When you have a taste for a particular restaurant’s food, how much poor fast food service are you willing to tolerate before you stop going?
A strange thing happened a couple of weeks ago at a place where poor fast food service seems to just be the norm. I decided a while back I would no longer patronize the place. I just don’t tolerate the combination of bad service and a company that doesn’t seem to care when you complain about said bad service.
But I had a taste for this restaurant’s food and decided to give them “one last chance.” I wanted to see if anything had improved at a second location that I didn’t frequent as often, but where I’d experienced similar issues.
A little backstory
This is a fast-food fried chicken restaurant. It sells “Cajun” chicken that has a little spicy kick. But I say that with the understanding that it’s probably nowhere near the kick true Cajun cooking has. I don’t delude myself with their marketing.
The problem I’ve had with this restaurant over and over again comes to how they cook their food. In short, they seem to prefer not cooking it in advance. At least, they don’t seem to like cooking certain parts ahead of time.
When it comes to fried chicken, I prefer the chicken breast. Some people like wings. Some love legs and thighs. More power to all of them. I just like the breast. But when I’ve ordered a two-breast dinner numerous times in the past, the employee would tell me it would take about 18 minutes before it’s ready.
I asked a manager one day how long it takes them to cook a piece of chicken from start to finish. He said it takes 18 minutes.
Logically, that means they let themselves run out of chicken and then wait to cook more until someone orders it. Yet if you go inside the restaurant where you can see fried chicken in bins behind glass where they make your meals, you’ll see plenty of everything else cooked, ready and waiting. It’s just breasts that they seem to have an issue cooking.
This same manager told me that they pay the same price for every piece of chicken, though they certainly charge more for breasts than any other.
I called their toll-free customer service hotline five times after experiencing the same delays five different times over several months. Each time, they promised the corporate office or the franchisee would call me back.
No one ever called. Not once. No one seemed to care.
New problem, same poor fast food service
A couple of weekends ago, craving a bit of fried chicken, a hot biscuit and some of that Cajun-inspired “dirty rice,” I decided to give them that “one last chance.” I knew it was a mistake. But I went anyway.
This time, I went inside. I figured if I saw there were no breasts cooked, I’d just leave. They had moved those bins from in front of the customer to further into the kitchen. So you can no longer see what they have and haven’t cooked. Interesting.
I ordered a two-breast dinner with “fixins,'” which is what they call their side items. I ordered a large Diet Coke. The cashier, I didn’t realize, who was barely paying attention, rang the order up wrong. It wasn’t until after I left that I saw she rang up a “two-piece” dinner. That means I’d have received a thigh and leg. But I never made it that far.
While I was waiting for the food, I took the cup they gave me and walked to the soda fountain. The Diet Coke — both regular and caffeine-free — came out as clear liquid. The place had run out of syrup and no one paid attention. As a diabetic, I avoid those sugary soft drinks. I’ve battled to get my A1C down to almost normal levels after a couple of years. I may cheat once in a while, but not on sugary soda.
Since they didn’t have a sugar-free drink option I wanted, I asked for a refund for the drink. I would think that would be a simple request.
Turns out it wasn’t so simple
The cashier had already left the cash register and was sitting at a table in the dining room with another employee. Maybe they were on break. As little attention as she paid to my order, maybe she was on break while she rang up my order. So I waited until another employee noticed me standing there.
I explained that I needed a refund for the drink because the Diet Coke dispensers were putting out clear water.
They had to call over someone I assume was a manager. He came over and asked what was wrong. I explained about the Diet Coke. He asked if I wanted a refund on the drink or the whole meal.
“Oh, just the drink,” I told him. “I want the meal.” (I still had not realized Miss Inattentive had rung up the wrong thing.)
He asked for my receipt. I handed it to him and he began typing on the keyboard. He handed me back the receipt along with a second one, showing a refund of the whole meal.
“Wait, what is this?” I asked.
“You paid by plastic, right?” he said.
“Well, we can’t give you a refund in cash if you put it on a card,” he said, answering a question I didn’t ask. “It goes back on your card.”
“So you refunded the whole order instead of just the drink?”
“Yes sir,” he said. And he walked away leaving me standing there.
I saw an employee behind the counter who packs orders take two pieces of chicken out of one of their yellow boxes and place them back in the bin. So they were unpacking what would have been my order.
I stood there a second and turned and left.
That’s when I noticed the second issue
It wasn’t until I got in the car and looked closer at my receipt that I saw what she actually rang up. The receipt read, “2 pc Dnr,” not “2 Brst Dnr” or whatever shorthand they might have used in that case.
So no, I don’t know whether they actually had breasts cooked of if I would have had to deal with that problem again. They weren’t going to give me the right order. But, because they also have a history of hiring people who don’t seem to know the difference between a breast and a thigh, I would have looked before I left. I learned a long time ago to always check before I drive off.
They proved again and again that their best seems to be poor fast food service.
Once again, they delivered.
The other side of the salary argument
Someone might feel the temptation to chime in about how much they pay their employees. Friend, you’d be wasting your time making that argument here.
Whether they pay $8 per hour, $12 or $15, those employees showed up that day. They’re taking money from their employer. If they agree to work for the pay they’re getting, they need to do their jobs!
Otherwise, they’re hurting the company that’s paying them. Is the company paying them enough? What company ever pays an employee “enough” for what they do?
Is the company paying the employee enough to live without needing a second job? I don’t know what the salary there is. So I can’t answer that.
But I know they’re paying too much if the best customers get is that level of poor fast food service. If you accept a salary, you work. You do your best. If you feel under-appreciated, you work hard there until you find something better. Then you move on. Losing good employees will motivate an employer to make a change faster than trading a mediocre employee for another mediocre employee.
But until you leave your workplace, you do the work. You work well.
I grew up with something called work ethic. I can’t be the only one who did. But sometimes, particularly in certain types of businesses, it feels that way.
They took that “one last chance” and shot it down. To adjust a popular saying, “There’s more than one place that fries a chicken.”
My patronage was theirs to lose. They succeeded.