Sunday, February 17, 2008

It was free, but not exactly lunch

Today after church, we went out to eat. My husband's birthday was last week, and my MIL's is today, so we had a rather large group--my family of 4, MIL & FIL, SIL & BIL & their 8-month old twins. Table for 10. We went to the Krieger's on Oakland, you know, where the old Kiel Center used to be. Just to be really clear, I'm talking about this one.

MIL & FIL arrived first around 12:45 and were shown to a table, square in the middle of the main dining room. I think they were hoping for one of their quieter side rooms, but it would work. SIL & family walked in right in front of us, and everyone set about arranging the 3 high chairs and 1 booster we would all require for lunch. I immediately took Trystan to the restroom to change a soggy diaper, and found no changing table. The floor of the handicapped stall was not particularly clean, and there were no paper towels. By the time I'd wrestled Trystan back into his clothes and packed up the changing pad, I figured I'd missed placing a drink order.

If I had missed it, then so had my 9 dining companions. In fact, we all missed it. Heartily. Thirstily. For at least 15 minutes, if not more. The 4 or so servers in the place were all deliberately ignoring our table (quite an impressive feat, as we were smack dab in the middle of the place). No one would make eye contact with us, and none of them responded to polite "excuse me"'s. I belive it was my MIL who finally walked to the hostess station and demanded that our server be found, and that someone at least bring us water.

Water did arrive shortly thereafter, followed by a slightly apologetic server, who took our entire meal order. She seemed surprised that we were all ready, despite us telling her that we'd had plenty of time to peruse the menu. Well, all of us, except for Charlotte, who was never provided with a kids' menu or their customary crayons. She had perused the adult menu and chosen macaroni and cheese, which the server tried to tell me was not on the kid's menu (note the kids' choices are not on the adult menu). I don't think that I was particularly friendly in my reply to that. Actually, my husband had trouble deciding as well. You see, he was sitting at the far end from where the waitress had rattled off their anti-specials: the list of items that they were out of (including wings, caesar dressing, their fish n chips special that was still listed on the board, and several other items). I think it was the wings and caesar that caused hubby the most difficulty.

By now, the twins had been fed, and Trystan was pretty well fed up with Cheerios, though he was quite entertained by his sister who'd learned the trick of dribbling water into his mouth with a straw. I think he consumed 3 ounces or more of her water over the following 20+ minutes as we waited for our food. Our drinks did arrive shortly after we ordered them.

I suggested once that I could probably have driven through the Steak n Shake drive through down the street and brought it back to eat before our water arrived. My MIL made a similar joke about ordering from Imo's. The lady at the table behind me leaned over at one point and complained that her dish had been served incorrectly twice--it was fish and not cooked enough to be edible. I told her that we hadn't been served at all. The next table over in front of us was seated, placed their orders, and were eating before our server arrived the one time. By the time they had been handed their check, SIL and I were both bouncing babies (she in an attempt to entertain hers, me in an attempt to distract mine from hunger).

We got up and packed up. My FIL did finally catch the manager, who appeared to be making laps of the dining room and kitchen, doing no visible work and avoiding us as thoroughly as the servers did. FIL very politely explained that we had been sitting in his restaurant for nearly an hour, and had only grudgingly been served our drinks. He mentioned that they were regular customers (and they were, though were is now a key word here), and felt that this was not their normal pattern of service, but with 4 children, there was no way we could stand such a long wait and such inattentive service. In response, I overheard the manager give a litany of the workers who had not shown up for work that day and other excuses. I'm not sure I heard an actual apology, but I was rather busy explaining to Charlotte why we were not going to eat there today. I believe my FIL generously offered to pay for our food, or possibly just our drinks (I for one had no intention of paying for food that I could not see),but in that, at least, the manager was fair.

On the way out, I saw the servers seating other families, and was tempted to tell them to go home and save themselves the trouble. We all stopped through drive-thrus's and met back at our house to eat. The clock in our car read 1:57 as we started driving.

That was an exceedingly confusing and frustating experience. The manager appeared useless--generally, they would be speaking to their customers and apologizing for their waiting time, or throwing on an apron and cooking or bussing tables or something. This guy just walked in laps. They complained of not having enough servers, but I counted at least 4, and though they were busy, there was not a wait for tables at all. Every one of the adults at our table ordered a salad, and not a single one was presented to us. Even if you're having trouble cooking food for our "large" group, you'd think a waitress or bus person could toss some lettuce and cheese in a bowl and drench it with dressing.

Maybe they were surprised that it took us so long to clear out. Truthfully, I was going to suggest leaving around the time we had to beg for water, but the momentum it takes to get 10 people, with 4 under 4 moving and relocated is rather steep.

Basically, if this particular location isn't already planning to close their doors soon, they should be. The other locations we've eaten at have all been fine, and very family friendly with changing tables, balloons, crayons, and best of all, food.


Lance said...


FYI, that wasn't the Kiel Center. It was the St. Louis Area, aka "Checkerdome". Kiel is downtown and now called Scottrade or something.

Appalling service, though.

Kristi said...

Thanks for the correction Lance. In my mind, I guess "kiel" and "hockey" are somewhat synonymous.

Also, it appears that my hunch/accusation was somewhat correct: The location was closed on Monday. That explains why the manager was so unconcerned about their service or with encouraging customers to come back. I guess they really were hoping we'd all get up and leave!