Picture from wikimedia.org.
My wife and I went out for brunch today. As I was in the mood for pancakes (as I often am at breakfast time) we looked up places to go that would serve them near the streets we would later be on for our shopping tour. We settled on “The Diner” which is a British attempt at an American diner.
On arrival, we were greeted by the host who told us there was a 20 minute wait for a table for two. When I pointed out that there was both a five-person booth and a two-person table open that I could see immediately, he told me that those were for people who had left the restaurant but that he was going to notify via text that there were tables ready for them.
Few things make me angrier than a customer service representative who is assisting people who are *somewhere else* when there are existing customers right in front of him.
He told us we could put our name on the list. We did so. We waited about fifteen minutes and we were given a table right next to the empty one.
The people who came in ten minutes after us were then seated at the empty one next to us. They were told they’d have to wait half an hour, but waited only five minutes.
Sitting down at the table, it was evident already that the staff was stretched thin. They were still cleaning it while we were being seated – by the lady who was seating us. Who also would turn out to be our waiter. She missed the large spill on my chair, which I then had to clean.
I sat down in the chair, and my wife took the booth. We were sitting in a three table row with a window to my left and the bar to my right and the wall in front of me, with the rest of the restaurant to my back.
There were two large speakers about 8 feet from my head on both sides. Each was bigger than my desktop computer. The volume coming from them was quite loud. It was really annoying. I got up and asked them to turn it down. They did. It was still too loud. They turned it down again later after I tweeted @thedinertweets complaining. However, it was still really loud.
Picture from the decibel meter on my phone.
It was 89 decibels loud. From my experience, that’s as loud as it is inside a subway car. (I know, I’ve checked.) This Bose page at info pop.cc gives a listing of just how loud something like 90 decibels is… a large truck passing closely, a lawn mower, etc. It was like that for the entire meal – after it was turned down – twice.
So it took fifteen minutes to be seated, and another 40 to get food. We’d been there almost an hour and we hadn’t eaten yet. My wife, in her infinite wisdom, ate before leaving the house; I did not. She got a peppermint tea and some fries. I got an English breakfast tea and the lumberjack breakfast – two poached eggs, bacon, and three pancakes. I had to order toast on the side because apparently lumberjacks don’t eat that.
Her fries were soggy. My breakfast left quite a bit to be desired. The bacon was good, but the eggs were cold and the pancakes were just all wrong. They were crunch in parts and soft in others. I don’t mean they were a bit crunchy on the bottoms and not on the tops – that would have been okay. They were crunchy on the left side or the right side or only in the middle. I didn’t even eat the last pancake.
I’d already complained on twitter – I got a response (quickly) that the manager would be over. She gave us our bill, and we didn’t have to pay for the teas since the music had been so loud. I didn’t bother to complain about the breakfast.
It was also very evident that the staffing levels were completely off. There were a number of people who seemed to be working at the bar, but there was only one waitress for our entire section. She was running around like a chicken without a head, and in her defence, she did a good job considering the circumstances. Having been a waiter when I was younger, I can tell you that her job is not easy or pleasant, and that there should have been at least one other waiter in our section.
As we walked out, the five-person booth sat empty. My wife told me that she’d been watching it, and it sat empty the entire time we were in the restaurant, even as a queue developed on a couple of occasions. The twitter response to my first and only complaint blamed the “Qudini” software – to me it just looked like they were trying to make it seem like the place was more popular than it really was (or ever will be).
It’s possible it was just this particular branch of “The Diner”, so we may try a different one. However, we’re not likely to do that soon. Having grown up in the States, I’ve been to my fair share of American diners. I can assure you that this attempt at one here in Britain has quite a bit of work to do to emulate a true American diner.