A party of five arrived at the recently opened Cheddarâ€™s restaurant. They came with curiosity to learn about this new establishment for cuisine, and they came with a hunger. After steering through a parking lot loaded with cars like a mall at Christmas time, the party strode up to the glass double doors to encounter a mob of people milling about, or sitting on polished and stained wood benches in the stone-etched wait area. Twenty-five minutes sounded like a reasonable wait, considering the newness of the eatery and the St. Joseph six-month glut that happens to all newly opened dining halls. If the food is good, then what is a little wait, after all? That is what went through the heads of the party of five as they stood there watching the rotations of the exotic rattan fans over the main dinning area. Once escorted to their table, they learned that good food sometimes was not enough for a complete dinning experience.
This party of five had three people that were in any measure of the word, overweight. Their combined mass being almost 1,000 pounds and one of them was only 7 years old. The hostess sat the party at a 2 1/2-by-4 feet table squeezed into a tiny nook alongside the bar. There was another party of five ladies of the Red Hat Society squeezed into the adjoining nook. Throughout the building there were only twelve tables meant for a party of five plus. Two minutes later, the server showed up to take the order. Four minutes later, an order of two appetizers, the Idaho nachos and the chips and queso, a marinated chicken breast with mixed vegetables, a vegetable plate with baked potato soup, an order of battered shrimp, a chicken fried steak dinner with white gravy over mashed potatoes, and a steak and chicken tenders plate with a side of broccoli casserole and sweet carrots was sent off to the kitchen.
Six minutes later all of the assorted clutter, dessert and drink menus and promotional wooden stands had to be removed from the plank that passed for a table so the two appetizers could be set out. Two minutes after that the soup was delivered? After a total ticket time of twenty-four minutes, dinner had at last arrived. At least the extended wait allowed the party of five to finish their appetizers; otherwise, there would have been no room on the table for dinner.
The food was not bad, although the juggling experience of managing so small a setting was a bit of a dampener on the partyâ€™s mood. The service was sub par, but they did open only on Oct. 30. And should a franchise of a national chain really be expected to handle a busy Thursday night at dinner time with smooth operations?
For Chris Enright, owner and manager, who employs the 70 front of the house and 30 back of the house employees, this was his 18th opening.
â€œIt was smoother than most,â€ Enright said. â€œThis opening in St. Joe far exceeded my expectations.â€
For the party of five that were squeezed into an uncomfortable environment and banging each otherâ€™s elbows against each other, things were most certainly not smooth. While the food was not bad, it was not so good as to make up for the poor dinning experience. One thing that was smooth was Manager Paul Hodges, who noticed the party of fiveâ€™s discomfort and ventured to make up for as much of the bad experience as he could. Hodges was more than helpful and concerned with the happiness of his patronage. Integrity in leadership can go a long way, but it still did not remove the bad taste from the mouths of this party of five. For their appetites and money, 54th Street is still the best game in town.