Saturday, July 28, 2018

Have It Your Way

The town where I now live is famous for having the worst McDonald's restaurant in the memory of anyone who has visited it. A few blocks down the street is a Burger King restaurant that, if you can conceive of it, had an even worse reputation before it was suddenly closed, renovated inside and out, and re-opened with an entirely different staff. I was impressed the first time I went into it, and I've "dined in" there approximately four times since it re-opened. Each time, however, I've been less impressed.

One of the first improvements I noticed, when the joint re-opened, was the option of ordering at one of two touch-screen kiosks. The first time I tried this, it was OK. The next time, I had some difficulty getting the touch-screen to respond to my touch. The last time, this problem persisted, plus the machine asked me to pay $107 and odd change for a budget meal deal of two sandwiches, a side and a drink.

I went to the counter with the cash registers to ask for help. Though several employees walked past on the other side of the counter, it took several minutes for a cashier to appear and offer to take my order.

We quickly determined that I was better off placing my order with him than using the machine. So, I decided to try ordering the same budget meal deal, which starts with two sandwiches out of a choice of three. For my first sandwich, I wanted a bacon cheeseburger. The kiosk offered me that option; the sign on the menu board above the counter offered me that option; but the cashier said the restaurant was no longer offering the bacon cheeseburger as part of that deal. I said, "Fine, I'll have the regular cheeseburger as my first sandwich."

Sandwich Two was a classic chicken sandwich; on the kiosk, I had tried to order that with tomato subbed in for the lettuce, but I decided not to press my luck with Mr. Friendly at the cash register. I then requested my preference for the side item, an order of onion rings. The cashier said the restaurant was out of onion rings. Biting off a suggestion involving the sliced onions they put on their sandwiches and the deep-oil fryers that lined the side wall of the kitchen, I just hoisted my hands in the air and said, with the broadest sarcasm ever achieved north of Iowa, "Well, isn't this visit just the greatest?" I decided at that moment to forgo the idea of ordering a dessert item.

I also had to visit the touch-screen drink kiosk, which teases you with the offer of dozens of different beverages. This time it worked OK (other than a bit of that same trouble with the touch screen not detecting my touch). On a previous visit, I couldn't get any of the flavors I was interested in because the machine had apparently run out of practically everything. Apparently the store's new management hasn't caught on to the need to re-order supplies once in a while.

Another thing I noticed was that the place hasn't seen anything like the huge crowd that showed up when the restaurant re-opened since, like, when the restaurant re-opened. Maybe I'm not the first person to notice that Burger King is trying to wrest the "worst restaurant service in town" award out of the grasp of the local McDonald's.

I frankly don't know whether the cashier was telling me the truth about the restaurant no longer honoring the promises on its menu; for all I know, he may have been a lazy git who just didn't want to do any more work than he had to when his boss wasn't looking over his shoulder. But he definitely gave me the impression that I was there for Burger King's enjoyment, rather than vice versa.

I came away from these past few trips to the local Burger King knowing three things: (1) The words "Have It Your Way" have lost all meaning; (2) Even with better-tasting food and a more attractive look, the spectacular feat of exhibiting worse management and poorer service than the miserable McDonald's two blocks away is totally achievable; and (3) Life being too short to waste time, money and digestive juices being insulted by people who don't even know their own business, I will probably be happier if I dine elsewhere from now on. I have no complaints about the town's Pizza Hut, Subway, A&W or Dairy Queen restaurants, to say nothing of all the locally owned places to eat. They wouldn't even have to try particularly hard to win my business. All they have to do is act like they kind of want it. As far as that goes, they can have it their way.

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