It was a new restaurant that had been open just a little more than a week. Ordinarily I do not get too excited over restaurant openings, but this was a special one.. It was a new International House of Pancakes, also known as IHOP and I love IHOPs. It isn't because I am that fond of pancakes because that certainly is not the case, but it is because they serve breakfast twenty four hours a day and I love breakfast foods. It seems if I ever get the chance to have a good breakfast for dinner I will take it whether it be the chain of IHOPs, Chubbys on Broadway in Kansas City or numerous other establishments. I have even been known to frequent a Waffle House now and again to get some tasty eggs, sausage and toast. I particularly like a good IHOP because you know what to expect when you order off the menu, at least most of the time you do.
This was my first visit to this IHOP and what made it special was that it was very close to my neighborhood. It was close enough to the neighborhood that I considered it part of the neighborhood even though it was a ten minute drive away.I remember thinking how great it was to have one so close to home where I didn't have to plan to go there to eat. I could be driving by and make a quick decision to stop and relax with some true American comfort food. Many people think American comfort food as burgers and fries or mashed potatoes, but give me some good breakfast foods and it will comfort me clear through my soul.
This particular Saturday afternoon, Barb and I had been out shopping and decided to stop in to give it our first test. Ordinarily a full parking lot in a restaurant would scare me away but not on this Saturday. This establishment needed to be checked out and this day was as good as any. We parked the car and walked in and began our ten minute wait for a table.
IHOPs have a way of attracting a wide variety of customers and as we waited I noticed young and old, couples with kids and couples without kids, and I noticed it was noisy. Sometimes you have to put up with a little noise to get a good meal though so I set aside the irritation of kids yelling, parent's correcting and friends laughing and set my determination to get a good meal at a level of high.
Finally we were led to a booth and given menus. The booth we were seated in was across from the kitchen but booths were premium on this day so we took it. Soon a cute petite waitress cam over to take our order which we gladly gave and she said it would be about ten minutes until our order was ready. Barb and I sat back and began to people watch and to talk. We were both in a good mood that day and we truly enjoyed each others company as the kid in the booth behind me started doing gymnastics that my back felt every movement of.
It was about ten minutes later when the commotion started. It wasn't the commotion of the kid behind me or the deaf elderly couple across from us, but the commotion of the kitchen itself. Voices began to rise in the kitchen then would quiet down a bit before rising again. After twenty minutes of waiting, our waitress came over and reassured us that our food was n its way and that it would be only a couple of minutes more.
Meanwhile the arguing in the kitchen became more intense and profound. We were able to make out words that were being said and they weren't the friendly joshing words of co employees teasing each other while they worked. The words emitting from the kitchen were harsh and becoming more angry by the minute. After about thirty minutes of waiting our waitress returned again and after explaining they were having a bit of a problem in the kitchen assured us that our food would be at our table in five minutes. She looked nervous and her hair was a little more mussed than it had been before.
Suddenly we heard a loud crash that indicated that dishes had been dropped on the other side of the wall. This was followed by very loud talk bordering on screaming as the cooks in the kitchen tried to fill an over abundance of orders.
We had been waiting about forty five minutes for our food when the kitchen went silent. Shortly after that our frazzled little waitress cautiously approached our table. She stood there for a second then leaned over and placed both of her hands on the table. She looked at Barb and then to me and then she firmly stated, "Okay. Management has taken over the kitchen. They are in there now getting the orders straightened out. I am so very sorry about all of this. I promise your food will be here in five minutes. Management is in control now and there should not be any more delays. I am so very very sorry." She stood upright then, , brushed her hair back with her hand and took a deep breath before leaving our booth.
The kitchen was quiet for the most part during the next five minutes and true to her word, our waitress brought our food to us. Again she apologized several times hoping to save what little was left of any tip she might hope to receive
The rest of the meal was spent with a quiet kitchen and a stream of waitresses moving about delivering foods to various tables and booths. It seemed that the restaurant had returned to a somewhat well oiled machine.
When I paid the check I thought about how all of the waiting and turmoil was not my waitresses fault. She was simply another victim of a kitchen that exploded on a busy afternoon. The day management took over the kitchen saved her a fair tip from me and it also gave Barb and myself a lasting memory that we still talk about to this day.
The IHOP has closed since then a victim of the closing of the mall it was built beside. As for me, I will always remember that day and take a lesson from it that sometimes, management has to step in and do the job themselves if they want the job done correctly.