My First and LAST Time at Hy-Vee Market Grille

If you're from the central midwest, you've probably heard of the grocery store chain, Hy-Vee. It's a middle-grade grocery store, not full-on gourmet, but not a discount store, either. They're employee owned and they usually have decent stuff. It's a bit more expensive than Walmart, but they have a higher quality of fruits and vegetables and a larger selection of organic food, which is mostly why I shop there. In the last year or two, they've been adding a restaurant to many of their stores here in Kansas City, which is named Market Grille. We decided to try it, and we were not very happy with our experience.

This all started in early May, the day after my husband's immigration interview. We wanted to celebrate his recommendation for citizenship, so we went out to lunch. We don't eat out very often since I cook so much, and we didn't really know where we should eat. We settled on Hy-Vee Market Grille since it was supposed to be such fresh food. 

Fucking shit... We were there for over an hour for just burgers.

We got there and waited at the front counter for at least five minutes before the guy came to help us. We both got the special--a burger, fries, and a drink for $6.99. We both ordered cheddar on our well-done burgers. We were given two small plastic cups and pointed toward the Coke Freestyle machine. He said we could sit wherever we wanted. 

Most of the tables were empty and dirty. We found a clean one in the corner and sat down.  In the middle of the room, several tables had been pushed together so that a group of ten could sit together. He'd said that he'd put our order in first so that it wouldn't be stuck behind the large order he'd taken from the cluster in the middle. They got their apps after ten minutes, but whatever. We figured our burgers couldn't be too far behind.

Twenty minutes later, the guy came out with two burgers and said, "American and gouda?" Um, no. We both had cheddar. He apologized and took the food to the right table. A table that I'm pretty sure got there a while after we did, but contained a guy who worked for Hy-Vee, so it was possible he got his order put in before we'd arrived. 

Another fifteen minutes had passed when I saw someone exit the kitchen carrying two burgers. He walked around to the other side of the huge wall/partition that splits the dining room and was intercepted by the guy who'd helped us earlier. They talked for a couple of minutes before he finally came back into view with our plates and set them down. He hightailed it out of there and was not to be seen again until long past when we were ready to leave.

My husband and I both reached for our fries first. They were cold and hard like they'd been overcooked and then left to sit out for a while. I only ate three fries off of my plate. They were just intolerable. I tried to build my burger--a hugely thick patty that was smaller around than the bun because whoever formed the patty is a moron. It's charred black on the outside, but at least it wasn't bloody on the inside. (I love my steaks to be medium, but I only eat thoroughly cooked burgers.) I had two complete stacks of toppings on my plate--lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. My husband had one stack and it only contained the first three. No pickles for Karim, who's just trying to celebrate. I insisted he take one of my stacks of veggies.

The stack that I kept was despicable. Part of the lettuce was hanging off the edge of the plate and it was literally dried to a crisp like it had been dehydrated under the heat lamp. The lettuce that rested on the plate was hot, dark, and wilted. I wasn't eating that crap. I don't eat raw onions, and the tomato slices had a gritty texture when I touched it--a sure sign of them being hothouse garbage. So, I only put the two pickle slices on my burger. 

There were no condiments. No ketchup or mustard sat on the table. We were not offered any. There were no small ramekins of sauces to accompany our burgers. We were expected to eat them dry. No mayo, no mustard, no ketchup, no BBQ sauce, no nothing. And dry they were! The buns were hard and stale but also toasted in order to make them extra dry and hard. All that time under the heat lamp sure didn't soften them any, either. Like, could they not even bother to give us fucking packets of ketchup for our fries? I'd seen stuff for coffee and tea over by the drink machine--sugar, creamer, etc.--but I sure didn't see any ketchup anywhere. Not that I eat ketchup, anyway, but most people do, so...What the fuck?

When we were done, we waited for our bill. We waited to complain. We waited for over ten minutes after we were finished, getting more and more angry that this guy was nowhere in sight. Finally, we went to stand by the front counter, while I looked back into the kitchen. It's clearly a shared kitchen for the hot deli, salad bar, soup bar, Chinese food, and pizza bar that are all inside the grocery store. We waited some more.

Another customer approached me and we started talking about how it seemed like this one guy is the only person who works in the restaurant part. There's no bartender, even though several people were sitting at the bar, drinking. There was no cashier. There were no other servers. He and the obvious cook who came out of the kitchen with our food were the only people we'd seen. But the one guy who's working was spending 90% of his time in the kitchen, well out of sight and earshot of his patrons. Bad. Fucking. Job. One of the first things you learn working the floor at a restaurant is the 80-20 rule--80% of your time is spent on the floor and no more than 20% of your time is spent in the back. And you'd damn well better be in the back for a reason, like retrieving an order.

The only good reason he could've been back there so much was if it was also his job to cook everything for that restaurant. If that's the case, shame on you, Hy-Vee, for placing so much on the shoulders of one person when there is a kitchen full of people. If it's a shared kitchen, it should be shared work. 

Finally...FINALLY! This guy comes out of the back. He's not carrying anything. All of that time in the kitchen, ignoring the paying customers, and he's not even bringing out anyone's food! The big table of ten people has still only gotten their appetizers. Whatever. His friendliness and seeming attentiveness once he sees we've seen him is all just a spectacular front. Dude should be an actor. If he really cared as much as his smile claimed he does, he would have done his job better. 

"Oh, hi! Were you guys ready to check out?" he asked us as he rushed to the computer.

"Yep." I popped hard on the p, showing my dissatisfaction. "We have been for a while." Yes, I'm sassy. Or a bitch. Whatever. If I'm not happy, you're going to know it. I'll get mouthy. I don't expect perfection, but I expect people to try. I've never understood complacency in others. How can people not try to be better? How can they be fine with remaining stagnant? But that's a whole other thing...

His brow furrowed. "Are...are you sure you didn't already pay?" He looked up at us, his smile fading in his (perhaps feigned?) confusion. 

"I...I don't know. I don't have a receipt." I turned to my husband. "Did you pay? When we got here?"

Now it's his turn to look confused. "I don't carry cash. I didn't swipe a card?" He wasn't sure and he stared off at nothing, trying to remember. "No?" He said it like a question, still not positive.

"I have cash, but did I pay?" I looked in my wallet, but it didn't matter since I didn't know how much money I had, anyway. 

"I only have three open tickets," the guy said while he looked at his computer. "The table of ten, a table of three, and the people at the bar. I don't have an open ticket for your burgers."

"But I don't have a receipt. I keep my receipts."

He shrugged. "Sometimes, they get lost in the shuffle up here."

I looked up at my husband and saw it in his eyes. Let's go. 

Fine. I wasn't going to complain. I wasn't going to let this guy have it. I'd already unloaded by telling the dude from the bar that it was terrible and we'd never be back. He'd commiserated with me, said the place was great when it first opened. Fully staffed, quick service, good food. Anymore, though, it was only ever one person, even during dinner. They were killing their own restaurant by not staffing the damned thing. Sucks to be them, I guess.

We checked all of our cards later. None of them had a charge for our meal on it. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure that we hadn't paid. I don't recall ever hearing a total, nor do I remember dropping coins into my wallet, both of which are things I always take particular notice. Then there's the receipt...If I'm not given one, I ask for it. 

Now, I'm certain I've unraveled the mystery. I believe I've figured out why it was free and why it took so fucking long. He didn't complete our order. He didn't do whatever he had to do to send our order to the kitchen. There wasn't an open ticket, because there wasn't a ticket, period. When he brought out the other people's burgers, he realized that they should have been ours. He went back into the kitchen like, where are my other burgers? He had to have them make them on the fly. But clearly the cooks suck at timing and staging orders, so they dropped the fries and started the burgers at the same time. Prepped the plate, cold veggies and dry bun sitting with the heat lamp ruining it all while it waited for meat. The meat got added and it sat there and waited for a good while longer until a cook came out to look for him since he'd needed these now ruined burgers so urgently. He probably stood over there, arguing with the cook, then gave up and brought us our crappy food.

Yeah. That's my theory. He probably hid in the back to hide from us. I was facing the kitchen while we waited for our food and ate. I've been told that I have one hell of a mean/angry-face. I've never really seen it for myself, but I have seen other people's faces when they see me irate or furious. So, I think he let us have our food for free because he forgot to enter our ticket. I think he was avoiding confrontation by confusing and surprising me with free food because an angry woman wearing a camo floppy hat over purple hair is more likely to make a scene.

Well, scene avoided, dude.

Future customers avoided, too. An understaffed restaurant stays empty because no one wants to come back. I also won't be going back because if this is what happened--if he really forgot to send back our ticket and then just let us have it for free--then he should have told us. He should have come to the table and explained why it was taking so long and that it would be free for the inconvenience. That would have been much preferred over us waiting, wondering, and getting angrier the longer we waited. A sure-fire way to have cemented that we'd go back would have been to offer a free dessert after our meal. But, then...that's how I do my customer service, so...yeah. Either way, we won't be going back due to poor customer service.