How Do They Stay in Business?

A minor rant.

Did you ever get such stupid service from a business that you wonder how they survive?

I had that happen to me last night. I was with some friends in Chelan watching an outdoor concert at the “Main Stage” for the big Winterfest 2015 festival going on this month. It had been snowing all day and it was cold. I spent much of my time on the fringe of the crowd where a fire was burning in a small fire pit remarkably like mine.

I was hungry and when my friend Pam said she was hungry, too, we looked around for a restaurant. There was a teriyaki place across the street and we decided to try that first. Although it was a tiny place with fewer than a dozen tables, we’d timed it right and a table was open for us. We sat right down.

It was about 10 minutes before the waitress showed up with menus. She started off by telling us what beverages were available at no cost. She never told us about any other kind of beverage that might be available, either non-alcoholic or alcoholic. Kind of weird, but okay. The hot tea sounded good so that’s what I ordered. Pam ordered water.

The waitress came back another 10 minutes later to take our order. We wanted to split a large tofu vegetable teriyaki dish with chicken added. It wasn’t because we were trying to be cheap. It was because neither of us wanted to eat very much and we didn’t plan on carrying take-home boxes when we went back outside for more live music. The waitress wrote it down and disappeared. She didn’t try to upsell with an appetizer or anything else.

She was back in 5 minutes. Apparently, the kitchen was too busy for “special orders.”

I looked around the restaurant. Yes, every table and the small bar was filled. About half the people were eating. No one was waiting. It didn’t seem that busy to me.

Ordered a small chicken teriyaki. Pam ordered a small tofu and vegetables. And then we sat back to chat and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Pam’s husband came in a few times. He sat with us for a while, used the bathroom, sat with us some more, and then went back outside.

We continued to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I didn’t mind the waiting so much. I was comfortable. The place was warm. My clothes were dry. We could see the concert right through the restaurant windows. We could see all those people shivering in the snow by the ice bar, drinking overpriced alcohol while crowding around propane space heaters. When the door opened, we could hear the band. I figured we were a lot better off inside than outside.

I could use some more tea, but in the ninety minutes we waited for our food, the waitress came by only twice. I hit her up for tea both times.

The food finally came. It was about as I expected: neither bad nor great. It was hot, though, and fresh. So I guess that’s something.

Pam’s husband came back in and shared some of our food.

I picked up the check, which came pretty quickly after the food had been consumed. We’d been in the restaurant a total of about two hours when it arrived. The total, with tip, came to $28.87.

And that’s my question: how can a restaurant stay in business when it allows its tables to be used as low-cost rest zones for cold, wet concert-goers? If the average spent by each person in the restaurant was $15 and each person was there for two hours, how could they possibly be making any money?

Let me make it clear: we did not hang around because we wanted to. We hung around because we were waiting for our food. The delay came entirely from the restaurant staff. We weren’t hogging up the table. They were just providing exceedingly slow service.

How does a business that operates like this stay in the black?

2 thoughts on “How Do They Stay in Business?

  1. They won’t stay in business like that, that’s for sure. The manager(s) and definitely the owner(s) need to know about your experience.

    Sounds like a good candidate for Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible. That show goes in and troubleshoots and helps bring a restaurant back from the brink…

    • I think you’ve got something there. They should have turned our table within an hour. The waitress shouldn’t have told us what we could drink for free and, instead, just asked what we wanted to drink. Maybe even suggest sake or Asian beer if that was an option. (I don’t even know!) Alcohol makes money! And if she knew things were a little slow, she could have suggested an appetizer that was quick to prepare. And, of course, the kitchen staff needs help, training, or both.

      What was weird is that they also allowed people outside to come in and use their bathroom. Not many did it, but it was noticeable. And since we weren’t sitting far from there, it was a wee bit annoying (no pun intended).

      I’ll be interesting to see if the place is still in business the next time I go up there.

What do you think?