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Early Bird Diners Do Not Equal Second Class Customers

Early Bird Diners

So, yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Fourteen years of matrimonial bliss have come and gone, and my husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate. There is a relatively new restaurant that we’ve wanted to try for a few months now and we made plans to go there after work.

A little background before I move forward. My husband and I both work for the local school system, so when I say “after work”, I mean four o’clock. Maybe 4:30 if one of us gets stuck on something. We also live in a sort of remote area just outside of Atlanta, so we usually try not to come back “to town” after we get home.  Therefore, we do all of our errands, shopping and dining right after work on the way home.

Because of this, we arrived at the restaurant about 4:30 yesterday. Several of the staff were outside chatting and smoking. The parking lot was still pretty empty. We walked in and got a table immediately. Our server arrived a few minutes later and shared that she was also the bartender, but would be taking care of us.

Red flag.

As the meal went on, we received rolls that were clearly microwaved leftovers from lunch service, and we had slow service as our server also had to work the bar. Most of the components of our meals also seemed to be warmed over leftovers and hastily thrown together plates. Some food was hot, some was cold and some looked like it had been sitting out for a while. And I don’t mean dying in the window. It died long before that. It was mostly of mediocre quality – a victim of the distracted employees in both the front and back of the house. It was obvious that the priority at that time was to regroup from lunch and turn everything around for dinner service.

I get it. I don’t have a problem with that. It has to be done.

However, this neglect happens more frequently that I care to think about. We’ve been served sandwiches on rolls that are hard from over-microwaving. We’ve had dried out ribs, water-logged veggies, warm salads, and soggy, cold fries. We even get the occasional basket of bread with a half-used ramekin of questionable butter. Come on, people. You know better than that!

My favorite was being seated near the kitchen next to a table where a couple of servers were rolling silverware and complaining about everything that had happened at lunch and how much they hate their jobs.

Is it unreasonable to expect good service and fresh food anytime the restaurant is open for customers? I mean, we’re paying them actual money for that, right?  Not to mention the fact that we’ve chosen them (in this case) to help us celebrate a special occasion.

Note to all of the restaurants that can’t handle a few covers while you prep for dinner – if you can’t provide the same level of service and quality of food during this transitional time, close for a couple of hours. Lots of places do that. I don’t mind. I have other dining options.  I’d rather go somewhere that doesn’t struggle with my existence in their establishment at 4:30 and takes greater pride in quality. I don’t want to feel like I’m inconveniencing them and underfoot like a little kid.

Please stop treating those of us who choose to eat dinner early like second class customers. Don’t take us for granted – like you’re doing us a favor by being open and giving us the scraps. We don’t want the lunch leftovers, we want you to pay attention to us, we want you to care that we are there. We are the reason your dumb doors are even open right now. Try to act like you appreciate our business, are proud of your food, want us to come back, and maybe even tell our friends about how amazing you are.

One last note to yesterday’s restaurant – kudos to our server/bartender who really tried and had a great attitude and jeers to the host who gave us the “poo poo face” and cold shoulder because he heard that I balked at their $3 upcharge for removing the mussels from my “low country boil” entree.  Yes, we noticed. No, we won’t be back. And thank you for the gift of disappointment on our anniversary.