I’m always looking for different sit down restaurants that not only serve good food, but good reliable service as well. It’s especially important when you’ve got a packed schedule and want a good meal fast. Unfortunately, I received none of this at my recent dinner at Outback Steakhouse.
For those of you who’ve followed my other articles, you would know by now that I love to ‘mystery shop’. It’s about the only time you can get a very real and true experience of the establishment in question.
At prices averaging around $25 -$30 for an entree (before tax and service charge), you expect a certain level of professionalism. Upon walking by, the Outback Steakhouse at Orchard Gateway, Singapore looked like a well kept, and well staffed restaurant that wasn’t overly crowded. With plenty of open tables available and short on time, we decided to go in.
At the entrance we were greeted by the manager who asked us to wait till a server came out to show us a table. After waiting for about 10 minutes we looked inside and realized there were at least 5 empty tables yet no one was seating us. We flagged down a waitress and asked to be seated. She apologized for the wait and showed us to our table. This was just a precursor of the awful experience to come.
After being seated at table that was sticky and wet, we were never given a menu. We waited a few minutes and had to flag down another waitress to ask for our menus. After placing our orders – a typhoon bloom as an appetizer, a bacon cheeseburger with fries and my wife had the salmon – we were brought a loaf of bread to cut and serve ourselves… with no plates. Once again, I flagged down another waitress to ask for plates. She apologized and said she would bring them over.
After about 10 minutes we still did not have plates, so I flagged down yet another waitress and asked for plates again she apologized and shook her head, then brought us two plates. As I ordered my drink, I noticed they had free refills on iced tea and soft drinks, with a little note next to it that said “Please ask about our fruit teas”. I was then told by our waitress that they aren’t included in the free refills, which is very misleading as they are in the same paragraph.
Then our appetiser, the Typhoon Bloom, came. At first look, it was quite appetising and looked the same as the picture in the menu. Then we tasted it and our joy at finally getting food was short-lived. A Typhoon Bloom is essentially a fried onion in the shape of onion rings. It should be nice and crunchy on the outside, while warm and soft on the inside. This was the opposite. It was wet and soft on the outside, with what tasted like a raw onion on the inside. It was a serious let down, but still not as bad as what was to come.
The disappointment continued as our mains arrived. The salmon was not only a tiny portion, but also very dry and tasteless. The seasoned vegetables served on the side appeared to have been pulled out of a frozen food bag sold at Cold Storage and reheated. It was an absolute abomination of a dish.
While, the burger that was served to us looked good, it was not the one I ordered. I received the typhoon burger, which had more of the terrible deep fried onions on it instead of the bacon cheeseburger i wanted. Also there were only about 6 fries on the side. I’ve seen more fries in a happy meal at McDonald’s.
Being quite frustrated at this point, I called over yet another waitress and told her the mistake. She was quite apologetic and said they would fix it. I informed her that I was in a rush, and asked how long it would take to make. She said she would have the manager come over.
15 minutes later she comes over and says the manager is busy, but the kitchen can have it made in 5 minutes. This is a common trick used by restaurants to get you to complete your order. They make an excuse to get you to wait and then bring it out before you can say no. All the while my free refill drink was never refilled by the waitresses who had waited on my table.
What really made matters worse was that the manager who was too busy to come and speak with a paying customer after all the unfortunate events of the evening, was sitting at a table very close to us, yet didn’t make the time to address our concerns. Had he come over and spoken with us, he could have diffused the situation.
A good manager is able to handle problems that arise in a restaurant, not simply ignore them. In order to pacify me I was offered a soup “on the house”. Unfortunately it was the worst soup I’d ever seen. I had one taste and turned it away. It tasted like old soup that had been reheated. It was by far one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted.
When a waiter saw me turn it away he offered to bring me something else. I declined and just wanted my burger. Up until now, I still had yet to see the manager make any effort to come and address us or the problem. Only a waiter had offered to help us.
Finally after another 15 minutes or so, my replacement burger arrived. So much for 5 minutes. The burger looked good enough except that it had a huge “finger” hole in the top of the bun. At this point I was both starving and frustrated, especially since my free refill drink still hadn’t been refilled. But I decided to just eat and get the heck out of there.
About half way through my burger I realized there was a hair in my fries. I couldn’t take it anymore and asked to speak to the manager. The poor waitress face turned 3 shades of red from embarrassment. At this point in the dinner, I had not been addressed by the manager once. When I asked to speak to the manager he just sent someone over to apologize.
I then said to the waitress ” I’m actually a food reviewer. Can I have the managers card, I will be doing a review on this restaurant.” Almost immediately I see the same manager running over to my table. All of a sudden we were offered desserts, which we politely declined, settled our bill and left.
It’s sad that I had to pull out the “reviewer” card to to actually get any kind of decent service and attention from the manager. I’m always sceptical about the whole show that’s put on when you attend an event that’s meant for the media. While you can taste and get an idea about the food that’s going to be served daily, customer service (which in my opinion, either makes or breaks a joint) can never be assessed then. Which is why I always prefer to go incognito.
I can honestly say that this was such a bad experience, I’ll probably never go again. Stay away from Outback Steakhouse, it’s a stinker. This restaurants gets the Juan Pablo stinker of the month award. Here’s to hoping I don’t get food poisoning tomorrow. By the way, I’m still waiting for my drink to be refilled.