Thursday, April 24, 2008

Our American Journey - Day 17

“Hey, there’s a Dennys! We haven’t eaten in one of those in years! Let’s have lunch there.”

Kathy & I were headed out of Texas towards Oklahoma, the first leg of our return trip to Ontario, Canada. It was already past lunchtime and we were looking for a place to grab a bite, so Kathy pulled off the highway and rolled into a parking spot right by the front door.

Ah, Dennys! We have somewhat fond memories of this restaurant chain from past trips in the States, especially when the kids were younger. This was about the only place we could find that wasn’t a McDonald’s type of fast food joint, yet didn’t require a fortune to feed a family of four either. For some reason, it was really tough to find something in between those two extremities, but Dennys managed to fill the bill. However, we rarely ate a meal there that was without incident: a misunderstood order, a completely missed order, missing cutlery, empty or missing condiments, other creative forms of poor service, …you name it!

From today’s experience, we’re happy to report that things have changed somewhat. At first, I was afraid we were going to be disappointed! A waitress met us almost as soon as we were in the door and took us to our seats. However, subsequent patrons were allowed to stand at the door and wait for several minutes until a waitress noticed them. This gave them an opportunity to stretch their legs after long hours in the car, an opportunity that we, unfortunately, did not get.

But thank goodness, things improved from that point on. Just as I thought I was going to have to start a conversation with Kathy, a waitress began vacuuming the floor near our table. After several attempts to speak to each other, each time at higher volume, we finally gave up and settled into the comfort of our own thoughts. After 25+ years of marriage, what’s left to talk about anyway, eh? Saved by the vacuum cleaner!

Then there were another tense few moments when the cleaner moved further and further away, and finally was shut off altogether. I was just starting to sweat, my minding frantically searching for something intelligent to say to Kathy when I was saved by another waitress that came to clear the table behind me. The crash, clatter, and clang of cutlery and dishes effectively cut off any possibility of having to continue my efforts. Whew!

Not far from us was the kitchen where the food was prepared. As orders were ready, the cook placed them on a counter for the waitresses to grab and bring to the customers. How relieved we were to see that these dishes were usually left on this counter long enough to cool down significantly so as to reduce the risk of customers receiving their meals while they were still hot. I guess Dennys must have learned a lesson or two from McDonalds’ experience with customers and hot coffee!

And this particular Dennys had in-house entertainment. The bickering and arguing between the waitresses was worthy of a stand-up comedy routine. They even went further and included members of the audience in the act. At one point, one of the customers, seeing her order sitting on the kitchen counter for several minutes, got up from her table and walked back to get it. However, before she could reach it, she was intercepted by one of the waitresses and told she could not do this. The resulting interchange, and the subsequent one with their server when presented with the bill, was highly entertaining to all the patrons of the establishment.

Although we did not have to pay extra for any of these services, I felt obliged to at least leave a sizable tip to show our appreciation for the fact that the staff of this Dennys had put so much effort into not just maintaining, but even improving on the restaurant’s reputation for a memorable dining experience!

Now, where's the nearest Starbucks...?

No comments: