Recently, for various reasons, we did something we rarely do. We ate at chain restaurants. Now, we are not snobs. I could eat at IHOP anytime anyone suggests it. Cracker Barrel is truly a tradition for us when on the road and that comes from both sides of our families. We patron the local chains like Zea’s, Copeland’s, and New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Company on occasion. We love that chicken from Popeye’s Fried Chicken. Yet, in an area like New Orleans it does not make sense to go to the national chains often. There are too many other cheaper local choices.
While I don’t expect much from the food at a chain restaurant, I do expect a lot from the service. This is what they are supposed to be good at. This is why people go to them because they are experts at treating people well. This is not a food review or a restaurant review. This is a look at how two national chain restaurants made mistakes and how they went about fixing them.
Now back to the story. We found ourselves recently at two national chains. One was a pleasant experience: Outback Steakhouse. My biggest frustration with Outback is the wait time. In the time it takes to wait for a table, I could drive to Crazy Johnny’s and be finished my meal before I find a seat at Outback. This night, however, we decided to wait. Our service was fantastic. The meal was ok. My other big problem with Outback, and this has been at every Outback, is that they cook the steaks for a table at the same time. We ordered two different size rib eyes both medium. One was medium; the smaller one was well done. When we informed the waitress, she apologized and offered a new one. This one was half eaten already so we said no we just wanted to bring it to her attention so the next person does not get a bad meal. When we got the check, our waitress took off the appetizer. We did not ask for that; she did it on her own. She made the experience enjoyable and helped explained to me why people go there even though there are other, better steakhouses.
The other experience was not so pleasant. In fact, it confirmed every thing I hate about chain restaurants. We found ourselves at Applebee’s in Elmwood during a Friday in Lent. Being catholic, I ordered the fish and chips figuring that it was safe bet. The first bite was super greasy but not horrible. The second bite was lukewarm. The third bite was ice cold. My lemonade was not that cold. The beer they serve was not that cold. It was practically frozen. Cooked but frozen. I just spit it out. Cristina, ever the empiricist, touched the fish and was shocked at how cold it was. When we told the waiter, he apologized but also quietly laughed. They re-cooked some “fresh” fish and brought it out to me. That was it. While he was never rude, he was nonchalant about it. Luckily, the fish was not raw so there was little chance of me getting sick. I thought about telling the manager, but this is not a restaurant I plan to go back to, so I just paid the bill and went see Zero Dark Thirty.
Two chain restaurants with two major mistakes. One knew how to deal with it; the other did not. One I have no problem returning to, one I rather go to the a gas station and get a cheese filled hot dog then eat at again.