Third Time Is Not Necessarily A Charm - "It's Only Food" Blog at - 266451

"It's Only Food"

Third Time is Not Necessarily a Charm 
Feb. 4, 2012 10:33 am 
Updated: Mar. 1, 2012 10:57 am
For the last three years my wife and I have had an on again-off again love/hate relationship with the IHOP in the Riverdale Mall in Coon Rapids MN.  In order for them to improve their awful ways, we have kept coming back with an open mind for breakfast many times.  We evaluate our visits by service and staff, food quality and overall cleanliness; as all patrons of dining out must, and in those visits we have seen one or all of these categories neglected.  Our last visit will be just that-our last.
Keep in mind that this is the IHOP at this particular location, and not a dressing down of the company or of its employees anywhere else.
Upon entering we had to wait in an empty lobby for at least 10 minutes to be seated, as the hostess and wait staff were looking at us and walking around aimlessly in the dining area.  The restaurant was about 1/3 full with 1 hostess and 4 wait staff, a ratio of 1 waitress per 7 customers, pretty good odds that something might actually go right in this visit, but alas-we were at the IHOP where the bar has been raised to mediocrity.
As I was holding the door for three elderly women, my wife was seated at a booth that was meant to seat munchkins.  As a 6’1” male with a coat and a newspaper, you can imagine that trying to eat comfortably was going to be easier said than done.  After rolling her eyes upon our request for a larger booth we sat and waited a good 13 minutes for a waitress to bring coffee and perhaps take our order.  Being seated at the booth at the entrance to the kitchen was like being in the tunnel of a stadium where the locker room is.  We were privy to all the back of the house chatter and disgusting hygiene that I will omit from this particular analysis.
 When our waitress did arrive, we ordered our drinks and gave our order.  My wife had the skillet breakfast with pancakes and I ordered the CFS and eggs cooked over medium, and the hash browns cooked crispy.
Here is what was brought to our table:  Over cooked eggs with white under-cooked hash browns, a skillet with what looked like yesterdays potatoes and rubbery eggs with plastic cheese, and pancakes so cold the butter would not melt (hard to imagine that would happen when the word pancake is in the restaurant’s name).
We looked at each other and once again laughed as we tried to figure out what was palatable.  The waitress checked back asking if there was anything else she could get for us, but was gone before I could   request hot sauce.  We ate what we could, and asked for the bill.  I often wonder why the waitress doesn’t wonder if everything is ok when there is 80% of the food left on the dishes she is bussing, but again, they are not there to exceed the customer’s expectations.  Frankly I can’t understand how most of them got hired in the first place.  They are rude; they rush you through the process of ordering, and basically act as if you are interrupting them from another cigarette break.  I thought it was especially fascinating when the hostess was grabbing her food and going on her break at 11:50 A.M.-as the lobby was filling up with the lunch crowd.
There was no manager anywhere to be seen in our visit-my bet is that they were hiding in their office reading the corporate manual on how to deal with fed-up customers.  A large and well-read chapter I am sure. Save some time and read chapter 1- “Perfecting Customer Service Techniques”.
Now before you rail at me for not sending the food back, or that we should stay home and eat if I am going to complain, you should be made acutely aware of the fact that I am completely fair in my assessments of the restaurants I visit.  I go back and give them three or more attempts to see if it is a certain shift that is screwing up or if they are just having a bad day. I also do not treat the staff rudely or make superfluous request to get attention, nor do I complain or act like a .  As a former manager I know all too well how people like this are to deal with and act accordingly.  On the other hand-I will be the first to tell you that you did a great job or that the food was excellent; and I am highly regarded as an enormous tipper when things go right.
 And if the meal is that bad, sending it back is not going to alter the fact that it should have been good enough in the first place.  You only send something back if the steak needs a little more fire or you received the wrong food.  When the food is consistently bad for all the people at the table, then there is a chef back there that just cannot cook, or just doesn’t give a , and sending it back is not going to get it fixed.  Furthermore, the wait person picking up the food from the pass should identify the mistakes before she brings it to the table- i.e. undercooked hash browns.
For the hard-earned money we spend eating out, we have every right to demand that our meal is cooked properly and our wait staff is professional, courteous and attentive.  Regardless of where we dine out.
Feb. 4, 2012 11:21 am
We have had nothing but really great experiences at our particular IHOP Location! I guess we got lucky!
Feb. 4, 2012 1:26 pm
I think you are more than fair. Prices today are too high to accept a bad experience, I would have been done after the second visit. Am I correct in thinking IHOP is a franchise chain? There are 3 near here, 2 are awful and the 3rd quite good so I always thought there may have been different owners, mainly based on the cleanliness and the maintenance of the buildings.
Feb. 4, 2012 4:33 pm
I think I have read most of your blog entries, Chef John, and this is the first in which you aired any negativity. Based on what you have given, I would not blame you for it. I hope somebody within IHOP reads this and gets the Coon Rapids franchise on the right track.
Feb. 4, 2012 7:20 pm
I too have been parked by the entrance to the kitchen at various restaurants where all the wait staff gather and b***h & moan about their jobs, their boyfriends, etc., all the while texting to everyone and their mother. Mind you, this is certainly not limited to IHOP's and there are wonderful wait staff out there at many restaurants (and they get tipped accordingly), but sometimes the quality of the staff at others are woefully lacking.
Feb. 4, 2012 7:33 pm
Good on ya for being fair, it's far more than I'm sure I would allow. If I get once, I'll try the place again after 6 months or so, if it happens again, that's it for me and I write to management. One of the things I despise is bad service with good food, or the opposite which occasionally happens. Great Blog John, by the by, the IHOP closest to me is pretty good but I haven't been in ...hmm over a year, no reason, just havent gotten round to it.
Feb. 4, 2012 7:34 pm
Hmm apparently c r a p is a bad word.
Feb. 5, 2012 12:07 pm
Ah yes, texting and ignoring the customer-find another job
Feb. 15, 2012 3:46 am
my co-worker's half-sister makes $77/hr on the computer. She has been without work for 5 months but last month her pay was $8548 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here...
Mar. 1, 2012 10:57 am
what did you expect... it's IHOP.
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About Me
I have been a professional restaurant person for 30+ years. I started out as a dishwasher and worked my way up the ladder. No schooling except for hands on experience in locations around the USA. I am now starting my own business as a consultant and food writer.
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Everything-except baking and desserts
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Gravy, my side of the family is mostly French , so we love the sauces and gravies.
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Starting my own public access cooking show-"It's Only Food". Did 33 shows in 3 years as the chef and producer. It certainly opened up a lot of doors and paved the way for changing the way I look at food.
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Missing my family growing up and working 80 hour weeks, but I can say that it paid off. No regrets.
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