There was a review this morning in Toronto Life for the new Parkdale “hotspot” Electric Mud which, surprisingly, rated the bourbon and barbecue joint a mere 1.5 stars. I say surprisingly because, since its inception, Electric Mud has received a series of just-short-of-rave reviews from most Toronto media outlets who pay attention to such things. For example, the Globe and Mail called the food “obscenely, shockingly good,” NOW noted simply that “Electric Mud Rocks,” and even blogTO offered some reluctant praise, admitting the fare was “pretty fucking good.” Everyone, with the exception of Toronto Life I guess, seems fairly enamoured with Electric Mud. And with a bourbon-heavy cocktail list, barbecue on the menu, a classic rock soundtrack, and Bellwoods beer on tap, Electric Mud seems to me to be just about everything I could ask for in a bar/eatery.
I should be itching to go there and see what all the fuss is about.
But I’m not.
The reason is simple: Electric Mud is yet another Toronto establishment that has seen fit to do away with what would seem to be one of the most basic elements of a dining establishment: Reservations.
For some reason, a growing number of restaurants in this city seem to think it adds cachet to do away with the ability to make sure patrons can get a table at a time that’s convenient for them. I don’t get it it. It doesn’t make a place cooler, it’s just fucking annoying.
The city’s restaurant goers however, seem to disagree with me. Indeed, the owners of Electric Mud, Colin Tooke and Ian McGrenaghan, likely opted for the no reservations model given that they previously had such success with it at their other establishment, Grand Electric. If people were willing to wait hours to come in and eat tacos, it stands to reason that people would be willing to queue up for BBQ, they must have thought.
And they were right.
In its first few days of operation, lineups at Electric Mud as long as three hours were not unheard of.
Three fucking hours.
I’m sure the barbecue is great, but I wouldn’t wait three hours to have a tumor removed (Seriously, after maybe 45 minutes in the waiting room, I’d probably throw down my copy of US Weekly and just say, “Fuck this, I’ll deal with the cancer.”)
Why are we willing to accept this?
For me, going to a restaurant is about service. When I go out for a meal, I want to be served. I’d like to walk in and go directly to my seat and have my dining needs taken care of. That’s what I pay for. Why is it becoming increasingly acceptable to put up with less service in exchange for decent food?
“So when you walk in the server kicks you in the neck and you have to sit on construction rubble, but their coleslaw is the best.”
I understand that it probably saves money to avoid reservation-taking (there’s no requirement for a host or hostess and I guess you save money on pens) but with places like Electric Mud, that are packed from open to close, I’m going to go ahead and assume you can cough up some dough for a minimum wage hostess and a fucking notebook.
I also get that the prescription reservation websites like Open Table charge a fee, but seriously, when you’re in the customer service industry, you need to make sacrifices to provide customer service. When I have time to go out for dinner, I’d like to know it’s a guarantee. I don’t want to have to gamble or wait for half an hour by the door, leering at people finishing their meal and willing them to eat faster. Similarly, I don’t want to be glared at by hungry people while I’m eating and I don’t want to feel rushed so my server can improve his/her turnover.
A restaurant should be grateful for a person’s patronage, not the other way around. Frankly I find places that ask you to put up with wait times vaguely arrogant. It’s like saying, “You want to come in here and give us your business and money? You’re going to wait an hour.”
Well, I won’t. I’m going somewhere else.