I am an Australian freelance writer living in Adelaide.
Published December 2nd 2011
TGI Friday's, America's favourite diner, has finally opened it doors at Marion, two months after the expected date. It is the first TGI's outside of Melbourne, where I first discovered it. I was recently involved in a mock service lunch where meals and drinks were free, in exchange for visiting there to eat food cooked by the chef and to be waited on by the training staff. It was a positive and promising experience of what to come. Or so I thought.
TGI's has been open for business for nearly two weeks and gets booked out, even on weeknights. There's always a bit of excitement and hype surrounding a new restaurant, especially one that sells unbeatable cocktails and large servings of Americanised comfort food, all in a funky, decorated interior with red leather booths.
On visiting tonight (Saturday) though, there were several aspects that didn't impress. We'd initially booked for fifteen people for 6.30pm, but were asked to come at 6pm due to the large size. It seemed they weren't capable of accommodating our "large" group with other diners, yet who goes out for dinner at 6pm on a Saturday night? Only seven people were able to make it, so we respectfully called ahead to let staff know.
Upon arrival, two of us were directed to sit at the bar until the other members of our party joined us. I'm not sure why this was, as nobody was sitting down at any tables dining yet. Then, two friends turned up unexpectedly so we asked if it was ok to make the table for nine. We were advised that that wasn't possible as the tables had already been set, so our two friends left and ate elsewhere. If that's how a newly opened business wants to operate, by turning away customers, they're not going to last long with word-of-mouth spreading quickly through Adelaide. Disappointingly, there was plenty of room, with four seats on one side and a booth couch on the other, which could have easily sat five people, plus two ends. Also, five tables lined up adjacent to ours were empty the entire time we were there, from 6pm til 8.30pm. Yet they were still turning people away, claiming to be "fully booked". Hmm.
Our next gripe was the waiters/waitresses. There were so many of them working that four people would bring out our drinks and meals together, and I don't believe this is part of the usual service, more that there were too many staff rostered on and they didn't want people standing idly around. It made us feel rushed and cramped. And while I understand they're trying to provide superior customer service (allocating an individual to each table for the duration of the meal is a nice touch), but having our empty drink glasses removed as soon as we've taken the last sip was a bit annoying.
Thirdly, after receiving our menus and making our choices, we were informed that the "soda", rather soft drink machine wasn't working so this wasn't available at all. For a place that offers unlimited, free soft drink refills, I find it unacceptable for them not to be able to supply it. Haven't they heard of purchasing the real bottled stuff from the supermarket? This meant if you didn't want to drink plain water, you had to purchase expensive (at $7.95 and upwards) slushies.
As the person who recommended this place, I came to realise it was the food that I come for and that is all. My companions who had never heard of the place before now were satisfied with their food choices, serving size and value for money but weren't overly impressed with the rest of it. Everyone remembers bad customer service or bad operating procedures, and until TGI's tweaks theirs to perfection, I won't be going expecting much in future.
I dined there tonight with a group of friends. Our service was one waitress who was lovely but our main issue was the meals. They lacked taste and were covered in excess oil and my pasta dish wasnt very warm. It really wasn't worth the $22 for my main or the $7 for my drink... Although the cocktails are delicious and unique To the experience. Overall I felt let down and probably wouldn't return.