Saturday, December 06, 2008

I'm a Pain to Wait On, But I Tip Well

I'm always a pain when it comes to ordering food in a restaurant. I don't understand why only the items specified are on the menu, and why they're priced the way they are.

At a local bagel store, you can buy two bagels for 7 NIS, and a container of cheese for 15 NIS, but two bagels with (less) cheese is 30 NIS. At another place, hot water is free, but hot water with a tea bag costs 10 NIS. Which is ok, but when I want another glass of hot water in which to put my used tea bag a second time, they want me to pay another 10 NIS.

I don't understand why, in some restaurants, you can order a sandwich with A and B, or with C and D, but not with A and C. Why not just provide an item cost and a mathematical formula? Wouldn't that make more sense? Or is everything pre-made and reheated in a microwave?

Then there's the kasrut issue. Back in college, I would sometimes to go out with friends to Friendly's, where the only thing kosher was the ice cream. When I ordered, I requested that they bring me ice cream in a glass, not a ceramic dish, with a plastic spoon, not a metal spoon, and could they serve the banana on the side whole and unpeeled, not cut up? And, of course, they always brought me the banana peeled and cut as a courtesy, and I would have to ask them to send it back and get me another one.

I went out with my son to The Waffle House this evening. Nearly everything in The Waffle House is dairy, and I'm now lactose intolerant, which means that this wasn't the greatest choice, but it's close and it's open on Saturday evening.

The focaccia they had was a pizza focaccia, and I asked the waitress if I could order it without the cheese. She looked at me curiously and said that I probably didn't want to do that, really. It took a little convincing, but eventually she agreed to get me one. The focaccia comes with a side salad, but there were two of us, so I looked at the menu to see how much an additional side salad cost. Side bread, side cheese, side ice cream: no side salad. I asked, anyway. The waitress asked the manager. The manager gave me a price.

Both the salads and the focaccia were good.

At the end of the meal, I asked the waitress about the flavored sodas in the menu, and she said that they're made by combining soda water with one of the flavored syrups they have on the shelf. I looked at the shelf, and the first syrup I saw was vanilla. I looked back at the soda list in the menu: apple, pineapple, coconut, lemon-mint, strawberry, and raspberry. No vanilla.

How about a vanilla soda? I asked. She looked at me curiously and said that I probably didn't want to do that, really. She had never heard of vanilla soda, and couldn't imagine why anyone would want to order it. This was too much.

I went up to the serving bar where the manager was handling orders and so on and asked him about it. He had never heard of vanilla soda. The vanilla syrup was for coffee. He, too, was sure that it would be terrible.

I'm pretty sure that vanilla soda has been one of the most popular flavors in the history of carbonated beverages, yet no one in Israel has heard of it (nor root beer, for that matter). I made him make me one on the spot, and it was freaking delicious. I asked him to try mine, which he declined, but he dutifully mixed a little syrup and soda together in a cup and tried it; he didn't like it. Nevertheless, I told him a) let the waitresses try it, and b) if he offered it on the menu, a whole lot of Americans in the neighborhood would be very happy.

Hacking restaurants. I just can't help it.


Anonymous said...

Your problem is not that you're hard to wait on. It's that you live in a country with no commitment to customer service.

Anonymous said...

Next time I go to Waffle Bar I'll order vanilla soda...just in support...but yes that would be yummy...similar to cream soda, no?

Anonymous said...

The next time I go to The Waffle House I'm going to order a vanilla soda.

Chris said...


My wife and I were discussing the other day about ordering off the menu. It's my opinion that the classier (=more expensive) an eatery, the more they will be willing to allow special orders.

If you're running a cheap cafe, dealing with custom orders is too much of a risk: it increases the risk of getting the wrong orders, it increases the demands on the staff (who have a simpler task optimising the delivery of set meals than dealing with custom orders) and it increases the chances of disputes with customers - all highly undesirable when you're already on tight margins.

As for your bagel conundrum: you're only counting the parts, you have to also count the labour. 8 NIS is being charged for *making* the cheese bagels. You may find this mark-up excessive, but you can't claim that the store shouldn't charge for labour costs.

I am often horrified by these sort of mark ups, but these kind of places have to have to make their margins where they can in order to remain viable businesses. Customers are paying for convenience, the store is charging for labour. The profit margin is determined by the former, not the latter, if you see what I mean.

Have fun!