Sunday, 11 December 2016

Restaurants. Really?

I don't go out often to restaurants for two main reasons.

1. I'm a pretty decent good cook and it isn't often that a restaurant serves up food that is better than what I can prepare.

2. Eating out is expensive.

We had Celliers' dad staying with us this past week and so on Thursday evening we went to our local pizza place for a pizza dinner. They make excellent pizza. The place wasn't very busy - us and another table inside and three or four tables outside. We'd been there for 45 minutes when the new owner (he took over a few months ago) came to see how we were. We were still waiting for our food!

As a student, I was a waitress at an Italian place. Part of our training included spending time making pizzas. They really only take a few minutes to make and any delay is usually due to volume of orders. This place wasn't full nor busy but orders for seated patrons were stacked behind take-away orders. As I told the owner, you can tell take-away people (at the counter or over the phone) to come back in 30 minutes. Our town is small - nothing is more than five minutes away. At home people can continue doing what they're doing. As seated customers, we have nothing else to do but to sit there and wait.

Pizza is no longer a cheap meal at R80 to R95 for a pizza. It's a lot of money to spend to wait. We won't be going back for a seated meal there any time soon. But I can recommend Angelo's in Parys for a take-away pizza.

Yesterday we went to Rustenburg to visit friends and we all went off to a local nursery for lunch. We all ordered milkshakes to start. When the waitress arrived one of our friends appropriately commented, "Are those children's sizes?". They were the adult size and were way small. Milkshakes are around R20-R25 each.

Three of us ordered wraps. The fourth ordered a burger with chips.

When the wraps arrived they were the smallest I've ever had. As I told our lovely waitress, and later the manager, each half was the size of a canapĂ© at a cocktail party! The burger was decent, but had a small handful of chips.

I did call over the manager to address his 'children's portions'. None of us are big people but the portions were silly. And when a wrap costs R48 or R52, you at least want something more than a hors d'oeuvres! The manager went on about the changes they were making to the menu and that they were surveying customers after their meals.

I pointed to all the empty tables (one table had been occupied when we arrived and there was only one other occupied table) and told him that this is why 'all the other people here' don't come back. Just like us. There is no point surveying us after the meal when we have to pay for a meal that has left us dissatisfied and hungry. He sent us a piece of chocolate cake each (nice, but not as good as my cake) as a peace offering. We still won't go back to the Geelhout Garden Pavillion for a meal, despite the friendly waitress and nice food.

I told my mom this morning about our recent restaurant experiences. Here in Parys we have a number of good restaurants. Three of mom's friends came to visit for lunch on Thursday. They went to a popular restaurant. I had an lovely lunch there about a year ago.

Mom and one of her friends ordered the Norwegian fish cakes - a salmon fish cake. The other friend ordered a burger and I can't remember what the fourth person ordered. Mom said that a large plate arrived and on it were two small, thin fish cakes with splodges of pickle and beet on the corners. Both mom and her friend looked at their plates in disbelief. R90 for what was nothing more than a starter - hardly a main course. The friend with the burger had a better deal but the 9 thin chips on her plate were dismal.

Mom didn't complain to the manager as her friend was paying for her lunch. But this was clearly unacceptable. I've suggested that she stops past the restaurant this week to speak to the manager.

The price of a meal is so much more than the food on the plate. It includes the rent of the building, salaries and wages, electricity and water, equipment, decor, crockery, cutlery, and plates. The actual ingredients really are the minority of the total expenses.

The food on the plate is what the customer is paying for and this is where the perceived value comes in. Dishing up another fish cake to arrive at a decent portion to produce a satisfied customer is common sense.

Good value doesn't mean cheap. It means a tasty meal served in a decent portion for a fair price. Spain was an excellent example of this. Superb food for a very fair price and served in minutes. I don't think we saw more than two people running the establishment - serving, cooking and cleaning - sometimes only one! It was astounding.

For me, a meal at a restaurant is a treat. It is a meal that I don't have to prepare and I enjoy choosing items that they 'should' be able to prepare better than me at home.

Restaurants are going to lose more and more customers in a flash if they don't start asking themselves, "Would I be happy if this was served to me?".

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