My bar-and-grill experience
Early on Labour Day Monday, my wife and I left Deer Lake, where we had spent the long weekend with her parents. We stopped for breakfast at a roadhouse bar and grill located at the Baie Verte Junction on the Trans-Canada Highway. My sister-in-law joined us, and we settled in for a cosy chat and meal.
We placed our respective orders. Mine included eggs, bologna, hash browns ... and whole wheat toast. Keep this latter ingredient in mind, as it plays a key role in the scenario that unfolded.
Eventually, my meal, minus the toast, was placed before me. I might add that we had to request cutlery. I surveyed the plate, anticipating the delectable morsels I was about to dig into. First, though, I reminded the waitress of the oversight about my toast.
Sometime later, by which time I was well into my meal, my toast arrived, but it was white, not whole wheat. “I ordered whole wheat toast,” I said.
Then, after I had finished eating, my whole wheat toast f inally arrived.
Within minutes, the waitress arrived at our table again, this time with the cheque, which she plunked down beside me. As she turned to return to the kitchen, I said, “By the way, I did order whole wheat toast.”
My reasoning was, “Why would I, a diabetic, order white, rather than whole wheat, toast?” I don’t know if all the research is in yet, but I’ve been led to believe that whole wheat bread is healthier than white bread for a diabetic.
Whirling around, she hissed, “Now listen here,” as she jabbed her finger at the “W” inscribed on the cheque, “you ordered white toast!”
I ventured forth with a question, “What happened to the customer being right?” My sister-in-law spoke up: “he did order whole wheat toast, because I heard him.”
By now, the waitress had begun her final retreat, growling a surly, “Yeah.” I was taken aback by her rudeness.
Was this incident simply a matter of white versus whole wheat toast? Far from it. The bread was merely a symptom of a deeper problem.
I usually leave waiters and waitresses a sizeable tip in appreciation for services rendered. In this case, I had a tip for her, but it wasn’t a monetary one. Instead, it argues: restauranteurs have certain expectations of their customers. However, the reverse is also true: customers also have certain expectations of restauranteurs. The one non-negotiable expectation on my part is respect, which should be a given.
I left the table, without eating my toast, and paid for the meal. To add insult to injury, the woman who accepted my payment never even said, “You’re welcome” after I thanked her.
While writing this column, I read the following on the BCC food blog: “any great restaurant is about more than the food — it has to have great front-of-house too. In my experience, a customer is more forgiving towards mediocre food than they are to slack service … Good manners are becoming a thing of the past … If you don’t have simple courtesy, it’s difficult to provide any level of service at all …
“It takes a very special kind of person to work in front-of-house. A good waiter has to be so many things all at once: efficient and speedy, but also precise; attentive, but not overbearing; presentable, with excellent personal hygiene and posture; and, of greatest importance, you have to be able to communicate well. Being able to listen properly is a key communication skill. There’s nothing more frustrating for a diner than having to repeat their requests …
“And it’s not good enough for a waiter simply to take an order and bring the food to the table. They should be knowledgeable about what they’re serving, know their menu inside out, and work as a team player with the kitchen. They need to be able to sell — with confidence — the full dining experience the restaurant has to offer.”
Perhaps our waitress was simply having a “bad day.” Granted. But that’s no reason to insult a customer.
Do I feel the eating establishment owes me an apology? Definitely. Do I think I will receive one? I doubt it. But I could be pleasantly surprised. I promise to keep my readers informed of developments on this front.
Incidentally, after I left the establishment, two other customers, sitting adjacent to us and obviously witnessing the event, said to my wife and sister-in-law, “We won’t be coming back here again either.”
Sadly, the waitress did not “sell — with confidence — the full dining experience” the roadhouse bar and grill had to offer.