ON THE BORDER/ON - MEXICAN GRILL & CANTINA - PARAMUS, NJ
(IMAGE PROVIDED VIA GOOGLE)
Today I was out with the family and looking for some lunch after a good afternoon at Ikea. The other day my wife had wanted to go to On The Border and we had opted to go someplace else for lunch. But today we decided to head in and give it a shot. We enjoy Mexican food and we were hungry.
I usually start off by talking about how the experience began from the second that we would walk into a restaurant and then get into the food followed by service. But today I want to discuss first impressions and lasting impressions together. I feel that it is important, especially in this case.
We walked in and we were quickly greeted by one of the servers to help us get seated. He was pleasant and nice. I thought that he was going to be our server and I was happy about it. He walked away to give service to one of his other tables and then we were greeted by a nice woman named Zhane. She began and was pleasant like the previous server. She had chips and salsa in her hand ready to serve which was great because my daughter had just finished saying that she wanted some chips. Zhane took our orders and brought us our drinks quickly. The beginning of the experience was looking great and was going well...
The waiting game began. I don't mean that I waited for my food. I waited for a follow up visit. Yes, our server seemed to be like one of those servers out there that might think that taking an order and putting it into the point of sale screen may be all that is expected of her. I'm not sure, but it seemed that way. I had finished my strawberry lemonade pretty quickly. I was thirsty and it tasted good. I wanted to get another one. Zhane had walked pasted our table numerous times while not paying attention. She had a case of "walking with blinders on." Let me explain. Do you know how horses wear blinders on their heads so that they are not distracted by what is around them? This is a common thing that many servers suffer from. Instead of working their station with their head on a swivel, they walk straight ahead with either their head looking down or or straight ahead while not letting them get distracted by anything around them. Especially a wanting guest. One secret that some servers need to learn is that if they master the swivel, they will more than likely make more money. They are better able to serve the guest.
My glass remained empty until the food came out. Even worse, my pregnant wife was in serious need of some water. You may ask, why didn't I flag down someone else? Why didn't I ask for a manager? Well the other kind server who sat us seemed to also suffered from "walking with blinders" and there was no manager in site. I can't stress again how important it is to help out your teammates and make sure you are on top of your tables.
The food came out, Zhane gave us our meals and then asked us if we needed anything else as she began to walk away. Why? Why separate yourself so much from your guests? Why not seem sincere as you ask? These are all great questions. She said that she would bring us some more napkins after she asked if we needed anything else. I had still not answered her. I made it a point to ask for the water. After that request, she finally realized that I may want another lemonade. It took maybe 8 or 9 minutes to get the water, napkins and lemonade.
I noticed that there was no real station separation for the servers. They were taking tables all over the restaurant. You may ask me, maybe she was overwhelmed with the amount of tables that she had? Maybe. There were also two other servers on the shift, I believe I may have seen a fourth and it was not busy. It was mid afternoon after the lunch rush. Also again, where was the manager? There was still no manager on the floor at all. Manager presence is a must especially during meal periods.
We finished eating, it didn't take us long. My daughter's kids meal came with a dessert. We intended to pack up her food, order her the dessert and get the check so that we could leave when we finished. My daughter was excited. It was still a good day at this point. But then I could not get Zhane's attention for the life of me. She had visited some tables near us. Each time that she would move through the dining room, I would attempt to wave her down or get her attention. At one point I was just waiting for her to lift her head up. "Walking with blinders" was at it's worst here folks. I stacked my plates at the end of the table to make it obvious and began the waiting game again. I just wanted to see how long it took for her to look in our direction at this point. It took us twenty minutes to get her attention. I asked for the check and a to go box for my daughter's food and decided to skip the dessert for my daughter that came with her meal because we just could not wait anymore.
What started out as a great experience quickly turned into a restaurant nightmare. I blame the manager just as much as I blame the server. If I had seen him/her I would have definitely aired my frustration with him/her.
(PHOTO TAKEN BY JOHN BOCCELLARI)
I had the Brisket Tacos. I don't have much to say about them, they were amazing. I could eat these tacos all day. But I find that the service that I had received definitely effected the food in general overall.
This visit really bothered me. It was my first time eating here. I enjoyed the food. I wanted to enjoy the experience though. I wanted my family to enjoy the experience. That is what dining out is, it's an experience. Each and every time. It's meant to be happy and carefree. We work hard for the money that we spend. Through my experience I know how hard servers work for what they make, that's why I still tipped 20% today. I don't write this to shame the server or to make her feel bad. But I'm going to be tough. I hope that she reads this and takes my words as a tough love type coaching. I want her to give great service and make more money each shift because I know how hard shifts can get at times. I have been there and I am still there in the same grind each day. Please, it's the little things that make the most impact. All I am asking of you to do is the bare minimum and show that you care.
I give today's visit 2 stars out of 5. Poor service brings down the entire experience. I don't think I will visit an On The Border again due to this. It's just the type I am. I usually don't say anything and I never return. This may have been one of those times.
On The Border
LOCATION: Westfield Garden State Plaza
71 S RT 17
Paramus, NJ 07652
PHONE NUMBER: (201) 397-1175