Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Worst Service Ever @ Original Joe's

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Our friend Patrick had a 30th birthday party at Original Joe's on Friday night. Original Joe's is an American-style sports bar and restaurant across the Cambie Street Bridge from downtown Vancouver. It's kind of generic but unpretenious and I think it's a chain, but it's the only location around Vancouver that I know of. Think pool tables and Spike TV's "1000 Ways to Die" on big screen TV. It's loud. Portions are huge. It's a guy kind of place.

Now, we've been to Original Joe's before, again, for one of Patrick's events back in June 2009, but it was fine then. I think it's because we didn't have to rely on table service. He had rented all the pool tables for us for a pre-wedding get together and we had that entire section of the restaurant closed off for ourselves. It was a nice social mingler for his friends and out-of-town family members.

But my second visit to Original Joe's? It relied on table service entirely. The service was so bad, it was almost comical.

Here's the story:

We arrive and get seated at a makeshift table of 12, 4 tables placed side by side. We look through the menus and it takes a long time before our waitress visits us. When she does, she is your typical Vancouver server: a young waifish doe-eyed model no older than 22. However, unlike the typical overly eager "Hi my name is Jessica and I'll be your server!" types that we expect at such establishments, she doesn't really say anything except just stand there looking lobotomized. We order our drinks from her and she disappears. She returns much later with our drinks balanced on a tray. She takes a handful of coasters with one arm and throws them haphazardly on the table. She then awkardly reaches her arm between the full pints of beer for a drink on the other side of her tray. According to Patrick's wife Amy, she narrowly missed knocking them over.

Throughout all this it doesn't even occur to her that we might like to order food, until somebody mentions that we're ready. It had only been about 20 minutes since her previous visit. She disappears.

A while later I notice that she stands at the far end of the table and begins to take the orders. We're talking away waiting for her to eventually make her way over to our side. It isn't until I get nudged that I realize that, for reasons unknown, our waitress is taking the entire table's orders from way over there, 4 tables over, about 20 feet away in a loud and noisy environment. I am baffled. I look at the people around me in disbelief. She's looking at me and when I look at her puzzled. She looks at me, eyes kind of glazed over. Instead of screaming,

"I'll have the chicken quesadillas!"

... I decide to lean in over the table and meekly say:

"chicken quesadillas"

She repeats what I order but I can't hear her and I repeat what I said by mouthing the words silently. She writes my order down and moves on to the next person's order by - get this - simply looking at them, again, from 20 feet away. They are in mid conversation with the person across the table. They don't notice her. In fact, nobody really notices her. But instead of even attempting to get anyone's attention, she stands there silently like a deer in the headlights. She doesn't get it. We all nudge our friends until they, one at a time, look up and realize the waitress is standing at the far side of the table gazing off into a distant corner of the universe. Patrick laughs and looks at me and says, "ummm... why doesn't she just come over here?" Indeed.

Patrick then hollars down the table,

"I'll have the Prawn Carbonara!!!"



It's like a bad skit.

After taking the orders, she finally walks around to all 4 tables to pick up the menus. Remember, this is a loud sports pub on a Friday night. It's loud. People are talking. Some people are leaning on the table, menus pinned down underneath their elbows, oblivious that she's coming around to pick them up. When she gets to those people, instead of saying "excuse me", she simply tugs and yanks on the menus until they're released. One of them hits Josh in the face. No apology. Nothing.

And that was just part of the night.

It kept getting better.

For example, well after we finished our first drinks, it would take a while before anybody visited the table to see if we'd like another drink. Empty glasses kept piling up. This is unheard of at a bar. And when they finally did come by to check up, they just removed the empty glasses!


We had to call out to say, "some of us here would like to order another drink". So she took one order, and then the next, and while the rest of the table was looking up at her eagerly awaiting to order theirs next, she just aloofly walked away. We had to yell at her to come back and tell her that many other people at the table would also like to order a drink.

We always waited a seriously long time between drinks. Sometimes the drinks were ordered incorrectly. Other times they were served to the wrong people.

Patrick's friend Nigel dropped by later on in the evening and sat next to Patrick who was finishing his prawn carbonara dinner. By that time a new collection of empty glasses had accumulated all over the table. Patrick explained to Nigel, "It's so funny... they don't want to make money tonight. Look, nobody comes by to see if we want drinks. They don't even come by to see if we want anything. It's weird!" And sure enough, a waitress came by and took all our empties, but didn't even communicate with us. Nigel laughed, "Yeah, that IS weird!"

When our waitress finally came back to the table, she looked at Nigel and asked him if he was finished his food. Nigel looked up. "That's not my food. I haven't ordered anything yet". Nigel looked at Patrick in disbelief. Patrick laughed. It was just one of those nights. A night where the service was so unbelievably incompetent that we were so amused, we started to hypothesize how much worse it could get. Fortunately, it didn't get worse, but it didn't get any better.

Unfortunately for our waitress, we didn't tip her very well that night. As Josh said, "If we had, it would have been an insult to all the servers in Vancouver".


Blogger said...

You're funny. Looking lobotomized. Hahaha.

Robyn said...

That's the most fitting word I could think of! She was just perpetually oblivious to everything, as if somebody scooped her off the street and told her she'd make a good server based off her looks. But she had NO clue about anything - etiquette, reading body language, common sense, etc.

Blogger said...

Yeah, it's definitely something I've noticed. A lot of waitresses I've seen seem to be hired to convey a sexy image (at least at places like Cactus Club, Milestones, etc.)

Its sad to think that someone who was overweight or deemed socially-unattractive (but who possessed a great personality and years & years of food service & hospitality experience) could be overlooked for an inexperienced blonde tween with perky boobs.

Robyn said...

I agree.

But I also find it completely depends on the establishment. Chains like Cactus Club, Earl's, Milestones, etc. definitely hire based on looks, although they train their servers well enough so that it's consistently good.

Although the last time I went to Earl's our server was a blonde valley girl princess. She warned us about ordering their prime rib dish because it had celery root puree in it. Her reasoning for the warning? She didn't know what celery root was and thought it sounded gross. She had to be 19.

But our experience at Original Joe's was as if they hired their staff based on looks, and then forgot about training whatsoever. It's as if they have no standards.

Saying that, I have found many restaurants that hire based on personality, and they tend to be the restaurants that take their craft very, very seriously, as to be expected. They hire servers who have personality but who are also passionate about food.

Colene said...

That's an awful experience! I'm so fed up with going to restaurants and getting lacklustre service and then expected to tip for that.

I think you should write a letter/email to the manager of the restaurant.

Robyn said...

You're right, I should. I didn't expect stellar service, but just competent service would have been acceptable. The management should take more responsibility for who they hire.

Ed Gackley said...

Hi Robyn,

I am very sorry to hear about your recent experience at Original Joe's. With over 30 stores across Western Canada wo would like to think that we are always delivering great food, drinks, service and on overall enjoyable guest experience at all of our locations. Occasionally we do miss the mark as we did on your last visit. We let you down and for that we sincerly apologize.

We will address the issue with this particular server and the manager on duty. This was her first Friday night after training for a week. Given the size of the party and the volume of business on this evening a new server should not have taken on a group of this size.

I would like to thank you for your comments and I hope you give us another chance to show you what Original Joe's is all about.


Ed Gackley
BC Area Manager
Original Joe's Restaurant & Bar

Robyn said...

Hi Ed,

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it!

Knowing the context of her being very new, what we experienced makes complete sense, and I had a feeling that it was probably the case. It really felt like she hadn't had her full training and that's not fair to her or her customers. A table of 12 can certainly be overwhelming to somebody very new. I know, as I've been there too.

As I wrote earlier, I've had a good experience at Original Joe's with the same large group of people, so we won't write it off due to one waitress' inexperience. I appreciate your prompt response and your acknowledgement of the situation.

Sebast1an said...

And that's why I go to buffets.

Rachel said...

I work in a high-volume coffee bar with part time staff that are in high school. My colleague and I do twice the amount of work they do and I get the privilege of hearing about their plans for the weekend when they're meant to be serving customers! Seems to be the way in Vancouver....

MacD said...

Well good thing you were all IGNORING her as you stated a few times. As a former server I'll let you know that large groups are very hard to deal with especially for this reason. It sounds like this is a case of 2 wrongs not making a right. She's new, you could have been a little sympathetic rather than so morally superior.

Anonymous said...

Wow, too bad you couldn't have your job performance after one week's training documented and mocked on a website, only for your area manager to read and then reprimand you for. Must have been a fun experience for that poor girl! (Who, by the way, can't help that she's pretty) And to think this post is still up so she can relive it over and!! If you really "figured that was the case" you wouldn't have torn her to pieces like that. Nowhere in your post did you remark that maybe she didn't have much training, or that the restaurant might be the cause for your poor service. The words "perpetually oblivious", "lobotomized" and "no clue about anything" don't exactly come across as sympathetic to me.