?`s and ANNEswers

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Two Restaurants

One upon a time there were two restaurants on opposite corners of a busy intersection. On the surface, they had a lot in common.

They were both part of chains. They had been established locally at least twenty years. They had weathered the pandemic by offering curbside service and delivery. When restaurants reopened for dining in, the tables were appropriately situated and the servers wore masks. Each offered a full bar, and there was ample parking at both. It seemed like the perfect culinary fairy tale, especially as people were eager to eat out.

But last month, one of the restaurants closed with little notice and even less fanfare.

As a diner at each establishment over the years, I wondered how two places with very similar conditions could have different outcomes. I did some research on the two parent companies and learned that the one chain had tried to revamp its menus to be all things to all diners. But this approach confused the regulars who began going elsewhere.

There is a ton of information about restaurants – their menus, their marketing, their profitability, etc. – on the internet; and there’s probably much truth in this research. However, from my perspective the reason the restaurant closed has more to do with personal service than any corporate plan.

It always seemed to be short staffed. The last time I dined there, a person finally came from the kitchen to tell us to seat ourselves, since there was no host. It turned out she was the only server who’d shown up that day as well. Then there were the computers that graced every table and were supposed to be substitutes for the missing servers.

You could order on them, play on them, and finally pay on them. But I am old school and didn’t want to interact with a machine as part of my dining experience.

I’m going to the surviving restaurant this evening with a friend. We’ll sit in the bar and be greeted by the same server we’ve had for years. She knows exactly what we want for cocktails down to the number of limes we’ll squeeze. She’ll remember our order without writing it down or punching a tablet. She’ll be attentive without being overbearing too.

And when she brings our bill, we’ll gladly pay the old fashioned way before walking happily ever after to the car.

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