T.G.I Fridays - A Favorite Disappoints
Traveling to exotic places provides an unending variety of food and taste to excite the palate. But, there are times when one craves comfort food, that familiar food of home. For me, that means steak houses and Italian restaurants.
In Quito, Ecuador, I go T.G.I. Fridays, located in the Quicentro North Shopping Mall, where I relax with a beer in a familiar ambiance, watch football (soccer ) on a large screen and dig into a plate of Baby Back Ribs or a big, succulent Jack Daniels Burger.
The large windows on the South End of the restaurant ensure abundant day light convey a feeling of openness. Settled into my chair, I watch the world go by outside: - the comings and goings to the mall and the stadium down the street where football matches result in the entire area overflowing crowds of boisterous fans dressed in colorful team costumes. Still unanswered, however, is why patrons very rarely sit on the outside patio.
The restaurant has the usual patio tables with umbrellas, an almost daily temperature of between 20 - 24 Celsius ( 68 - 75 Fahrenheit); with privacy afforded by a wall of greenery. So few use the patio that a request to sit outside brings a discussion among staff as to who would walk the extra distance to serve me.
In addition to the formerly assured good quality of food and ambiance, the staff, mostly waitresses, once gave unique attitude to the place. Dressed in the red and white colors of the restaurant franchise, with funny hats and other accessories, they hustled, always giving warm welcome and pleasant smiles. No matter how busy, there was enthusiasm and the feeling that they wanted to give every patron the best eating experience possible. When a drum roll announced a birthday, they rushed to support the vigorous singing of Happy Birthday ( always in English in Ecuador ).
However, between visits, all that goodness appears to have changed !
Recently having returned to Quito, my arrival at the front door of the restaurant was met with a perfunctory " How many ? " and a menu was stuffed into my hand, as opposed to previously having been greeted, seated attentively and offered a refreshment. I found myself a table. The place was busy but not crowded. After waiting for over ten minutes for any manner of attention and much waving of arms, I got the attention of a waitress who came from another area. She took my order and disappeared. In all, four waitresses appeared and disappeared during my visit. The last, after I had eaten and was waiting for the bill, asked me what I would like to order. The staff was clearly disorganized and unmotivated.
The enthusiasm, smiling faces and efficient service that had previously characterized service were gone. Smiles had been replaced by frowns and enthusiasm replaced by the apparent drudged performance of duties. A slow, funeral march beat of a drum announced birthdays and few appeared to weakly sing the Happy Birthday song. Only one familiar face was evident among the staff and it, too, looked unhappy.
When the Baby Back Ribs and baked potato arrived, the potato was cold, almost frozen, inside. Taken back to the kitchen, it returned, too long later, still cool inside. By this time, what might have been tender, delicious Baby Back Ribs were cool, difficult to chew and unappetizing.
Such enormous changes in the overall character of a restaurant can only be explained by management failure.
Hopefully, this can be corrected soon and I will see the return of a once favored place to eat.
T.G.I. Fridays: An international chain restaurant.
Location: Quito, Ecuador, on Naciones Unides between Schyris and 6 Diciembre in the Quicentro North Mall.
Prices: Despite the overall poverty in the country, this and other international chains maintain North American prices to serve the more affluent city residents.
Reservations: None. It is first come first serve.
Website: http://www.tgifridays.ec/45-Quito.html . Spanish, includes menu.
Telephone: 02 226-4639
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