To understand how disappointing it is for me to have a bad brunch, you might need to understand just how much I love brunch.
I. love. brunch.
It is a fantastic concept — socially sanctioned smooshing of sweet and savory, stimulants (coffee), and sedatives (cocktails).
Going out for a great brunch means you can roll out of bed late, and still feel like you’re getting a good start on your day.
Today was not one of those days.
One of our neighbourhood spots heavily advertised (direct email, twitter, walk-by signs) that they’d be open for brunch all three days of this long weekend. Specially themed around wild blueberries.
Starting emotion: Yay!
We were actually there for brunch twice this weekend — once with friends on Saturday, when the experience was spot on. And once today, when the experience was so poor that it was all kinds of … spot off.
We arrived this morning, and found that their marketing push was successful — if it was moderately busy on Saturday, it was slammed with people on Monday. Or was it?
I suggested we sit inside, thinking the congestion in the lounge was probably from people waiting to sit outside. We were told it would be a couple of minutes wait as some tables turned over. So we joined the pile-up in the waiting area.
What made this strange, was that even our obstructed view of the inside revealed not one, but a number of empty (and set) tables.
Which continued to sit empty for the 15 minutes+ we waited for one.
Midpoint emotion: Displeased.
It’s reasonable to expect there’s more going on in a restaurant than a visitor can see. But it is uncool to see an empty table when you sit down, and then watch additional table after table (after table) clear out, while you continue to wait without update.
Once seated, we were put at the middle table in a row of three empty 2-tops, one of which remained empty throughout our meal (despite a full lounge the whole time). The majority of the four tops around us were also left unseated.
Then our meal began — with a hard sell on orange juice. This, to me, is about as classy as a sneaky upsell on bottled water. The carafe of OJ was brought to our table, and was halfway to our glasses “some fresh orange juice?”, before we stopped it by requesting coffee instead. This strategy did not butter my biscuit.
But the meal began to look up once we go to the actual food part — which was, as usual, delicious and prompt.
Mid-meal emotion: Looking up.
But thus endeth the good.
After dropping off our plates, our server never returned. Not to refill our water, our coffee, ask if we’d like anything else or offer to get the bill.
We next saw him when he decided our meal was over – which was strange, given that I was still chewing – and he came to clear away our plates. Our plates being my husband’s only-just empty dish, and my plate which still had a quarter of my biscuit on it, and my knife and fork firmly in the “dude, I’m still eating” position. See also: mouth full of food.
This might have been forgivable if they were feeling pushed to get us moving and seat some of the people waiting. But surrounded by empty tables, that didn’t seem very likely. Even less likely when followed by a disappearing act, instead of an equally speedy offer to bring the bill.
After removing our plates (mid-chew), he vanished. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Until an angel with a couple of carafes came by to refill our coffee and water. Which tided us over until we could flag him down and request the bill.
Total time: 2 hours
I love a leisurely brunch. But there is a very specific feeling I get when I’m in a restaurant that is doing a double-combo of ignoring our table, while not letting us go. It’s a sort of dining claustrophobia, and it can sour even otherwise positive experiences.
In this case, the restaurant had the opportunity to recover from a rocky start. Making hungry people wait while there’s a glut of empty tables is poor form, but you can basically fix it all with a bit of good service. I don’t know if it’s universal, but I want to be happy at brunch. I want it to go well. I want to give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt. So if you’re trying to turn it around, I am right there with you.
But to end the meal unable to leave just throws it all back to a black mark — because now my meal’s been bookended by negative feelings. If you don’t need the table, drop off the cheque with a “no rush” and an offer to refill the coffee. But don’t abandon the table and make us hunt you down so we can get on with our day.
That way lies unhappy customers — and a long time before a return visit.