Oh, wouldja look at that…The story behind that lovely disastrophe is coming up after the jump…but the Mister and I will never, EVER eat at the TGIFriday’s in Cherry Hill, NJ…ever again…***NOTE: Please see the end of this post for updates!!!***
On Thursday, March 21st, 2013, our family headed to the TGIFriday’s in Cherry Hill, NJ to celebrate ToddlerGirl’s 5th birthday. It was around 5:45pm when we sat. We placed our order at about 6pm: The Mister got a 2 for $10 JD Burger and Tuscan Spinach Flatbread. I ordered 2 for $10 Fried Mozzarella and Chicken Bruschetta Pasta. We also ordered the White Cheddar Queso dip. Oldest daughter ordered Chicken Fingers and Mandarin Oranges, and the birthday girl ordered Mac n Cheese with French Fries.
Our daughters received their milkshakes, we got our sodas. 15 minutes later, our server brings out the Flatbread, says the kitchen is backed up. I glance around the dining room, it wasn’t even at one-tenth maximum capacity. As a former server of over a decade, I wondered what backed the kitchen up so badly, but didn’t say anything. About another 15 minutes after that, the Fried Mozzarella comes out, followed shortly afterwards by the Queso Dip. Our 17-month-old son spilled the chips, which were replaced pretty quickly.
We finish the appetizers, and wait. And wait. And wait. At about 7, my husband gets his burger (which was well done beyond hockey puck status…he likes burgers medium, though he hadn’t been asked how he wanted it done and didn’t think to tell the server. Usually he gets asked…) and birthday girl gets her mac n cheese. More apologies about the wait, we assure our server that it’s okay, we understand. The dining room is still fairly empty, still not even remotely busy. SchoolGirl’s Chicken Fingers are brought out around 7:40. It is at this time that we are told that they ran out of Chicken Fingers, so they made her JD Boneless Chicken Bites instead, but left the JD sauce off and included honey mustard. I had to give the BOH staff props for improvising, but sometimes our eldest can be really a really picky eater, so information about that shortly after we placed our order would have been appreciated, but thankfully, it was not one of her picky nights, and she enjoyed the improvised “chicken fingers” better than I think she would have the Chicken Fingers.
About 5 minutes later, my Chicken Bruschetta Pasta is brought out. We rarely eat out, and we’d all been looking forward to the meal, and I was especially looking forward to the Chicken Bruschetta Pasta, which is my all-time favorite Friday’s dish. The presentation was very sloppy, but I really didn’t (and still don’t) care about that. I took a bite of the pasta, and nearly spit it out. The flavor was fine, but the pasta was very undercooked. I like my pasta al dente, but this was ridiculous. Still, given the time we’d spent waiting for our food, the time (quarter to eight on a school night), I wasn’t going to say anything at all. The flavor was good, I don’t care about plating presentation anyways, and the pasta, while too undercooked for my liking, was still edible. I took a bite of the chicken, and man, was it delicious!!! So I went to fork another piece to cut it, and then I saw the label clearly shown in the picture. I know what it is, it’s a food rotation label, so the BOH staff can keep food properly rotated for freshness.
I am an extremely patient person when it comes to eating in a restaurant, and this was the breaking point for me. I let my fork fall to the plate with a thud, and push the plate away from me, staring at the label. My husband follows my gaze to the plate, his jaw dropping when he sees the label.
Believe it or not, I was so fed up that by this point, I wasn’t even going to say anything about it. Why would I want to wait over an hour for a replacement? But an employee, passing by, heard my husband and I talking about it, my husband trying to get me to say something (and he’s the type to never send anything back…not even his well done hockey puck burger that in actuality was just a bacon cheese puck with JD sauce in a little ramekin on the side), and she went to get the manager.
More waiting. Finally, another server (possibly a trainer?) comes up and says that the BOH is so weeded (backed up) that the manager had to hop on the line and cook. I find out that 3 people are missing from that shift’s roster. I can see that happening in a privately owned place that has maybe 15 BOH people total. Mostly all of the corporate places I’ve worked (including TGIFriday’s) have had a working roster of at least 30 BOH staff, with each shift being so staffed that 3 people down would not have flung the line as far into the weeds as it was that night with a dining room that was barely humming, let alone busy.
We’re offered an app to go, and we’re told my pasta will be taken off the bill. Fine. Our bill is brought 10 minutes later by our server, who had just then found out what happened, and he apologized. It wasn’t his fault, and we know that. But on our bill (I had gotten the 2 for $10), the full price of the pasta was charged (13.69) and then taken off, but then we were charged full price for the app that had come with it (7 something.). My husband pointed out that oversight, and the bill was corrected. Of course, we tipped on the amount our dinner would have cost had my pasta not been taken off.
We were given a card for a free app. I felt bad for our server, whose name I can’t recall, as it was someone else’s name on our bill. The BOH fiasco was not his fault, but I still remember hating to have to say “The kitchen is really backed up tonight”. Granted, when I said it, it was easy to look around the dining room and see why. Not at the Cherry Hill NJ Friday’s.
We will never go to that Friday’s again. We had been there a couple times before and had similar experiences, but a few months ago, we had given that location another try and been extremely surprised and satisfied with our experience. The food was great, the service was great, and so we came back last night, thinking that particular location had redeemed itself. We were wrong.
***Note: I had posted this to TGIFriday’s Facebook Page, tweeted it at them on Twitter, and emailed corporate via the Friday’s website. The only response thus far was via Facebook on Friday 3/22, asking for my contact information so that they might get in touch with me. I gave them the requested information, and they said they would be in touch. I have not received any communication since then, but if and when I do, I will update you as to the resolution.***
***UPDATE 3/27: I received a phone call from Morgan with TGIFriday’s Guest Relations department. He apologized for our experience, and told me that the GM of the Cherry Hill location will be contacting me in a day or two to reach a resolution. Morgan was very nice and polite, and I assured him that the Mister and I still love TGIFriday’s…just not the Cherry Hill location. I’ll continue to keep you updated.***
***UPDATE 3/28: Today I spoke with Joe DeLeo, the new GM at the Cherry Hill TGIFriday’s. He apologized for my family’s experience, and explained that they were down a couple of cooks, “not that I’m making excuses for your experience” he said. He offered us “Be Our Guest” passes to give his restaurant another try, which we accepted. He was very polite, very understanding, and very nice. He apologized for KinderGirl’s (formerly known as ToddlerGirl because she is most definitely NOT a toddler anymore) poor birthday experience, and offered to make it up to her when we come in. I am very pleased with the resolution, and once we get over to the Cherry Hill TGIFriday’s, I will update one last time with our experience. TGIFriday’s responded quickly, with genuine concern for our experience, and I am very appreciative of that. Each separate instance in our experience listed above, on its own, would not normally be cause for me to complain. I’m not a high-maintenance/picky guest, and as a former server myself (10+ years in the trenches, lol), it takes a lot to give me cause to complain. I am very impressed with how TGIFriday’s handled the situation, and the genuine politeness and professionalism each person I had the pleasure of speaking with showed for the situation. Many thanks to Morgan in Guest Relations, and Joe DeLeo, the new GM of the Cherry Hill location. Also, if you found this post and have had a bad experience in the past at the Cherry Hill NJ location, I strongly encourage you to give that location another try. Joe came to the Cherry Hill TGIFriday’s in December to turn that location around, and just by the rapport he shared on the phone with me, as a guest, a fellow parent, and even as a former server, I can tell he truly cares about turning Cherry Hill store into a dining experience the whole company can be proud of. Many thanks again to TGIFriday’s for responding to my tweets, for Morgan in Guest Relations for reaching out, and to Joe DeLeo for offering a resolution that I feel will make everyone happy. Thanks again, guys!***