We arrived at about 6:15pm and as we walked through the door, a sign greeted us that said "please wait to be seated". We stood and waited. Nobody greeted us, nobody even acknowledged our presence for several minutes. (Complaining guests can be known to exaggerate, and so I will not claim it was five minutes, but it was certainly more than three). Finally, a frazzled server told us we could sit anywhere. So we found a table and sat down. Then we overheard another table being told they could not serve alcohol because they didn't have their license yet. OK, I can live without alcohol for an evening, no biggie.
So we sat staring into space but nothing happened. Finally, two glasses of water arrived - no menus yet. We ordered two Diet Cokes. Ten minutes later, after asking, we receive menus, but no Coke. Then the frazzled waitress finally came to take our order. We ordered and reminded her about the Cokes. There was no music in the room, and people were arriving and being ignored at the door, just like we were. I wanted to jump up and start taking charge. This was the second night that they were open and there was no atmosphere, no welcome, nobody having fun. Everyone was waiting an eternity for their meal and I was reminded of episodes of Hell's Kitchen or Kitchen Nightmares. The owner was behind the bar, presumably making sushi, studiously ignoring everyone.
The server came and told us our order would be up next. Twenty minutes later it still hadn't appeared. I am really patient in situations like this because I have been in nightmare services too and I know how they can go wrong, but I was concerned that the owner seemed completely oblivious to what was going on.
Finally our one plate of sushi arrived, 75 minutes after we arrived at the restaurant. The server said she was going to see if she could give us a discount or a free dessert or something. I asked if we could have a bowl for our soy sauce, and maybe also a plate. They were brought to the table and almost thrown at us.
I was so hungry at that point that I ate everything, even though the food was mediocre at best. The frazzled waitress cleared our table and I asked for the bill. I put my credit card on the table so I could give it to her as soon as the bill arrived; I wanted to leave at that point. She came past the table and whisked away my Visa before a bill had even been presented, then returned with the credit card slip for signature. She told me she didn't charge for the two Cokes.
I paid the $25 and also, against my better judgement, added a tip. We left and nobody said a word. Nothing. Zip.
When I got to the car, I was fizzing and told Ginnie I was going to go back in and tell the owner that he is not doing himself any favors by opening before he's ready. I quietly told him this and that our meal was extremely disappointing. He told me that he had to open because he has everything in this business, but he has no chef and the server didn't show up. So his cousin and aunt were serving. I repeated that he is losing customers and really creating a poor first impression. Otherwise, people like me will not return.
"That's fine" said he, all cocky and smart Alecky.
"So you don't care if customers don't return?".
"We get it", said he. "You don't have to come back".
No apology. No regret. No business or marketing sense whatsoever.
I really do understand how hard it is to own and run your own business (I've done it) and in the current economy it is all the harder. We all recognize that things can go wrong, but this is not an auspicious start to a new local business, and it is such a shame.
I hate to say this, but really, he doesn't deserve to succeed, which is all the sadder, because sometimes, even people who do it all right, also don't make it.