Salmon Surprise (2 Eyebrows)

You and your wife have worked hard all your lives. You’ve successfully raised two children, a boy and a girl, and they have families of their own. Now it’s time to settle into retirement and relax. You spend some time golfing and playing cards with the guys, and your wife takes yoga and joins a book club. Plus, you always make time for each other. Long walks along the creek and matinee movies are your favorites.  And let’s not forget Friday Fish Night.  For practically a lifetime, your wife has made a delicious fish dinner every week.

One afternoon on your ride home from the card game, you pass a local restaurant that specializes in seafood. The parking lot is packed. You’ve heard good things about it from your buddies. You decide to stop in and grab a menu.  You have an idea about future Friday Fish Nights.

Back at the house, your wife questions the delay in your arrival.  You show her the menu and present your case.  You explain how you appreciate all the years of Friday Fish Night, and even though it’s always been a family tradition, taking a break from the kitchen is timely and well deserved, especially since the kids are grown and moved out.

She is apprehensive of the change at first.  She reminisces about the children at the table, everyone reflecting on the week’s events.  It would be hard to let go.   However, she’s always trusted your decisions.  So after some careful thought, she  agrees to the plan.  It would be nice to get dressed up, be served, and especially not have to clean the dishes.

Friday night comes and you head to the restaurant. There is a line at the door and people are sitting in the lobby. The wait would be an hour. You hope the food is worth it. Your wife’s eye-rolling is becoming a bit of a concern. However, you do notice that some couples are walking directly to the hostess and being seated a few minutes later. You approach the girl and ask why the special treatment. She explains how they called ahead and made reservations. You take a mental note. If the food and service are as good as people say, then definitely remember to call first.

Finally you are seated. You get a table at the back of the restaurant, far from the noise of the kitchen and the bar. Plus, it’s near a window that reveals a beautiful flower garden. Things are looking up, and fingers are crossed about the food.

You both know beforehand what you are going to order, having gone through the menu at home. However, on the way back to your table, you had noticed a couple eating the most gorgeous pieces of salmon you’ve ever seen, and the smell was divine. You and your wife look at each other across the table and at the same time say, “Let’s get the salmon.”

And sure enough, the reputation of the restaurant remains intact.  Everything from the appetizers through dessert is extraordinary.  Even the service is impeccable. You suddenly have a feeling this will become a regular Friday night affair. And on the way out the door, you tell the manager just that. He smiles back and shakes your hand. He introduces himself as not only the manager, but also the owner. He ends with, “Next Friday?” You give him a wink and leave contented.

The following Friday arrives, and it’s smooth sailing. The wait is fifteen minutes, the table has the same view, and the food is amazing. And this time the owner notices you. He comes up to your table and asks how your dinner was. You say, “It was as expected, perfect!” He pats you on the back, excuses himself to your wife and questions as he walks away, “Same time next week?” And you reply, “For sure!”

Well, the next week comes, and the next after that, and the next after that. This goes on for nearly six months. It is time to share your good fortune. You and your wife decide to treat your grown children and their families to a nice dinner out. You call ahead as usual, but this time you ask to speak to the owner. By now you are on a first name basis. You tell him it’s a special occasion, and the party will be for eleven. The owner says it won’t be a problem, and he’ll inform the hostess.

Your whole group arrives at the restaurant right on schedule. And even with the extra people, the wait is only ten minutes. Your son and daughter are impressed.  The staff even combines tables in your regular section with the spectacular view.

Shortly after being seated, the eating begins.  Appetizers, bread, and salad are abundant, and the waitress is paying special attention to the younger kids, asking them if they can name the types of flowers in the garden. Things couldn’t be going better, and you are smiling with pride.

For the main course, you recommend the salmon and tell the story of the first time you and Mom went there. When the waitress returns for the order, all six adults pick the salmon. The kids order fish sticks and chicken fingers.

The wait for the entrees ends up being longer than you and your wife are accustomed to, but keeping in mind, the party is much bigger. Plus, it’s important to all be eating at the same time.  Two servers arrive and set the plates carefully in front of your family.  As they walk away, the waitress says, “Enjoy everyone.” And you quickly respond, “Oh, I’m sure we will.”

But before everyone digs in, you ask to say something. You hold your wife’s hand, and looking around the table at all three generations, with tears in your eyes, you tell them how grateful you are for having such a loving wife and family. Your kids raise their glasses to cheer you, and your wife gives you a kiss. This night will be truly memorable.  Unfortunately however, for more than you planned.

When you cut through your salmon, you notice it is firmer than usual. You expect it to be more tender. And usually the meat glistens with juices. But your salmon looks dry and tastes as such. It is obvious, the fish is over cooked. You turn to your wife and ask about her serving. But from the way she is chewing and reaching for her water, you already have your answer. Looking around the table, and it’s more of the same.

Your shoulders slump forward, and you shake your head. You push your chair back.  Quickly, your wife grabs your hand, saying, “Where are you going?” You reply, “I’m gonna talk to the boss.” She says, “Hold on.  It’s not that bad. It probably sat in the window a little too long waiting for the kids orders to be finished. If you say something, the owner will insist they make us six more salmons, and I don’t think the grandkids have it in them to wait. Just let it go and try to enjoy.” Overhearing the dialogue, your children agree.

You make it through the main course, and dessert is served. The cheesecake and ice cream are to die for. Everyone is raving about the creamy deliciousness and making interesting conversation. Well, except you of course. You are sitting there with hardly a bite missing from your cake, still stewing over the dry salmon.

You can’t wait to pay the check and go. And part of you wants to see the owner on the way out and say something. Is this a time for Callemonit?  You and your wife really look forward to the new Friday Fish Night. Are you going to make going there feel awkward? But then again, you know your personality. If you don’t Callemonit, you’ll talk about that darned fish the rest of night, driving everyone crazy.

Walking passed the bar, you see the owner talking to patrons. Seems like you’re going to have to live with the reality, it was just one night of dry salmon. But just then, you make eye contact with the owner. He says, “Hey guys, hold on.” He excuses himself and hurries over. He puts his hand on your shoulder, and looking across at your family, asks with confidence, “So, what’s the verdict, did you enjoy your meal?” Before you could say anything, your wife and family all say together, “Delicious!”

By the look on your face, the owner knows something is bothering you. He looks you in the eyes and says, “Hey Buddy, what’s up? Is everything ok?” You feel overwhelmed. You don’t really want to Callemonit, but without some sort of resolution, you’re going to be fixated for days, weeks. What to do? You need time to think of a direct but polite response. But then suddenly you blurt out, “It was dry…the salmon…it was over cooked.” Next comes complete silence. Your wife grabs her son by the arm and says, “Let’s go everybody. Grandma wants to show you the new car we bought.” She’s going to leave you guys there to figure it out, and you know she wants no part of it.

Just then, the owner says calmly, “Hold on, where you goin’? Please don’t hustle off.  Listen, if I simply got upset every time a customer wasn’t completely satisfied with my food, I’d be out of business. I appreciate honesty. Actually, I need honesty to be successful. In this industry, all too often, loyal customers suddenly leave and never come back. Owners don’t even know why. I must correct problems when they arise, and my customers should expect to get what they pay for. I will talk to the staff and get to the bottom of this. And I want to see all your faces again for a complimentary meal, free of charge.” He then turns to you and says, “Thanks friend. Seriously. Thank you for telling me.”

Later that evening, the owner addresses the entire staff, and he explains the need for better timing in regards to service, especially with large groups. It becomes a matter of absolute necessity, and the staff eagerly accepts the challenge.

And as for that second Friday Fish Night with the whole family, it happened a couple months later, and the food was delectable. This was a Callemonit success. Goodbye stress!

Have you ever had a disappointing meal at your favorite restaurant?  Did you dismiss it as simply a rare occurrence?  Did you tell management?  Did you post a review online or maybe make a comment on social media?

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