Thursday, January 02, 2014

Restaurant Serving Times: 2013 Year in Review

Another year of timing how fast restaurants serve me my food is in the books.

(Don't know how this works? Here are the rules. Basically, any time I go to the type of restaurant where a waiter or waitress takes my order and brings me my food, I time how long it takes to get my food. I have a spreadsheet that lists every such restaurant I've been to, and its time, that goes back through June 2004.)

Fastest restaurant of 2013: Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, NC (2 min, 53 sec). Barbecue restaurants tend to be among the fastest, because depending on the style, the food has already been cooked before you order it. All they really have to do is plop some meat and a side or two on a plate, and bring it out. Still, though, in the nearly 20 years I've been doing this - the spreadsheet goes back through 2004, but I've been timing since 1994 - this is only the second time a restaurant has gone under three minutes: Lexington Barbecue.

Ideal Hot Dog in Toledo, OH had taken "fastest restaurant" honors each of the past two years with times of 3:39 and 4:38, but I think a sub-3:00 time is out of their league. Nevertheless, I at least gave them an opportunity for the three-peat in November. Sadly, their time wasn't even close: 10:48, good for only 7th fastest of 2013.

I think this means I need to visit both Lexington Barbecue and Ideal Hot Dog at least once per year, every year. Lexington isn't exactly conveniently located, though: it's a 90 minutes drive from home, and while it's sort of on the way to Charlotte, we don't travel down to Charlotte all that often anymore. So there's no guarantee I'll make it back to Lexington in 2014, but I hope I do.

Speaking of which, you know what would be awesome? If we could find a way to get to Waffle Shop in State College, PA again. Haven't been since March 2010. It's a bit longer of a drive than Lexington is, though.

Slowest restaurant of 2013: Olive Garden in Willow Grove, PA (36 min, 17 sec). Just as barbecue restaurants can be fast, Italian restaurants can be slow. Among parties of four or fewer, the three slowest serving times of all time are all Italian restaurants. Two of those are Olive Garden, including this year's visit in Willow Grove, north of Philadelphia, and sort of in the general direction of the Bucks County Curling Club. The time of 36:17 was not only the slowest of this year, it's also the slowest of the last three years.

I don't know exactly what did it this time, but we were sitting at a table closer to the bar, instead of in the traditional seating area. Maybe that means that bar-area service is slower? Perhaps. Olive Garden might have the highest variance of all the chain restaurants I go to regularly. Even though they've gone over 30 minutes three times in nine visits - that's a pretty poor ratio if you ask me - they've also posted times of 13:08 and 8:21.

Speaking of restaurants we go to regularly, Cracker Barrel was the restaurant we went to the most in 2013: five times. And we still have another $10 in Cracker Barrel gift card money left! Cracker Barrel (5) and Olive Garden (3) were the only restaurants I went to more than once this year, and with the exception of the Morrisville Cracker Barrel (twice), all of those visits were to different locations.

National chain restaurants - Olive Garden, Applebee's, Red Lobster, etc - have been slowest of the year three times now, but have never been fastest of the year. Surprised? I'm guessing no.

Looking back, neither Amber nor Marla were present for the fastest OR the slowest times of the year in 2013. They missed out!

Other noteworthy times: Page Road Grill in Durham posted the 5th fastest "party of 7 or more" time on record (since 2004), at 13:13. That was about the only other noteworthy time posted this year, beyond the fastest and slowest. Fact is, most restaurants I go to clock in at between 10 and 20 minutes, and it's usually pretty boring.

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