Monday, December 29, 2014

Denny's Turns Into Dont-eat-here's ... and Here's Why

Tonight I made the great big mistake of eating at Denny's. Usually, this is a not-half-bad place to eat, with decent food, (usually) good-sized portions, and service that's better than you might expect.  However, tonight, everything went wrong ... including their web-based "email" complaint system, which crashed on me two-thirds of my way through writing a complaint  - which is probably just as well, as the type on the "form" is so small, and of such a faded gray, that I couldn't read what I'd written well enough to be sure I'd gotten my message across.

Tonight's disastrous visit to Denny's would have been a "comedy of errors," except it's not funny.  EVERYTHING that could go wrong, did.  Sometimes in more than one way. 
Here's what happened.

First, I was given a "special" holiday menu and ordered the turkey and dressing.  I'd planned to get something else, but this looked good.

Then, I asked what I could get as a substitute for the cranberry sauce (I'm diabetic and can't eat it, but I've never liked it, even when I could eat it).  I was told that, with Denny's entire menu at hand, they couldn't substitute anything it because "We don't carry applesauce." 

I didn't ask for applesauce, nor would I have asked for it. ANYTHING would have been preferable to cranberry sauce (even applesauce), but apparently making a simple substitution is beyond the abilities of both of the wait staff (one, whom I presume was the floor manager).  Frustrated, I told them to just throw mine away. 

To make up for the smaller serving (sans cranberry sauce), I ordered two pancakes ($0.69). However, nobody offered to swap those pancakes for the unwanted cranberry sauce.  How "thoughtful."  With them, I ordered extra butter - since I don't eat syrup, I like the extra butter to keep the pancakes from being too dry. More on that later.

Then, after 20 minutes of waiting (thinking it was taking a long time to get my food), I was told that Denny's were in the process of phasing out the special menu (so why even give it to me?) and, because of that, they'd ordered no more turkey, so ... for me ... there was no turkey.  An entire day after not having ordered more turkey, nobody had bothered to tell the wait-staff that there was no turkey?  Really?  Unbelievable. 

Worse, it took them 20 minutes of figuring it out before they could tell me.

So I ordered the senior spaghetti as a replacement for the turkey.  Nobody bothered to tell me that at Denny's, the "senior" serving is actually smaller than a kid's portion - I'm not sure where it's written that "seniors" have smaller appetites than kids (THIS senior sure doesn't) but by the time I got my order, it was too late - in more ways than one.

BTW - I got my salad (comes with the senior spaghetti) right away - but almost immediately, my main course was brought out, before I could half-finish my salad. MOST restaurants time their service so patrons can finish one course before being served the next ... but I guess, for Denny's, that's right up there with NOT knowing you're out of turkey.

Then, I was brought the pancakes - which I'd ordered as a replacement for the cranberry sauce, When I re-ordered, I'd assumed I was starting from scratch - bad me.  If you've never had pancakes with spaghetti, you're missing a culinary delight.  (BTW - when I ordered the pancakes, I asked for extra butter - but when they arrived, I got no extra butter and - since, as a diabetic, I don't use syrup, those were DRY pancakes).

BTW - I had iced tea with my meal, and I told each of my two wait-staff persons that I did NOT want lemon.  Care to guess how many lemons I got (if you guess "less than five" you'd be wrong).

Finally, I asked to order a to-go item. When asked, I said I wanted the salmon.  I was then asked what sides (please note that no menu had been provided, and that there are two different salmon dishes on the menu - I guess the wait staff figured that I was psychic when it came to the sides, and that they were psychic when it comes to which salmon I wanted).  I finally had to ask for a menu when the waitress couldn't tell me what sides there were, other than broccoli and mashed potatoes.

Could it get any worse?  Yes - twice.

First, my bill arrived (after waiting for another 20 minutes after my dishes had been cleared away) and I had been charged for the turkey you didn't have, instead of the kiddy-sized "senior spaghetti" I did get. When I pointed this out, the waitress kind of huffed and said it was only $0.49 difference ... (sigh) ... as if this was my fault, and that I was being unreasonable.  Nonetheless, I insisted on a corrected bill.

Five minutes later, she brought me back my check, and said it was "comped." In Las Vegas, where I live and where I had dinner, "comped" means just one thing - that the meal was being given to me for free in recognition of all the problems I'd had. "At last," I thought, "they're taking responsibility for their non-stop string of (ahem)-ups.

But something about that didn't feel right, and this feeling caused me to ask again what she meant about "comped," and she explained that she'd "comped" me the $0.49 (rather than re-doing the check) - and she said it like she was doing me a favor.  Having heard "comped" after a nightmare meal, then finding out that this was her way of fixing an incorrect bill ... well, my heart just soared with joy.

But there was one more thing wrong. I got home with the salmon for my sick-in-bed wife, and when she went to dig in, there was no fork, no napkin - nothing with which to eat her meal.  I was in another part of the house, she was hungry (by now it was nearly 8 pm, after a nearly two-hour meal ordeal) so she had to do her best to eat fingers-only.

So I ask you.  Is this the quality of service that  Denny's wants to be known for?  More to the point, is this the kind of service you want from a restaurant like Denny's?  Sure, it's not Outback Steak House or some other higher-end chain restaurant, but still ... is this acceptable?  To you? 

Not to me!

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