Revisited: Saturday musings

Today being Saturday, I’m going to write about one of my favorite things: food. Or more specifically, the way food is served in restaurants.

 Unlike most family men in their fifties, there are many evenings when I prefer to go out to eat rather than dine at home. Because of my perverse work schedule, which prompts me to have breakfast at 5, lunch at 10:30, and then be ready for dinner around 4, I’ve made it difficult for my wife to cook. She’s an excellent chef, but with her own work schedule is often unable to sympathize in a constructive manner with my mid-afternoon hunger.

So I’ve become something of a regular at restaurants and a student of the way they serve their food. And I have a few suggestions:

  • If you bill yourself as a fast-food establishment, the food should be served fast. Forget any pretense of quality; the faster the better. Cook it if you must, but c’mon — let’s go, let’s go! Obviously, the drive-through is the best way to deliver this speed, and I’m glad to see these places putting more emphasis on the speaker-and-window than on the counter, which is typically staffed by poorly groomed statues. But it can still take as much as three or four minutes to get your meal this way, and that’s just not acceptable in the fast-paced twenty-first century. I consider a successful stop at the Wendy’s or McDonald’s to be one where I can pick up my order without having the wheels of my car come to a complete stop. But we could aspire to even more: how about a system where you beam your order and payment wirelessly from about a half-mile up the street, roll down your windows, then have the employees throw your food in as you drive by? They might have to super-size at their own expense to be sure you get a minimum quantity of nuggets (throw eight to make sure five get in, for example) and I can imagine there might be some health and safety concerns with the sun-baked asphalt of the delivery area. But I’d pay a little more for the convenience. And it’s not like there aren’t already bags of discarded food all around these establishments.
  • And speaking of trash, don’t make your garbage cans look so much like the speaker boxes. I’ve been embarrassed too many times already asking a swirl of flies for a Southwestern Salad with no bacon bits but extra cheese.
  • Counter service needs to be much more organized. You walk into these places and see people milling about. You can’t tell who’s in line to order, who’s just waiting for their order, and who’s returning inedible orders from the drive-through. When you do find the end of the correct line, you typically end up behind a gape-mouthed family staring blankly at the overhead menu, unable to understand the concept that having the turkey panini listed on the same line as the number “5.99” means that’s how much it costs. Then a cashier at an adjacent register asks if they can take the next order, and one of these morons breaks off from their group and ties up another line. There needs to be two clearly labeled lines: one marked “People who know what they want” and the other marked “Hello? Hello? You think you might want something to eat?”
  • Stepping up only slightly in class, I’d like to see a buffet restaurant where I feel cheated if I don’t eat like a stoned thoroughbred. I can’t enjoy the meal while trying to keep track of what my neighbors are managing to slam into their maws. (I can’t enjoy the meal anyway because it’s been moldering under a heat lamp since the Ford administration, but that’s another story). I had an uncle once who would show up for these things at the end of the lunch rush, eat his fill, read the Sunday paper, they chow down again at dinner time. That’s just not fair. I propose buffet restaurants have a weigh-in as customers arrive and as they depart, and charge them for the difference by the pound. I know figures could be skewed if someone uses the bathroom, though factoring that in is just too disgusting to manage.
  • If you’re eating at one of those so-called casual chains like “Applebee’s” or “Olive Garden” or “Thank God This Market Segment is Almost Bankrupt”, you don’t want to deal with a too-friendly wait staff. Please take my order without sitting down at my table, kneeling at my side, telling me your name or “taking care of me this evening”. A little more distance and a little less care, please. A chain in the South named “Fatz” – like I have to specify this is in the South – has installed a system that allows you to electronically buzz your waiter’s wrist bracelet when you want to request more tea. I think it’s a humane zap with no more than minimal voltage, but it seems to work. And when the main course is ready to be served, don’t have it delivered by another waiter, then show up a minute or two later like you’ve received a battlefield promotion to head of the franchise and want to know how the food is. I haven’t had a chance to taste it yet; that’s how it is.

With Americans continuing to migrate more and more to outside-the-home dining, I think these are entirely reasonable suggestions. Someone kindly get on it right away. Thank you and come again.

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4 Responses to “Revisited: Saturday musings”

  1. Jessica Says:

    Yes…and don’t give me a survey on my receipt. If you don’t know how you’re doing…then neither do I.

  2. Mallory Says:

    When I was a kid, there was a restaurant in Denver called ‘Round the Corner, and each table had a bright red old-school phone on it. When you were ready to order, you called the kitchen and placed your order. When your food was ready, the phone rang and someone told you to come down to the counter to pick up your food. Not only does this lead to minimal interaction with the 17-year-olds who likely staffed the place, but it was also THE COOLEST THING EVER. They need to bring that back.

  3. fakename2 Says:

    As a recovering fast food restuarant manager, I can say with confidence that you have made a common mistake. You either get “fast” or “food”, but you don’t get both at the same time. I am inspired to do a blog about this. Revolving around the concept of “The customer is always right”, except when they aren’t.

  4. morethananelectrician Says:

    I like the phone your order from the table thing…it also minimizes the tip…just make it a pay phone maybe.

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