Friday, October 30, 2009


It was sometime Wednesday that I noticed an item in my electronic in-box: a coupon that invited us to Houlihan’s - one of those popular American restaurant chains, in case you live outside of the U.S., or in a cardboard box in a swamp - where we could enjoy any burger or sandwich for a mere five simoleons.

That offer sounded attractive enough. There’s a Houlihan’s close by, and the food there is reasonably good. I don’t usually order their burgers or sammitches, but I’d be willing to do so given the price incentive they were dangling in front of me. And all I had to do was bring my iPhone and show our waiter the e-mail - I didn’t even have to print it out! Gotta love that Modrin Technology.

And thus we headed over to Houlihan’s in the evening... only to be greeted by a mob of people and a forty-five minute projected wait. For everyone else on the planet had received the same e-mail offer.

We normally don’t wait excessive amounts of time for a restaurant table, especially at a chain operation... but a lot of people were bailing, which meant our wait turned out to be not nearly so long. And, by coincidence, our friends Barry and Malka showed up, so we decided to join forces and dine together.

When we were seated, we saw plenty of empty tables. But with a long wait on what normally is a quiet night, what was going on? Well, it seemed that the place had not laid on extra waitstaff in anticipation of the rush of business the e-mail campaign would generate. Either Corporate was not communicating with the local operations... or the local shop’s manager did not have his shit in one sock.

We ordered our meals... and, some fifteen minutes later (!) were informed that they had run out of burgers.

Run out of burgers... on the day of a major Burger Promo. Genius, I tells ya!
Corporate: “We’re going to have a special e-mail promo that will double your store’s traffic. Be sure to order in plenty of hamburgers.”

Local Management: “Naaah.”
The waiter was polite (albeit harried) and energetic. We suggested that it would be a good idea if we could order an alternative dish - and not necessarily a sandwich - at the five-buck price. We thought this was a reasonable request, given the length of time it took for them to figure out that they couldn’t give us what we had ordered. The waiter agreed... and the manager did, too.

And thus it was that we dined like kings for mere pennies. I had a an iceberg wedge salad and a steak... the Mistress a huge pile of pot roast... the Missus an ahi tuna salad... and each one, only five bucks.

Dined like kings? Well, maybe very patient kings... for our dishes were long in arriving. I’m figuring the crew, from waitstaff to kitchen, was overwhelmed. Completely in the weeds. And then, at the end, our check was miscalculated and had to be redone.

The meal took about an hour longer than it should have. Oy!

All in all, if the objective of Houlihan’s burger promo was to get people into the house, they succeeded. Partially. But if it was to make a good impression, it was a dismal failure. Only our knowledge that it’s not always like that will keep us coming back. (Plus, the food is pretty good.)

Message to Corporate... and to the Local Management, too: It pays to plan ahead!

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