Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I Bought Into the Hype . . .

. . . and now I want my $40 back

Sometimes it sucks being right; there are times I take very little pleasure in it.

Last Saturday, I met Darcy at the mall; she was dress shopping, something I know we'd both be happier if I wasn't with her. So I met up with her by the Cheescake Factory, where she said she'd put us on the waiting list for a table.

Now, I've never been to the Cheescake Factory, and to be honest, I've never been too keen on going. I simply wasn't interested in the place; all I knew was that if I never set foot inside, my life wouldn't be any worse off than it was before.

But we were there, Darcy suggested it, and I said sure. So I arrived at the mall, freshly scrubbed and all worked out from my trip to the gym, only to discover that we had a 25-minute wait ahead of us.

Darcy had put our names on the list 30 minutes earlier.

So we joined the masses waiting to get into the place. So we wandered for a few minutes, and returned with ten minutes to spare. And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

About 20 minutes later, we learned we got to wait another 10 minutes - at least.

I understand a restaurant gets busy at lunchtime. I understand that people act with all the predictability of the Midwest weather. But I also know that you should take that into account, so people aren't waiting much longer than you say.

So we head off to our seats after our pager signals us. Our table? One small table along a long bench, where roughly 12 other tables had been placed. It looked like a cafeteria, and funny, with the overly-loud muzak and cheap plastic cups for water, it sure seemed like one.

Thumbing through our menu, I was overjoyed to see that I had to get through the bar and appetizer section before hitting the entres. Oh yeah --- there was also all the advertisements on every other page. Every. Other. Page.

Judging by the crowds I've generally seen at these restaurants, I can't imagine their hurting for cash. If they were a small mom-and-pop restaurant in Anytown, USA, I'd buy the need for ads in the menu, but not full-page color ads on glossy paper. And not for places that were NO LONGER IN BUSINESS!!! WTF? Honestly!

Our food arrived. A lunch salad was large enough to feed a family of sixteen. It was an okay salad; nothing to make me want to shake the chef's hand, but certainly not worth the $10 it cost.

However, the carrot cake I had for desert was quite tasty. I'll give them that.

We left, having two salads and two deserts - $40 poorer. I wanted to ask the hostess or manager for a kiss, since I generally enjoy kisses while being screwed.

In short, I have never, never seen a restaurant with less respect for the people shelling out the money to eat there. You wait for an insane length of time, only to sit and wait some more in an uncomfortable seat with all the privacy of a barracks while drinking in the painted on decor and thumbing through the ads in the menu.

As near as I can tell, their basic message is "Screw you; we're going to make you wait and you're going to like it." They bribe you with insane portions of food, but for me, that's not enough.

I'm dying to know how many people regularly go there -- and not under some form of obligation or duress (they have friends or family in from out of town who want to go; they need to use a gift card, etc.). I'm willing to bet the number isn't all that high.

Perhaps I'm out of touch, but I'd prefer going to a small, more quiet restaurant, with reasonable waits and less-than-indifferent service. I don't mind dropping money on a meal; I do mind if I feel as if I'm not getting my money's worth for the experience, and to me, a mountain of salad and an admittedly good desert for a nearly one-hour wait to sit in a crappy atmosphere isn't worth it one little bit.


grand royal said...

I agree. I heard such wonderful things. But then I experienced it for myself. A wait. Sitting with strangers. And just okay food. I have come to realize that the only thing good about the Cheesecake factory is the cheesecake. Go figure.

Tony said...

I hate the side by side seating as well. The wait is unacceptable and they don't even take reservations.

Chilly said...

been there won't be back. I don't get how this place is always so busy. Anytime I am a the mall this place has 40 people outside waiting. 2pm, 6pm, 8pm always 40 people.

Worst thing is that they put Casa Gallardo out of business so now you have Houlihans or CCF? Bleh.