Thursday, October 3, 2013

Whatever happened to Chili's?

Tomorrow is Friday. Used to be, 'round about now I would be considering Chili's menu and deciding what I would have on our regular Friday evening dinner date there. Almost every Friday evening, for the past 11 years we, my husband and I, have eaten in Chili's. Occasionally we would go during the week, particularly if we had guests. Not only was it only a mile from home, but also we were known by all the staff. And despite the fact that our food preferences are very different, we always managed to find something on the menu we were both happy with – and the cost never broke the bank.

Our seating preference was a booth in the bar, and as soon as the regular bar tender saw us come in she prepared our drinks which arrived at the table almost as soon as we did. We have seen many excellent wait staff come and go, but we were always lucky enough to be waited on by someone who was not only an excellent server but also had a terrific memory. We are both kind of fussy, ok, very fussy. We almost never order a meal without customizing it, sometimes just a little, more frequently a whole lot. After the first few times a new wait person served us, they remembered all of our customization, even when we forgot ourselves.

When my husband’s mother came to live with us, her customization were also remembered.
In 11 years I think we had only one meal that was unsatisfactory, undercooked shrimp. This was taken care of with speed and efficiency without any fuss. Not any more, sadly after about 3 months of unbelievably slow service, not the fault of the servers who were very attentive, it was clearly a kitchen problem because when we finally got our meal, almost every Friday there was a problem, sometimes multiple problems ranging from over cooked, under cooked, cold food, and more often than not, items on the plate of varying temperatures from cold vegetables, tepid meat and very hot fries. Worst of all, no sign of a Manager. For the previous 11 years I don’t think there was a day we ate there that we were not spoken to at some stage during the meal by a Manager.

So now, every Friday we try out a new restaurant. We are fortunate that we have an almost endless supply to choose from within a 10 mile radius, but so far we have been all too frequently disappointed. Our quest is somewhat more difficult as we now have three people with very different tastes to cater for. Every time a new restaurant opens up, we test it out, many have been first class and we rejoice in the fact we have found a new favorite, only to find it deteriorates rapidly after the first month of opening. Many of these disappear within 6 months, though usually the ones that go out of business are those that priced themselves too high in the first place. We are prepared to pay for good food and good service, but when the food is not good and the Management refuse to listen to customers opinions, we feel there is no point in returning.

We do, from time to time, return to see if there has been improvement in those that continue to remain open, but so far we have not found any that recover their early promise.  If I find a good one, I will definitely let you know about it.