Monday, January 25, 2016
Saying Good-Bye to Long John Silvers
In my teens, I discovered a restaurant called Long John Silvers. That first time I was attending a district meeting for my denomination, and my fellow representatives of my local church chose to dine at Long John Silvers. Although I never had a particular liking for fish, I discovered that I really loved the fried fish at Long John Silvers. After that, whenever I traveled, and had the opportunity to dine at Long John Silvers, I did so. I realized I liked all their offerings, including the shrimp, the clams, the hush puppies, and the fries. Every place does fries differently, and I really enjoyed how the LJS fries tasted.
When my wife and I moved to our present house, one of the attractions was that there was a Long John Silver in the neighborhood. We enjoyed dining there for a year or so, and got to know most of the people who worked there. The chain did a children's meal tie-in with the big budget Hollywood movie "Lost In Space" during that time, and when the promotion finished, one of the workers gave me the LJS/Lost In Space T-shirt the staff had worn during that period. Unfortunately, after a year or so of operation, the chain went into bankruptcy, and one of the measures they used to save the company involved shutting down my local restaurant.
Still, I wore that black LJS/Lost In Space shirt for years, and dined at other Long John Silvers whenever circumstances allowed.
Recently, I've found it difficult to find a good Long John Silvers that I really enjoyed eating at. Sometimes the food is greasy. Sometimes the prices are too high. For the last two years, my wife and I have traveled out to the restaurant in El Cajon every month or so. Sure, there's a Wal-Mart out there, and a comic book store, and other places we can stop that make the trip worthwhile, but really, that long drive, out there and back, was all about the fish.
The fact is that the manager at that Long John Silvers always made sure the food was cooked well. The fish was rarely greasy or dried. But the meals grew increasingly expensive. For a fast food restaurant, you ought to be able to get a filling meal for six or seven dollars per person, maximum. But the chain has adopted a policy of pricing all the menu items far higher than they should be. They offer coupons on their website, which brings the price down. But then if you add something to your meal, up rockets the price again. The manager of the El Cajon store has also adopted a strange policy of refusing to give you a plate unless you order a meal with two side items. What? You dared order a combo, that only comes with one side item? Sorry! You're not entitled to a plate!
So, when we planned our trips out there, we brought our own plates with us. We typically used coupon deals, and bought less food than we would have liked, simply because they charged too much to go off-coupon. The portions of the side items were never generous, but they were usually adequate. This last time, however, our portions of fries looked particularly skimpy. The crumbs that come with the fish have always been free, but the manager had loaded up the container with crumbs. When I pulled out the crumbs, and took my container up to the desk, the manager insisted that she had weighed my side order, had given me a full two ounces of fries, and refused to give me a few more. This irritated my wife, who has no great love for Long John Silvers, has put up with the plate nonsense, and driven me the twenty miles or so each way for so long to get me the food I enjoy. And let's face it, two ounces really isn't a lot for a side item. Especially when you consider that the menu price for a side of fries is two dollars. So my wife complained about this all during the meal, which made it possible to forget how the manager had treated us. She also refused to let me eat any of my portion of fries, so that I could take it home, weigh it, photograph it, and share my experience online. As a result, I left the restaurant still hungry, and deeply disappointed.
Sadly, my suspicions were confirmed when I returned home. The fries in my basket only weighed one-and-a-half ounces, not the requisite two.
If you love a restaurant or a chain, you should frequent it, and support it, as often as you can. Not only have I done this, but I've also given them my feedback in numerous surveys. Unfortunately, the manager of this restaurant, by her actions, and the chain, by its failure to manage policies and people effectively, have made it clear that their last concern is guest satisfaction. So while I still love Long John Silvers, it seems that, going forward, I must choose different restaurants to frequent and support. Restaurants that care not just about serving good food at reasonable prices, but also about making my dining experience as pleasant as possible.
Good-bye, Long John Silvers. I loved you once, but sadly, no more.