As I have very low requirements for restaurant service (bring me food; I’ll tip you well), our experience dining at Olive Garden this evening was surprising. It was not dissatisfying so much as bizarre.
Sure, it was odd that our server offered to let us sample the wine without telling us anything about it, and we did find it disorienting when, after we declined, she snapped our wine glasses off the table and disappeared for several minutes before asking for our drink order, and I admit she could have offered us a bag to carry our three takeout containers at the end of the evening (though we would have declined anyway). But we really didn’t mind any of that except in retrospect.
The drink order is what really got our attention.
My girlfriend began by ordering a raspberry lemonade. This is how virtually all drink orders begin whenever I’m in a restaurant. Whether I’m dining with her or with any of my friends, my companion seems always to order a raspberry lemonade.
I, as I always do, followed with, “Can I have a regular lemonade, please?”
Our server took a step backward and adopted the expression I would have expected if had I just requested, say, a plate of cotton candy, or, perhaps, a stripper. With an indignant intonation to match, she retorted, “No!”
Silence overtook the table for a moment. I timidly ordered a Sprite.
This being a blog, you may assume I exaggerate a bit here, but understand that I nearly walked out of the restaurant, which I cannot remember ever having done before finishing the meal.
But she brought our drinks and took our dinner order without worsening the situation much. We stayed, and indeed enjoyed our meal. (It’s the cooks who matter most.)
As we finished, the hostess seated a family of six beside us. When our server asked, curtly, for their drink order, the mother prompted her children, “What do you want to drink? Milk? Lemonade? Juice?” A chorus of “lemonade!” encircled the table. “Uh huh,” our server replied, writing it down, “lemonade… and for you?”