Great Moments in Small-Town Fine Dining

My friend Kelly is an expert in customer service.   She’s always making great suggestions on how companies can improve their customer relations and attract more business.

And when I read her blog, I have to laugh.

Because the local merchants here in Splat Creek just don’t have a clue.    I swear, they must read her blog, and deliberately decide to do OPPOSITE of anything she says.

This morning was a prime example.

I had to go to the town dump.  On the way back, I decided to try breakfast at the Grease-Tree Truck Stop for a change.

The waitress gave me coffee and a menu.

When she came back, I said I’d like breakfast.

“Sorry, we don’t serve breakfast after 11:00.”

Let me get this straight.  It’s 11:40 AM.  On a WEEKEND.   And you can’t cook eggs, bacon and toast…at a TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR TRUCKSTOP !!?

(BAM…!  BAM…! BAM…!)  (That’s the sound of Friar banging his head on the table).

I wanted to leave, but I felt committed, because I had half-finished my coffee.   Plus I was too damned hungry to leave and drive  to the next place.   So I ordered a hot hamburger sandwich with mashed potatoes.

I should have known better.

Long story short:

– A harried waitress (who’s only vocabulary was “I’ll be with you in a minute”).

– A cook (a few fries short of a happy-meal herself) who was in no apparent rush.

– THIRTY MINUTES to get my food, which was dry.  (I saw the burgers sit on the grill for got knows how long).

– No glass of water to wash it down.   No coffee refill either (God Forbid, should they EVER give coffee refills here!)

Oh, and when you pay your bill?

You go up to the cash, and you tell THEM what you just ate (they’re so understaffed and messed up, they can’t even keep track).

If you might decide to add a candy bar or something extra to your tab, you might get lucky.

Sometimes the waitress won’t even charge you, she’s so frustrated.

“Take it, I don’t give a shit!”.

Ahhh.   Great moments in Fine Dining at Splat Creek.

You gotta love it.

The sad thing is,  I’m not even suprised.    This is what we’re used to.

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27 Comments on “Great Moments in Small-Town Fine Dining”

  1. Brett Legree Says:

    For anyone who thinks this is crazy, the wife of the owner of the only grocery store in town was overheard saying once (when the price of gas started to skyrocket) “good, now everyone will have to shop at our store”.


  2. That sucks! I’ve never understood the breakfast cutoff time. As a night owl and late riser, I learned early on which restaurants serve breakfast all day. Then again, sometimes I like to have breakfast for dinner. It’s such a common complaint among diners, you’d think some brilliant chain restaurant or fast food joint would get on the ball and use the opportunity to make gazillions!

  3. davinahaisell Says:

    Hi Friar. That IS frustrating. Breakfast is one of my favourite meals of the day to eat out for. They should have a flashing neon sign that says Breakfast Over or something. Did you leave a tip? 🙂

  4. Ed Says:

    I’ve seen Grease-Tree Truck Stop oddities too, so I know what you mean. But are they doing all the wrong things? The place has lots of customers, so they have a successful formula. Of course, however, if there was real competition, perhaps that would not be the case. In splat creek, my solution to the 11 am cutoff, is to eat breakfast at home. My stove has no difficulties with eggs after 11 am.

  5. Kelly Says:

    Friar,

    Whee! I get to be a friend!

    Okay, somewhat seriously, that is horrid. Not unexpected, considering the stories you tell, but horrid. If they’re going to make something simple like breakfast at a 24-hr place impossible, then they ought at least to make up for it with the rest of the service. A coffee refill. Knowing your order. That isn’t too much to ask.

    And 30 minutes to get your food is unacceptable unless I’m in a hot restaurant in a big city and have plenty of martinis to make me forget about the wait. Truck stops can NOT run that way. Totally outrageous.

    Brett,

    Yes, that’s how to get customers in some little places. Don’t create such an awesome experience they wouldn’t consider going elsewhere; instead, wait for economics to shovel them unwillingly into your store. The ultimate in short term thinking. SCARY.

    I just pd USD $2.17 for gas in New Jersey today, and I’m guessing its gone down similarly up in CAN. So now you all can go back to shopping in neighboring towns for your groceries, and where is that inane store owner left?

    Hoping for more bad news. Ugh.

    You know, Friar, stories like these pain me. See what I mean about hurling your business toward its destruction? Happens in businesses of all sizes. *sigh*

    Regards,

    Kelly

  6. Kelly Says:

    P.S. The baseball cap on the skeleton is perfect. LOL.

    P.P.S. I’m guessing it’s gone down similarly, up in CAN. [Punctuation helps—eeek.]

  7. Friar Says:

    @Brett

    That wouldn’t’ be the Cheezi-Mart, would it? (The SAME ONE that ran out of PUMPKINS two days before Halloween?).

    There wasn’t’ a pumpkin to be bought in town. And the nearest store to buy others was (as usual) 30-4- minutes away.

    @Melissa
    I agree….sometimes I WANT breakfast in the afternoon (especially on weekends). In real cities, MOST restaurants realize this!

    Dennys does that (Okay, I know Denny’s is not everyone’s favorite, but at least you know what you can get around the clock). Sigh. Though the nearest Denny’s here is 2 hours away.

    @Davina
    Like I told Melissa…I especially like to eat breakfast out on weekends. (t’s not just about the food. It’s a treat, I like to sip my coffee and do the crossword.

    There are only four places within a 45 minutes drive where you can do this….and they all kinda suck. We’re a captive audience.

    Sigh. I did leave a tip. It wasn’t so much the waitress’s fault they were understaffed. And she knows me, I’ve been there often enough, it would be awkward if I didn’t’. Dammit.

    @Ed
    I personally don’t think they’re doing ANYTHING right. Understaffed, slow service, Wobbly tables, dingy lighting, scuffed up floor. It looks like it’s out of the 1950’s, and not in a quaint way either.

    …it’s like you said, it’s because they don’t have competition.

    I’m convinced it’s just a local thing, to just this small area. Because if you go down the road, to another small truckstop 50 km to the East, the difference is like Day and Night.

    Coffee is refilled non-stop, waitresses smile, you immediate service and it’s …the actually act like they want your business and want you to come back.

    @Kelly
    And the thing is…if you DARE complain (pr write letters to the editor), the locals are upset and scold you. You’re supposed to bend over and kiss their butss, and be GRATEFUL that we even HAVE restaurants.

    But gas IS cheaper. It was 1$.25 CDN a liter not too long ago. Not it’s about 95 cents CDN. (That’s just under $5.00 US a gallon, at the current exchange rate).

    (And don’t forget…we EXPORT our gas to the States!) 😀

  8. Asphodel Says:

    Ah cheap gas… I feel lucky to live between the oil wells in this tax free country… but I digress due to Friars last comment…

    Kelly, that global phenomenon is indeed ridiculous, especially for people like me who would like pancakes at non breakfasty hours!

  9. Asphodel Says:

    I cant delete my comment and correct it, so amuse yerself and spot my error.

  10. Kelly Says:

    Friar,

    We do appreciate the gasoline. Really we do. See why Brett wants a vote down here?

    Oh, I forgot, it’s not just money, it’s liters vs. gallons. And you went and did the whole exchange for us. Thank you. 🙂

    If we paid $5 a gallon down here more regularly, we’d all drive smaller cars.

    It’s nice that if you have the time, you can find someplace to serve you well, with a bit of driving. Letters to the editor is a bit extreme anywhere, but only in Splat Creek do folks besides the editor read and remember them.

    And y’know, if the darned restaurant ever closes, you will actually miss it, horrid flaws and all. That’s the really stinking part.

    Until later,

    Kelly

  11. Brett Legree Says:

    Kelly,

    You know, sometimes I’d love to drive a smaller car! But our governments just won’t let us sometimes – the car companies say it is “economics” of course because they can’t afford to bring some of the better models here – but I don’t buy it.

    Example – Ford Fiesta in Europe for 2009 has a model that gets 65 mpg (US gallons) or about 78 mpg (Imperial gallons). On regular gas, not diesel.

    But can we get it here? Nope. Ford says they wouldn’t make back their investments on factory upgrades to their plants in Mexico (where they’d have to make them for the NA market).

    I don’t buy it. Ford is more likely worried people will stop buying a lot of their other models that get half the mileage of the Fiesta. That’s probably the bottom line.

  12. Friar Says:

    @Asphodel
    Yeah, where you live, I can just imagine now cheap gas is! (But can you get pancakes after 11:00 AM?)

    @Kelly
    Hmm…..No, I wouldn’t really miss that horrid place if it closed, because there would be at least two other marginally-horrid places to choose from.

    But no, you’re right. It wont’ close. The locals here are so conditionned to bad service they constantly APOLOGIZE for these places.

    PS. After I write this, I’m going to attempt breakfast again..,but NOT where I went yesterday! 🙂

    And actually, I’ll be going to Staples to buy a hard-drive for my computer. Which is a BIG ADVENTURE…because I’ll be going to the BIG CITY today. (Yeeh-Haw) 🙂

    @Brett
    No, we’ll keep making the same gaz-guzzling cars here in Canada. And then we’ll have to bail out the auto workers who are bitching that there’s no market for their cars.

    Another thing, I bet you a lot less people would buy SUV’s if they made 4WD for REGULAR-sized cars.

    It really helps to have 4WD here, given all the snow and ice. But with the exception of the Subaru Outback, it’s mainly SUV’s that have 4WD.

    Why can’t we get 4WD on a Honda Fit?

  13. veredd Says:

    I could feel all smug and superior now (San Francisco HA)

    BUT customer service is often a huge problem here too.

    At least I imagine I have more dining options?

  14. Steph Says:

    My favourite meal to eat out is breakfast. I am similarly frustrated when they stop selling it at a certain time, that or even lunch!

    I have to admit, I have to love Splat Creek. Its idiosyncrasies make for very entertaining stories! Still, I imagine it does get frustrating.

  15. Friar Says:

    @vered

    I think it would be safe to say the culinary delights in San Francisco are SLIGHTLY better quality than Splat Creek Ontario! 😉

    @Steph
    Oh, this is ALL very entertaining. I’m hoping there’s enough material for a book on day. 🙂

  16. Steph Says:

    For sure!! Friar’s sunshine sketches of a little town. 🙂

    Love the illustration, by the way!

  17. Friar Says:

    @Steph

    I’ll give that McLean guy on CBC a run for his money.

    (Maybe I’ll make a living one day, reading these stories in a auditorium, in a pompous oratory voice!) 😉

  18. Kelly Says:

    Brett,

    I read about one this morning that runs on AIR. How cool is that?

    From the picture it appears that we’d have to strap our kids to the roof, but hey, small price to pay for giving up gasoline…

    Friar,

    I hope breakfast was a delight, and not fodder for the next post. 🙂

    Later,

    Kelly

  19. Friar Says:

    @Kelly

    I’m’ assuming you main compressed/liquesfied air to make the car run.

    The question is…HOW do you compress in the first place?

    (If you burn oil run the compressor (or use electricity from a coal-fired generating station) it totally defeats the purpose, you might as well just burn oil in the first place.

    But if you compress the air with power from a nuke plant, well that WOULD be a significant reduction in greenhouse.

    PS. Breakfast was actually GOOD (it’s the other place that stops serving at 11:00 AM, but it turns out on Sunday, they keep going till 1:00 PM).

    Never mind that the two other restaurants in town go till 4:00 PM. (But hey, I’ll take what I can get!) 🙂

  20. Friar Says:

    @Kelly

    I mean ‘mean’ instead of ‘main’

    And “burn oil TO run the compressor”.

    Argh. Typos. I’m not awake yet.

  21. Kelly Says:

    Friar,

    Where’s Karen to call you a geek? How do I know? Runs on air, 65 miles before… something. I wasn’t even thinking about how the eff it does that. Now I am, of course, and I’ve lost the link.

    This is why I love reading here. You keep me on my toes.

    More breakfast today, might have stopped the typo-monster from getting you, eh?

    Later,

    Kelly

  22. Kelly Says:

    My link went to moderation. Bummer. I thought we wuz friends?

  23. Friar Says:

    @Kelly

    Sent to Moderation…?? Say whaaaat?

    I never asked WordPress to do that!

  24. t.sterling Says:

    If you could get a close up of my avatar, you could easily see that breakfast is my favorite meal anytime of the day, almost to an unhealthy level. I normally buy 1 pack of 5 dozen eggs to satisfy about 2-3 weeks of eggs-ellent breakfasts. Oh yeah, and a few packs of bacon if I can afford it in the same trip.

    But when I’m feeling lazy, I know which eatery to get my filling of breakfast foods. I know where the Denny’s and IHOPs are in about a 30 miles radius, and I have a local 24-hour diner I try to visit frequently. Lately I’ve been into pizza and that’s it’s own thing. My main pizza place isn’t so great on surface, but I like the atmosphere and the food is delicious.

  25. Friar Says:

    @t.sterling.

    Our only 24 hour diners places are the Grease Tree, and another truckstop 45 minutes away.

    IHOP dosen’t exist in Canada. I wish it would.

  26. t.sterling Says:

    I feel like weeping for you. I don’t know if this is adding insult to injury but they are building an IHOP about a mile away from my house. I don’t think I’ll be home very much once it opens.

  27. Friar Says:

    @t.sterling

    Sigh. Canada is decades behind the U.S. in Fast-Food Franchises.


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