Annoying patrons, slow service, and mediocre food
A few weeks ago I stopped for lunch the local Cracker Barrel. I eat there about twice a month, and have had no problems at all until that day. As usual, it was very busy, I went to the Hostess stand and noticed that there were at least 15 parties ahead of me, but as asked how long the wait would be, I was informed that it would be about 10 minutes, I had my doubts about that given the lengthy waiting list, but agreed to wait anyway. Turns out the Hostess was correct, they rattled through with the list with surprising speed, and about 9 minutes later my name was called, actually it was and it wasn't. Apparently there were two people there with the same name, myself, and another person, a funny coincidence, however they said they could seat me right then anyway.
I was seated at a small two person table, not a problem as it was just myself eating, and they were very busy. The waitress comes up to me and takes my drink order, and leaves. About that time a party of 6 is seated at the table next to mine, the party consists of a middle aged gentleman probably about 40-50 years old, a younger gentleman who looked to be in his late 20's early 30's, an elderly lady, an older lady (around 60-70 years old), an infant, and little girl, who was probably around 5 or 6. This is when the trouble began.
The waitress brings my drink, takes my order and leaves again. Normally this Cracker Barrel has pretty quick service; it's rare that I have to wait more than 7-10 minutes for my food. But as I mentioned, they were slammed today so I was fully expecting to wait a bit longer. As I was waiting for my food, the middle aged gentleman at the table next to mine starts loudly talking about how was in the skybox seats at Redskins game to anyone within shouting distance, and then starts going into great detail about his experiences at Fed Ex field last week. I feel something hit my head, nothing painful, but something did hit me, I look on the ground and there's a straw wrapper there. I look over at the table where the loud Redskins fan was sitting and the younger gentleman there is throwing a giggle fit, he has a straw in his hand. I ignore it.
By this time it's been 15 minutes since I ordered my food. The waitress stops by again, and says that they are running behind in the kitchen; understandable. Another 5 minutes pass and I'm hit with spitball, again I glance over at the table next to mine, this time both the middle age man and the younger man are smiling. At this point, I'm starting to lose patience. But I figure my food will be here at any time, and making scene in a crowded restaurant would just make things worse for everyone. And there may have been a possibility that the younger man had a mental disability. The place is so busy, they even have the managers sweeping the floor. So again I decided to let it go.
25 minutes have now passed since I ordered. The waitress stopped by again to let me know that she's not sure why food isn't ready yet. And a few minutes later she came back and said that the kitchen had thought they had already sent my order out, and they are making it right now.
After about 35 minutes my food arrives, it's obviously a bit undercooked, and not exactly piping hot. I eat it anyway, it tasted okay, but not as good as usual. After I finish, I wait any additional 10-15 minutes for the waitress to bring me the check. As I get up front my seat I notice about 3 more spitballs on the floor, apparent misses. I pay my check and leave.
Obviously my experience today wasn't the best. However I'm not going to write off Cracker Barrel or make a knee-jerk reaction like swearing not to go there ever again or anything. Because, of the 30 or so times I've been to this location, this is the first the experience wasn't great. And it's not really Cracker Barrel's fault, that there were two jackasses at the table next to mine, it's not like the Hostess or waiters knew they were going to behave like that. I can also understand the slower than usual service, however the miscue in the kitchen, and the lackluster food were mistakes on their part.
Had the place been less busy, I would've had some words with the two gentleman sitting next to me. But today, it would've been just another headache for the employees to deal with and probably would've resulted in even slower service for everyone else in the restaurant as at least a manager would've had to come address the situation. In this situation, I felt that it was going to be better for everyone if I just let it go.