Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Cheddar's Story

Place: Cici's Pizza
Lunch: Buffet, Dr Pepper

Yes, again.  Bite me.

Recently over on Twitter, I made mention that I had a story about Cheddar's, a chain of casual dining restaurants in the Midwest that's sort of like Applebee's or Chili's.  The name itself is stupid because they never really had anything on the menu that focused on cheese, let alone cheddar.

Anyway, @wichitabyeb, a fine blogger if there ever was one, was interested in hearing it, and since I've been short of material for the blog lately, I figured I'd share it.  It's a great example of not only how not to do business, but how to take advantage of somebody's else's mistake.

Years ago (we're talking ten-fifteen years here), we had a local Cheddar's outlet.  It was pretty much the Sunday standard eating place for me and my wife.  We ate there more than any other restaurant.

One day, we went in and the entire staff was new.  Everybody who used to be there was gone.  And the menu had been revamped significantly.

The service, and the food, was mediocre.  It wasn't a terribly pleasant experience.  But it was nothing like the experience that came with dessert...the delight known as the Cookie Monster (which, thankfully, survived the menu revamp).

The Cookie Monster is a big freshly cooked chocolate chip cookie topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream topped in hot fudge, then topped with whipped cream.  And maybe a cherry...I can't remember for sure.  Pretty easy to make at home, actually.

So the guy brought it, tripped, and dumped it in my wife's lap.  It was all over the front of her shirt.

He looked stunned, stammered some sort of apology, and ran for a rag, I think.  He re-appeared.  A manager appeared.  The manager was concerned if her clothes required dry cleaning.  Once he was advised they weren't, he seemed satisfied and left, never to return.

The server came back...with the check.  Which included the Cookie Monster dumped in her lap.

The wife was mad enough before we even ordered the Cookie Monster.  Now she just wanted out of there as quickly as possible.  We actually paid.  And left. 

So I wrote a letter to Cheddar's corporate about it, which was ignored.  I then wrote to the local paper.  The editor of the weekly entertainment section and I had kind of become friends and I'd written a few guest restaurant reviews over the years.  So I wrote up this story, and she published it.

One day later, I got a letter in the mail.

We'd like to apologize for your experience at Cheddars.  We would like to show you what a real restaurant experience should be like.  Please accept the enclosed certificate for two free dinners on us.  We look forward to meeting you.

Sincerely yours,


General Manager...

Cracker Barrel

The local Cracker Barrel saw an opportunity and jumped on it.

I once told this story at a Fred Pryor seminar as an example of a company jumping on an opportunity another screwed up. 

I wouldn't be surprised if the host of that seminar is still using that story today.

Cheddar's has long since closed.

Good riddance.

Friday, August 05, 2011


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: Big Mac, Filet-o-Fish, fries, Hi-C Orange Lavaburst

The new McDonald's just up the street from the office opened today.  The sign in front said "Coming July".  That didn't happen, obviously.  They should pass a law that says new businesses that miss their advertised opening dates have to demolish their new building and start construction over. 

It's only fair.

I walk up to the door.  Frowning McEmployee is blocking the door.  "We can't take credit cards," he says.  "It's cash only."

"Well then, I guess I'll pay cash," I reply.

He stands there continuing to block the door, glaring at me.

"Can I go in now?" I ask.

He slowly moves away from the door, continuing to glare.  He doesn't offer to open it.

I go in.

Smiling Counter Girl, who is barely taller than the cash register but far more pleasant than the guy at the door, greets me.  I give her my order.  She gives me my total.  I give her a twenty.  She gives me eleven ones in change.

The dining room has got to be the most drab McDonald's dining room I've seen yet.  Brown, brown, beige, brown, brown, brown, beige...there's like a dozen shades of brown and beige.  Some of the chairs are silver, but it's all dull shades of brown and beige otherwise.  Do you know what I would give to find a McDonald's with the eighties "Jungle Concept" interior intact?

The Filet-o-Fish is fine.  The fries are fine.  The Big Mac is...missing a patty?  Really?  Oh, no...they just assembled it wrong.  Both patties are under the middle bun.

You'd think all the formally dressed managers observing the first-day operations would be working the dining room, asking customers about their experience, wouldn't you.  But they're not.  They're just standing around the order area taking up space.  They don't look remotely interested in anything going on.

Going home for a couple of days, making this the fourth weekend in a row I've spent time in the air.

Football season is coming up.  I'll settle down for awhile then.