Table by table… one byte at a time

LonghornSteakhouseLogoSometimes it’s nice to revisit one of our favorite restaurants with the thought of doing a review for them…. sometimes, however, there is someone involved in the process who turns that idea into an experience that isn’t quite as pleasant as other visits have been.  Case in point, Longhorn Steakhouse in Wolf Ranch, Georgetown, TX. Just to remind those of you who don’t know already, I started waiting tables in a truck stop diner back in ’91. Over the years, I’ve worked both front and back of house in quite a few places… but I’ve always been rather anal when it comes to service in restaurants. I expect every server who assists my table to strive for the same quality of service that I have always done my utmost to provide to the tables I waited on. When I don’t get it, I tend to become somewhat irate. Another pet peeve of mine is when people judge others based on their appearance alone. First impressions upon meeting someone are very important, but if you make your mind up before you’ve actually MET them, then you’re likely to run into problems. There’s a pet store in Texas (that shall remain nameless) which trains their employees specifically to pre-judge people based on their appearance along to determine whether they are worthy of assistance or not. Our waiter this evening could have been trained in that store. 

It isn’t unusual for this location to be busy in the evenings. When the hubby and I walked in, they appeared to be running short staffed based on the fact that there was no hostess at the door and few wait staff to be seen. We weren’t waiting long before we were seated, though, so they were obviously doing their utmost to keep up to their normal standards. Our waiter came and greeted us like a whirlwind, his speech a bit mumbled as he spoke until he got past the introductions. We gave him our drink orders and he went off about his work. So far so good, right? 

We were looking over the menu and talking to one another when the manager-in-training walked up to our table and asked us if anyone had taken our drink orders yet. Since a waitress had seated us, this young woman wasn’t certain how long we had been sitting at the table… so she was doing what she should to make sure she knows what’s going on front of house. When we told her that he’d taken our drink orders already, she smiled and went about her business. Within 30 seconds of her departure, our waiter had returned.  He had forgotten what I ordered to drink and came back to ask again. No problem, I thought, he was concentrating so hard on getting my husband’s drink order correct (he’s very particular about his martini; extra dry Skyy vodka martini up with olive) that he couldn’t remember I’d asked for an unsweetened iced tea. We reminded him of the drink, smiled and he went off to place the drink orders while we continued to look over the menu.

A minute or two later, he brought my tea and a water for my husband. He let us know that the bartender was making the drink and he would return. After he walked away, a younger couple was seated in the booth behind me. They had been there for a couple of minutes when the waiter stepped up to take their drink order, which he immediately went to fill and return to them. After giving them their drinks, he proceeded to ask if they were ready to order. I’m sorry, what? I couldn’t help but recall that he hadn’t bothered to ask us if we were ready to order after we had received my drink. Ok, I thought to myself, maybe he’s just saving steps and he’ll come ask for our order next. We were seated before that couple had been, after all. Wrong. He went straight to put their order into the computer after he got it. The manager just happened to be walking up when I started to express my distaste for the treatment we were receiving from our waiter (who I now knew was named Michael having heard him introduce himself to the couple behind us). She apologized for the situation and took our orders personally so that they could be placed. When it was pointed out that my husband still hadn’t received his drink from the bar, she promised to check on that as well.

She quickly returned with my husband’s drink, explaining that they had run out of Skyy and had to search for a new bottle. We found out later that the manager made the martini herself to be sure that it was done and brought to him without further delay. She had also placed our order and promised that she would check on us later. She was working the kitchen that evening and had asked the manager in training to keep an eye on us through our meal. Both hubby and I were glad to see that Michael’s behavior seemed to be an aberration rather than the new norm at our favorite steakhouse chain.

The next time we saw Michael was when he brought our entrees out to us. Since both of our meals had included a salad, we were understandably confused by the fact that we never received either of them. Michael’s reaction? “Oh, they didn’t bring your salads out? Let me go check on that,” before he quickly darted away. (He had visited the tables around us several times between the last visit and the food delivery.) The manager came to our table again to inquire about the salads and was not pleased that they hadn’t been delivered. Apparently there was some miscommunication… Michael didn’t comprehend “You take them their salads and I’ll take care of this for you” when it was said to him. I asked if we could have them after our entrees instead… european style.. and it was agreed that is what would happen.

My husband is such a food snob that I won’t even go into what he thought of his meal… or any food that he eats, for that matter. If he wants to share, he can become a Wandering Nibbler himself and do just that.  I, on the other hand, absolutely loved the meal that I was served that evening. I ordered the grilled rainbow trout with asparagus. The trout was absolutely wonderful.. and after a squeeze of lemon, the asparagus was just as good.

Grilled Rainbow Trout with Asparagus - Longhorn Steakhouse

Grilled Rainbow Trout with Asparagus – Longhorn Steakhouse

No sooner had we finished our entrees than the manager-in-training brought our salads to our table. Mine was a Caesar salad that had just a little too much dressing on it for my liking, but still very good. The manager and assistant manager both absolutely insisted that we have desert, so we decided to try the Pumpkin Spiced Lava Cake with ice cream. (Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of that… but I promise to get one the next time we have it. ) Delicious! The addition of the ice cream absolutely made it just that much better too, just as they had recommended to us.

The manager was very apologetic for the way our waiter had treated us… or failed to treat us as the case may be. She did everything within her power to make sure that we had an enjoyable experience despite Michael. The only time I got upset with her was when she kept apologizing for him after she had spoken with him. HE was the one who screwed up. If I had done to a customer what he did in one of the restaurants I’ve worked in, I would have been fired. He is  a grown man who is responsible for his own actions and should be accountable for same said actions. He should not be hiding behind his manager’s coat tails while she apologizes for him, but should be man enough to step up and do it himself. He claimed to have worked in “a prime rib house” restaurant, so should have no problems whatsoever figuring out what level of service is expected of him.

Will we ever eat there again? Definitely! As long as they don’t seat us at one of Michael’s tables ever again.

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