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.