Last night my friends and I had a surprise birthday dinner for one of our friends. We all met at The Cheesecake Factory, and of course yelled a chorus of "SUPRISE!" when she walked in. TCF is her favorite restaurant. She loves it!
And I must say, I was thoroughly underwhelmed. I had heard so many good things about TCF. Everyone raves about it--I thought it was an overpriced Friday's with good cheesecake. But honestly, even the cheesecake was just cheesecake...I mean there is only so much you can do to make a cheesecake special.
The service was terrible, and I must say, had we had a waiter with some experience, or a host who wasn't obnoxious, or a glass that wasn't dirty, I might have had better things to say about the experience.
I waited tables in grad school in a nice, but by no means extravagant restaurant, so my idea of good restaurant service comes from what we did. I would say we were middle of the barrel on the service front, and if the entrees cost more than the $12-17 that we charged, I expect the service to be, at the very least, as good as what I gave.
When we first arrived we told them there would be 13-15 people in our party--on a Tuesday--at 6:00...we were a good table. They were very slow, and a 13-15-top on a Tuesday that you didn't know about? No restaurant would scoff at that. Oh, but they did. Some of us arrived at 6, but it was rush hour and people were having a hard time getting there, so we were told to wait until 70% of our party was there to be seated. I completely understand that. It's a HUGE pain to deal with stragglers. Around 6:30 we had 8 people--61%...The host came over and told us that if we didn't have more people show up in 5 minutes, he would give away our table!! WHAT? There was NO ONE in the damn restaurant! There were maybe 5, 2-4 tops in the whole place! And we had told them it was a surprise party and two of the people HAD to show up late. Luckily, one of the couples had brought their newborn baby and Host Hitler decided--as we started to get irrate--that the baby counted at a person. I understand that we were probably taking up the waiter's entire section, but on a Tuesday?? A party of 15 is going to net you a pretty decent night on a night when you might have had 3 or 4 tables, and we were obviously showing up. He was already guaranteed 10 people. And if he did his job right, he could have his section back by 8:30 and flip over a couple more before close.
Anyway...Finally, we were seated. This would be a good time to take drink orders from those of us without them, right?? Hmm...our waiter seemed to think he should wait 10 minutes to take our drink order. About 15 minutes after ordering, we get our drinks. There were only about 6 of us needing drinks and most of the drinks were beers...He brought me a beer and a glass. The glass was dirty. I just drank from the bottle instead of trying to explain that.
We didn't order for another 30 minutes. I understand we had a couple stragglers, but shouldn't he have offered to get us appetizers??? I sure as hell would have. When big tables are waiting for people, they will almost always get the appetizers...they are hungry!
Then when I order an appetizer salad and pasta, he asked if I wanted to salad with my meal...A) it's an APPETIZER salad. B) It's a salad at TCF, and therefore GIGANTIC!! There wouldn't even physically be room for me to have both at the same time.
Because the salad was so large, I didn't eat very much of my pasta. I asked for a box pretty early in the meal. I just wanted to get it boxed up so I wouldn't keep eating even though I was full. He said ok, and then never brought me a box. At the end of the meal I asked again and he said he would box it up for me...So if they box the food for you, shouldn't he have just taken it from me when I asked the first time???
Then he brought our cheesecake. Without forks. Yes, some people still had an unused one, but how could you bring a big dessert like that without a bunch of forks??
Then it took 30 minutes to get the check. I always got the check just after bringing the dessert and then let the table know they could stay as long as they like. It just makes it easier if you have people needing to leave early.
Finally, we got the checks and when I went to sign my credit card slip, there was 18% gratuity added to the bill. That's fine. I don't mind added gratuity, although if I had a choice of adding it or not on a table like ours, I never would have. But to each his own...However, I did not add extra gratuity. I am 20%+ tipper but the service was bad enough, I couldn't even bring myself to add the extra dollar.
So all in all, for $36 I had an experience on par with TGIFriday's, or Chili's. Not so good folks...Next time, let me pick the restaurant. We will have food at least as good, with service worthy of the price.