. No fast food, sure we weren’t tying one on but we wanted to sit, relax and order a beer or two. We also wanted to try something new, a bit different. We drove around a bit, bypassing the regular chain restaurants. I won’t mention any names but you know the ones. Family restaurants that you find in pretty much every city and town in North America. They all look the same, have the same menu of frozen, microwaved food, and follow the same format. You can be sure if you go into one of these restaurants in Montreal or in Mississippi they are going to be exactly the same.
We actually drove around quite awhile, until we drove right back to where we began, realizing all the restaurants we passed were chain restaurants. We ended up going to an English style pub. This pub is also a chain but neither of my cousins or myself had actually gone there and we had all hear it was pretty good. The place was packed. The waiters and waitresses all wore the same uniform, were all the same age and all wore the same fake smile. That should have been my tip off right there, but I am a pretty optimistic kind of guy. We were shoved into a table in a corner where I bumped into three people trying to take off my coat. It reminded me of that old Bugs Bunny cartoon with Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs through a movie cinema, “Scuse me, pardon me, scuse me, pardon me”.
We were greeted my our 18 year old waitress, who looked like she would rather be doing just about anything else in world than serving 3 middle aged men. I won’t rag on her, she did her job fine, but there was no chit chat. I had the ‘World Famous’ fish and chips! Not quite sure what world they are famous in, but let me tell you, it ain’t this one. We sat, we ate, and we were rushed out, inside of 45 minutes. As we left one of my cousins turned to us and said, ‘Well, I’ll never go back there again.”
It is hard to put my finger on what exactly was wrong with the place. The service was quick, the food was eatable, all in all it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. You know what it was – generic. I am so tired of generic. I am tired of cardboard cut out restaurants, cardboard cut out stores and cardboard cut out people. I do not mind if my waiter or waitress happens to have their shirt un-tucked, or if their hair is not combed in the latest style. I don’t mind if they want to take a minute and ask me what the traffic is like or how the weather is. In fact I encourage good old fashion human contact. I know I am dating myself here but remember when the chef of a restaurant used to come out from the kitchen and check on the customers to make sure everyone was enjoying the food? Made you feel like royalty!
Seems we are in a new age of customer service. Make it fast, make it right, and don’t bother me while you’re doing it. I guess this is not a bad thing, it gets the job done. But are we all in that much of a hurry now a days?