I made an excursion to my favorite Mexican restaurant in this town after a challenging day. At 8:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, On The Border was surprisingly deserted. I pulled into the parking lot and had my choice of parking spaces, as opposed to the normal parking space scavenger hunt I usually endure. The lack of patrons, however, did not translate into a lack of waiting.
I had grabbed my Kindle on the way out the door since I was dining alone and like to read while I wait. My Kindle case is black leather, and the closed case looks like a day planner or PDA. That may have contributed to the actions of the wait staff later in my visit, but first things first.
I entered the restaurant, passed no waiting customers, and approached the host station. Odd. There was no host behind the desk. I thought, “Ok, so they’ll be back shortly.” Several minutes later, after watching several employees scurry past on their own missions, I remained waiting in the same spot. Any other time, I would have begun getting upset. For some reason, tonight I thought this situation was funny. A female employee came up to the host desk a minute later, and I became encouraged that I may be acknowledged. No such luck. She studied the grease pencil notes on the desk. I waited a beat and then politely inquired if the restaurant now had open seating? She answered in the negative, and made it a point to tell me she was not the hostess; in the same breath, she told me she’d find somebody to seat me.
Ok. No problem. Restaurant had probably just cut all the wait staff since the customer traffic had died down. I shrugged this off as an “oops” and moved on. I perused the entire menu, decided what I would order, and waited for a server to greet me. Several more minutes passed, servers waited on tables around me, but nobody acknowledged me. I have to say I’m not exactly a nuisance, nor do I have an unappealing appearance. Not to mention the fact I was a paying customer. Or hoped to be.
Finally, the woman who was waiting on the table across from me turned around and greeted me. Not being rude, I mentioned that I had begun to wonder if they’d sent my server home for the night. Imagine my surprise when I discovered she was not my assigned server, but she had seen me there for awhile, and wanted to get me something to drink. She also took my dinner order, after answering a question I had about it. Since I ordered something with avocado, she asked if I was vegetarian since the rice that came with the avocado dish had something meat-related in it. That kind of attention for someone who was not my assigned server (and therefore, unfortunately, wouldn’t get the tip) was extremely surprising. A minute later, she returned with my drink and a free bowl of queso, thanking me for my patience and understanding.
Back to my Kindle. I have an application on the Kindle that allows me to type freehand notes into it. I started typing a couple of ideas I had for blog posts, and by doing that, I apparently got the attention of a LOT of people. The assigned server came by, and to his credit, he looked like he’d just run a marathon. He tried to take care of any other issues I had. I was extremely polite and friendly, as is my nature. A beat later, the manager came by and asked how I liked the queso, acknowledging I had been kept waiting for longer than I would have thought reasonable, and apologizing for the situation. Less than a minute later, the entree arrived, albeit with a different side dish than I had requested. No worries, the runner who brought it out corrected the mistake post haste. About a minute after that, the woman who was not my server, but had taken my order, stopped by to make sure my server, who was now aware of my presence, was taking care of me. THAT was pleasantly surprising.
I believe the entire place thought I was a Secret Shopper or restaurant critic or something because of my Kindle-slash-PDA. My server went through the REST of the perfect sever performance without missing a step, the manager came around again to apologize for my unreasonable wait, my check was processed almost immediately, and the staff all but tripped over themselves wishing me a good evening when I got up to leave. I think I’ll bring my Kindle along with me a lot more often!
Being the person I am, I stopped at the host station before I left and asked to speak with the manager again. I told him the server-who-wasn’t-my-server-but-who-had-taken-care-of-me-almost-exclusively deserved a promotion, a reward, and recognition of some sort because she had single-handedly saved the restaurant a customer.