Saturday, January 05, 2008

Endangered species: sit down restaurants

Four of us went out to eat last night. Tartar House a new-ish place based on a recommendation from one of us who had already eaten there. The restaurant is owned by the people from Zaxby's, a well-known chicken eatery. Tartar House features a seafood menu, a relief to this vegetarian living in chicken & BBQ -land! It is also at the border of the county line, which means only a 15 minute drive, and we wouldn't have to go into Athens.

I've noticed since moving down here that there is a dearth of independent restaurants with sit-down menu and wait service. People invariably choose a chain restaurant when going out to eat. Not to say that there aren't any sit-down places, mostly they are clustered in Athens and are expensive. Inside the county, there are sit down places, but not many. Comer has three and Danielsville has two, but one of those two is a chain.

We got to the Tartar House but unbenownst to us they had re-opened two days ago after a two week shut down to re-orient their business model. Yes, that is what the greeter said. Apparently the sit-down model with menus, wait staff and lingering diners was not working for them economically. Instead, you now order at the counter from an overhead menu, which featured less than half of the selections of the previous "business model." Unfortunately they had done away with the steamed and grilled seafood and left only the fried.

Patron after patron revealed dissatisfaction at this abrupt change, which is why the greeter was at the door, to welcome, soothe, and explain. I asked a couple of questions, and the women finally said that in order to be competitive with the other two seafood places, Red Lobster and Captain D's, they had to revert to the same model.

I felt bad for the newly hired wait staff who had likely been fired, and the dishwashers too. We now eat from plastic divided plates a' la elementary school, and find our utensils inside a plastic bag alongside. The food was good but a neon glowing fast food menu dominating the front portion of the otherwise nicely appointed restaurant and listening to a squawk box continually hollering out "Ticket 132, your order is ready!" does not a fine dining experience make.

Savor your sit-down restaurants. Frequent the independent eateries. They are an endangered "economic model."

1 comment:

christie said...

It's worth it sometimes to pay extra money to get that lingering three-hour meal experience, with wine and good food and great conversation. This is something that cannot be mimicked at any fast food wannabe establishment.