Sunday, 4 November 2007

Waits and pleasures

You never know what to expect at restaurants. A perfectly-cooked meal from a friendly, attentive waiter or a tasteless mess flung on the table by a harassed, po-faced second-jobber? Be prepared for anything.

Jenny and I had just been at an art gallery private view, sloshing down our free glasses of wine and salivating over dozens of stunning prints. As usual, we wandered up the road to our favourite pizzeria and ordered a couple of pizzas.

We chatted a bit as we waited for our food.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After 20 minutes, we asked what was happening. "Ah, there's a large group upstairs so there's a half-hour wait. But your pizzas are in the oven. Another two minutes." (A large group upstairs? So what?)

Two minutes came and went. We waited some more.

And waited.

And waited.

After 35 minutes, we asked to see the manager. "Ah, there's always a half-hour wait on Fridays. You should have been told. Another three minutes." Jenny asked if we could have a discount for the long delay. Yes that was possible, she said. (Five per cent? Ten per cent?)

After 40 minutes, the pizzas arrived. Mouth-wateringly delicious as always. Not wanting to ask for the bill, which might take another half-hour, we went straight to the cash desk.

"Oh, there's no charge" we were told "Your meals are free."

We walked out in a state of dazed disbelief. As I said, be prepared for anything.

15 comments:

gayé said...

Wow Nick, that's almost a great movie with lots of twists and turns with the most unexpected end. I am glad the evening ended on a "happy-tummies and a nice gesture on the pizzeria's behalf" note. :)

Manuel said...

I might have had a different approach.....as the waiter that is......might...

Alan in Belfast said...

Occasionally, retailers (including caterers) remember that reputation is much more valuable to them (in terms of repeat business and recommendations) than the actual profit from an individual visit.

I'm going to guess it was Pizza Express - sounds like their ethic.

Nick said...

Gaye - Hmmm, bit thin for a movie though I could see a Hugh Grant character somewhere there (the diner? the waiter?). Yes, definitely a happy-tummies (and happy purses) ending.

Manuel - We were well aware the waiters are at the mercy of the chefs and the staffing levels - they're the piggies in the middle.

Alan - Hi! I think that's exactly it - their future reputation. Particularly as Jenny mentioned we're regular customers. Pizza Express? You might think that, but I can't possibly comment.

John Self said...

Ooh, now it's a mystery movie. Knowing where Nick lives, I wouldn't have described Pizza Express as a wandering-distance "up the road" but does it (the Lisburn Road branch) have an upstairs anyway? Or it could have been Green's next door...

Nick said...

Ah, well of course it all depends where the said art gallery is located. Which is definitely within wandering distance.

Plans are now well advanced for the movie, btw, with a star-studded cast including Hugh Grant and Keira Knightley as the diners and Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse as the wait staff. Mike Leigh to direct. Unless anyone has better ideas?

red said...

The ending to that story is a godzillion miles away from anything you'd experience in an Italian restaurant. I'm adding 'good customer service' to my wishlist for our next destination.

Wisewebwoman said...

Oh Nick, my first thought was I hope they tipped the wait/er/ress after that lovely surprise.
Sometimes the comments are as interesting as the post, I love the way readers are trying to track you in a Sherlock Holmesian way.
And yes, I agree on Mike Leigh (one of my favourites) but old jaded Hugh? And anorexic Keira? Naw.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Red - that reminds me of an experience in a restaurant in Verona. The first time we went they reluctantly accepted a credit card but the second time they absolutely refused, presumably for tax avoidance reasons. I had to rush off and get some cash pronto.

www - yes, that was the one thing that bothered us, no tip. But what to do, if the service was so bad? We'll have to give an extra generous tip next time.

The Major said...

Next time i go to Belfast, we'll have dinner there together. It's on me.

Nick said...

Hmmmm, that sounds like an invite. And when are you thinking of coming to Belfast?

Conortje said...

That would never ever happen in The Netherlands I can tell you - they have no customer service and they don't care about return business.
By the way - I absolutely love pizza - not very interesting but I felt like I should share.

Nick said...

Thanks for sharing, Con! Good to know Northern Ireland has a lot to teach other countries when it comes to customer service. Tradespeople are pretty good too about correcting anything they haven't done properly.

Medbh said...

Very classy move on their part. Hope you still tipped!

Nick said...

We practically always tip as we know how little the wait staff must earn. And that means leaving it on the table, not adding it to the bill and enriching the owner. But in the circumstances - a tip for what exactly? Still, we'll be extra generous next time.