OK, so I happily and calmly go for a weekend meal with my wife and children (we do this a lot) – and pretty much all family restaurants are of the type that you have to pay upfront.
We get seated, but one of us dislikes the table we’ve chosen, so we all move, but the next one is unstable, so we move yet again. This goes on for a while until we have a good view, a stable table, we’re away from too many people, the kitchen and the toilets. Unfortunately, the table has dirty dishes, spills and no-one is around to clear it.
The menu is scoured, chins are scratched, weighty decisions made, changed and remade. Eventually, everyone tells me what they want to eat and drink, I get the tablenumber and head to the bar to queue, order and pay. I have become a waitress.
I join the bar flies in trying to catch a bartender’s eye. When it is finally my turn, I give the table number and we begin the surreal process called “ordering”.
This is always a ghastly nightmare.
“OK, what are you having?”
“Can I have the Kids’ Macaroni Cheese, but without the peas and without the broccoli…”
“Oh, but the peas are mixed in…”
“Oh dear, are they?”
“Would you like something else instead?”
“No, it’s my little girl, and she wants macaroni cheese.”
“Well, the adult macaroni cheese doesn’t have peas mixed through, but it is more expensive?”
“Hmm. OK, then make it the Adult – and she wants the coke too, please.”
“Well, you don’t get a drink included as it is not the Kids’ meal deal thing, so it would be a full price coke, is that OK?”
“Really? Oh well, go ahead on that coke then, please.”
“Oh it’s Pepsi, is that OK?”
“No Coca Cola?”
“No, sir, we just do Pepsi”
“OK, I’ll have one of those.”
“It’s draught Pepsi, not a can, do you want ice?”
“Erm, I don’t know”
“Ice or not, sir?”
“OK, ice please. And can I have one Kids’ Chicken Nuggets Chips and beans, not peas, with a lemonade, thanks?”
“One Kids’ Chicken Nuggets meal, beans not peas and a lemonade. Do you want ice in the lemonade?”
“Yeah, please. And The Chilli. An adult chilli please.”
“The adult chilli is off.”
“Yes, sir, sorry. would you like something else?”
“OK, I’ll just have what my wife’s having – TWO of the Chicken Strips please.”
“Do you want Southern Fried?”
“Er, I think so”
“Salad or fries?”
“Er, I don’t know, er – salad?”
“Yeah, both the same.”
“Dips or sauces?”
“Er, I don’t know – what do you have?”
…and so it goes on.
I am making decisions about everything, the family are too far away to ask. It’s ALL on me. Dammit. I’m sweating; this is a test.
Of course, I get it all wrong. My daughter is happy about her massive and expensive macaroni, but upset about Pepsi. She hardly touches it anyway. My son gets peas and cries about it. My wife asks where her chips are, and she wanted a different side. While I was ordering, they had all moved because of a down-draft from the air-conditioning unit, so I had to go way back to the bar and queue to change the table number.
The new table is unstable, and the waitress brings out our food to the wrong table, but it eventually finds us. She snipes about me giving the wrong table number when ordering. My wife and I get different things. I get onion rings and the chicken is not breaded.
The children leave most of their food, but want a dessert.
No way am I going through all that again. We leave.
There was a time when the procedure was to be seated by a waiter, food was chosen from a menu, discussed with the waiter, and an order placed, the kitchen produced the order, and this continued until you asked for the bill. Drinks were added, changed, and desserts indulged. Everything was totted up, and payment (and tip) was made. It is a simple, straightforward, uncomplicated system that worked well for aeons all over the world.
This system worked and didn’t need fixed; it wasn’t broken.