Another Bad Dining Experience

I just came back from yet another bad dining experience. What is it with the food services industry these days, anyway? Have all the good chefs and cooks committed suicide, leaving only the crappy ones to cook the food I and others eat? I am really starting to wonder if it is possible to get a good meal in this town any more. I should note that I am not deliberately going out looking for bad dining experiences. I would be happy to never have one ever again for the rest of my life.

Tonight, my son and I went to the Swiss Chalet at 1899 Cyrville Rd., Gloucester, Ontario, near the Costco, as a bit of a change of pace. I have had many good meals there in the past, and I was in the mood for some roasted chicken. It is not gourmet dining, but the food is usually edible. Except for tonight, that is. My son was not very hungry, so he just ordered a plate of fries and a drink. I ordered their “special”, which consists of a soup or salad, quarter chicken, fries, a dinner roll, and a slice of blueberry pie for dessert. I ordered a Diet Pepsi with no ice, as I don’t like my fountain pop to be watered down by melted ice, which makes it taste gross.

This is where the “fun” begins. First, our drinks arrived, and mine is quite warm. A short time later, my salad arrives, which, sadly, is a plate of lettuce with a small wedge of a small tomato and a couple little shavings from a carrot, and a few small chunks of celery. Not exactly what I would call a salad. I just wish I had thought to take a picture of it. It was one of the most pathetic salads I have ever seen in my life. I mean, who calls a plate of lettuce with a slight bit of garnish a salad?

Next, my main course arrived. The dinner roll was warm, but a bit hard, so I asked for some butter for it. The waitress returned a short time later with two butter packages, both of which were obviously fresh from the freezer, as they were hard as a rock and quite unusable. As well, the chicken was a bit on the over-cooked end of the spectrum, as the skin was quite hard to cut through. I finally managed, and the little bit of meat underneath was hardly worth the effort. I was quite hungry, so I ate it anyway. I managed to eat a few french fries as well, but the majority of them were over-cooked and burnt, obviously left in the fryer too long. I mentioned all this to the waitress, who talked to the manager, and she informed me that our entire meal was free.

Once my son finished as many of his fries as he was able to, we left. The waitress didn’t even offer to give me the slice of pie that came with my meal. Consequently, I left the restaurant still hungry. I have informed my son that the next time I suggest that I want to eat there, that he should promptly talk me out of it. That is one restaurant location I will not be returning to, ever. I may try a different location, as they are owned and run independently, so this is not a poor grade for the entire franchise.

Update (June 19, 2010): I was contacted by Swiss Chalet’s Guest Services division, and as an apology for the poor service, they have sent me a pair of $25 gift cards, good at any of their parent company’s restaurants, which comprise of Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s, Montana’s Cookhouse, Milestones, and Kelsey’s.

My East Side Mario’s Experience

East Side Marios Logo On Mother’s Day this year, I took my wife and son to East Side Mario’s, an Italian restaurant chain. We went to the franchise located in the St. Laurent Shopping Centre, in Ottawa’s east end.

When we arrived, we were told there would be a 10 to 15 minute wait, but we were seated in 5 to 10 minutes. The wait was mainly because it was Mother’s Day, and most other thinking people had the foresight to book a reservation, which I hadn’t thought to do. But, even without the reservation, the speed and efficiency of seating people was very good.

We were seated at a little after 5pm, and we had ordered our food by about 5:20pm, give or take a few minutes. While looking at the menu, one of the bar staff dropped a box of straws, and my son rushed over to help them pick them up. He is only 9 years old, but he is a very helpful and considerate little guy. He never ceases to amaze me at his kindness and generosity. As a reward, they gave him a nice fancy drink on the house.

We had been chatting and relaxing for a while, and watched as people came in and were seated around us. About a half hour later, my son’s pizza arrived, and we were told that our meals would  be arriving shortly. A couple seated behind us came in about 10 or 15 minutes after we did, and they had managed to get their food before us, but I didn’t think about this too much at the time, as they were behind me, so I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to them. However, a half hour or so later, the couple behind us were paying their bill, and my wife and I were still waiting for our meals. Needless to say, we were getting pretty hungry. I even commented to my wife that I was having a Ramsey feeling, as I was feeling like I was on an episode of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. By this time, my son had long since finished his meal, and was getting pretty antsy.

It was at about this time that our waitress came over, profusely apologising, and informing us that there was a problem in the kitchen, and that our meal was going to be completely on the house, and that our meal was definitely coming. We were impressed with how straightforward and upfront she was about the problem, and how she offered to waive the bill, without any prompting from us at all. She went to check on the progress of our meal, and returned a short time later to let us know it was almost ready, and she brought us a pair of $25 gift certificates for our next visit, which was definitely going above and beyond the call of good service! By this point, we were quite impressed with the quality of the service there. All restaurants will make mistakes. The true measure of the quality of a restaurant is how they deal with such an incident, and the staff at East Side Mario’s in the St. Laurent Mall was quite exemplary in this regard. We were also visited by the manager, who was responsible for managing the front area of the restaurant. For some reason, however, there was no manager on duty in the kitchen, even though this was one of the busier days of the year. She apologised profusely several times as well.

It was close to 7pm when our food arrived, and we ate it fairly quickly, as we were quite hungry by this time. If it wasn’t for the salad and bread that they gave us after ordering, we wouldn’t have been able to stay as long as we did. So, for a bit of pasta and a couple of small pieces of chicken, we ended up being there for 2 1/2 hours. The pleasant and attentive wait staff was all that made the experience a positive one. Thus, despite the problems in the kitchen, we will definitely be back again. Our waitress and the floor manager turned what could have been a bad experience into a positive one. This is how a good restaurant treats its customers.

So I guess what all this is saying is that I would recommend East Side Mario’s in the St. Laurent Shopping Centre, as they care about customer service and customers going away happy. This is more rare these days than it should be.

Update (June 19, 2010): On June 10th, 2010, my family and I went back to East Side Mario’s to have another meal and use the gift certificates from our last visit. This time, our food was delivered in a reasonable time, and it was quite delicious. Management was quite attentive, as would be expected, as we booked the reservation through the general manager. Despite the mishap with the meal the first time, I have nothing but positive things to say about East Side Mario’s and their excellent front staff. As far as I can tell, the issues from our previous visit were primarily due to issues inside the kitchen by the kitchen staff. I would highly recommend the East Side Mario’s St. Laurent Shopping Centre location based on the food quality and especially because of the importance on positive customer experience that they have displayed throughout.

Tiger Woods’s Apologised. So what.

Am I the only one who thinks that Tiger Woods should have gotten up on the podium, and told everyone that he is a pro athlete with lots of testosterone, likes to have sex, and that any infidelity issues were between him and his family, and the media should butt out of his personal life? I personally don’t care if he slept with every woman in Florida, or even every woman in the USA. That is none of my business, except maybe for some slight jealousy on my part. :-) And it sure as hell is not anyone else’s business either, with the exception of his wife and family.

The general public seems to have too much of an interest in the personal lives of celebrities, much to the detriment of society and celebrities both. Just because someone is a celebrity does not mean they have to give up their right to privacy. I don’t blame the media, and I don’t blame the paparazzi, either. They are only delivering what the paying public is asking for, and willing to pay for. And for this reason, society needs to get a life! Seriously!

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel a bit better already. Now I am off to TMZ to see who Charlie Sheen is shagging, or drinking with, or whatever / whomever he is doing these days. :-) I kid! Honest! :-)

The McDonald’s Big Breakfast is a Big Rip-Off

I ordered a McDonalds Big Breakfast on November 22, 2009, and I was hugely disappointed.  I expected a bigger meal than I got.  I was expecting something with pancakes, which I seem to recall getting once upon a time, but all I got was a piece of sausage, a square scrambled egg like thing, and an English muffin cut in half, and a couple containers of jam.  So, for the extra money, I got to have a Sausage Egg McMuffin separated into the separate components, and placed on a larger tray.  What a big rip-off that was. McDonald’s should rename the Big Breakfast to the Big Rip-Off, or maybe the McRipoff. Guess which meal I will never order from McDonalds ever again? Let this be a warning to all. Be careful of what you order from McDonald’s. The rip-offs are everywhere in there.

A New Name for the New Democratic Party

Well, the House of Commons is back in session, and the Conservative Reform Alliance Party (CRAP) of Canada (also known as the Conservative Party of Canada) have survived another confidence vote, thanks to the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois Parties. Aren’t these the same two parties that would consistently vote against the CPC whenever the Liberals voted to prop up the Conservative Party? Hey, Dippers, I have a good name for you to rename your party to.  How about “The Contrarian Party”? Or the “We Vote the Opposite of Whatever the Liberals Vote” Party?

Come on Jack, do something original. Show that your party has a backbone and can vote down a sitting government when you actually have some support in the HoC, and not just blow hot air about it when you think you can safely posture about being a leftist party when the Liberals will keep your hot air from actually meaning anything. But guess what? The voters actually have a memory about such things. Not that it matters, since I am sure that the Liberals will enjoy reminding us about it throughout the next campaign, if all you bunch of impotent turkeys on the hill develop a set of orbs, and actually show some mercy by putting this lame duck down. There. I think that is enough avian references in one post. :-)

Well, I guess we now know the true face of the NDP. Jack Layton and the NDP will say anything to get media attention, but when it comes to backing up his words with actions, there is only the sound of crickets on a still night. Maybe they can call themselves the LDP, the Lame Duck Party.

Metro grocery store guilty of deceptive packaging practices

The Metro grocery store (formerly LOEB) on March Road in Kanata is guilty of deceptive marketing & packaging practices, resulting in people believing they are receiving more product for their money than they might otherwise think they should be getting.

Here is what happened to me on July 22, 2009. I had breakfast at home that morning, but I was still hungry by the time I got close to where I work, so I detoured to the local Metro grocery store to grab a little something to nibble on, as I need to get a few other things there as well eventually, so I figured that I could do both things at the same place. Consequently, I found myself at the deli counter, looking at the sandwiches and the like. I came across a container with two seafood wraps in it, and that looked like it would be a nice snack to hold me over until lunch. I cheerfully grabbed it and the rest of my items, and cheerfully paid for them and continued to the office to eat this tasty-looking new snack. Here is a picture of what I purchased.

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This looked pretty tasty to me! I was really looking forward to sinking my teeth into these two wraps. However, when I opened them up, I was greeted with a little surprise of the immorally deceptive kind. Here is what I discovered upon removing the paper surrounding the wraps:

IMG00004-20090722-0824 IMG00003-20090722-0824

As you can see, the scum-suckers at Metro’s deli counter, likely under the direction of management, took a single wrap, cut it in half, and then wrapped each half in such a way as to make it appear as though I was going to be able to purchase two separate wraps. Needless to say, I was most unimpressed. It should also go without saying that I will never purchase another wrap from Metro ever again.

It is bad enough that they feel the need to charge me $0.05 for a frakkin’ plastic bag, but they now feel the need to rip off the customers with the quantity of food they deliver too? I would have had no problem with a single wrap packaged in a single piece of paper, showing me exactly what I was getting. Then, I would have known that there was just one wrap, and I could have made the decision on whether or not I wanted to get one or two of them, based on my appetite at the time. Those scum-sucking frakkers took that choice away from me, and for that, and their disgusting lying ways, I will not easily forgive them. I know times are tough all over, but there is really no excuse for this level of customer abuse!

Maximum age to be a student?

It seems that in the city of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, there is a new rule for student bus passes. Apparently, OC Transpo, Ottawa’s public transportation agency, only considers a person under the age of 28 to be a “real” student, so any full time student over the age of 27 will be required to buy a pass at full price, regardless of income or scholastic status. This reeks of ageism against mature students and students going for Masters and Doctoral degrees. After all, being a full time student over the age of 27 is deemed to be a different class of full time student as one who is 27 years of age or less.

OC Transpo representatives claim that other transit systems around the country have a student cut-off age of 25, so they are being magnanimous by setting their cut-off age to 27. Isn’t that like saying that other places in Canada discriminate against many races, but here we only discriminate against a few? Being less wrong is not the same as being right, or even better. If we as a country want to have a more educated society, we need to stop placing artificial barriers in the path of those who want to expand their knowledge, and start to tear down as many of these artificial barriers as we possibly can.

For screwing over mature students, and for thinking less bad is the same as good, I have to rate OC Transpo’s student pass policy an EPIC FAIL!!

September 9, 2009: Ottawa City Council has unanimously voted to remove the maximum student age provision in student bus passes! Way to go, Ottawa City Council! You did the right thing!

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