Disaster at the Iron Horse

One of my favorite places in Missoula is a restaurant called the Iron Horse. By Missoula standards, it is a classy, yet casual, place to go.  The restaurant has two different levels and then it has patio seating in three different locations around the building. The long main bar on the ground level is marble, seating is spacious, and service is great. The place serves as a popular meeting spot for people taking a break from work during the day and once night hits it becomes one of Missoula’s busiest hot spots for the college and young adult crowd. Yesterday, the Iron Horse faced a horrific situation.

                                    Me with Fawn at one of my favortie places, the Iron Horse

Whenever The University of Montana hosts a Griz Football game, the whole community of Missoula directly benefits. Businesses that deal with lodging, shopping, and food receive great boosts during six different Saturdays in the autumn. Yesterday, with it being Homecoming, the community very well could have had its most profitable day. Definitely, it was crucial to have everything working and for everyone to be on their “A” game.
Of course, the Iron Horse was slammed yesterday. The place was overrun with happy Griz fans wanting to celebrate the football team’s 55-28 dismantling of Northern Colorado. People were in the mood to commemorate the Homecoming win by buying lots of food and drinks. Suddenly, during the peak time, the restaurant’s bill software crashed and disaster rolled in.
When the software crashed, the Iron Horse servers no longer had access to the computers that enables them to keep the running tabs of their various tables. Worse yet, their ability to make credit/debit  card transactions was totally wiped out. My friend who is a waitress at the Iron Horse told me the incident that happened was something she has nightmares about. Yesterday, she got to live that nightmare out in front of one of the Iron Horse’s largest crowds of the year.
With the software down, all of the current tabs in the restaurant vanished from the computers. The servers were forced to piece back what everyone had ordered at their respective tables from memory. Once they did their best to remember every single drink that was ordered and every single miniscule menu item or extra side that was placed, they had to manually add up the total, constantly cross referencing the menu to make sure they had the right price. After they had hand written the receipt out they had to copy it TWICE more so they had documentation for the restaurant patrons, the register, and the kitchen.  Obviously, doing a task like this that takes a lot of memory and a lot of math takes time…time that is not available when you are serving to an anxious full house on a Saturday evening. People started to get impatient. Patrons who wanted another drink right away were not satisfied. People who expected their server to check in with them every two minutes felt snubbed. The numerous grumps who needed their check right away were fuming. Top notch, prompt service was simply not available due to the circumstances.
Believe it or not, the night got rougher for the poor wait staff at the Iron Horse. Remember how I mentioned that credit card payment was now unavailable? This completely infuriated many of the people dining in at the restaurant last night. Many of them took the low road and berated their server, giving them an earful about the inconvenience and the terrible experience they were undergoing. Some people took an even lower road and simply walked out of the restaurant. Yes, I am not kidding here. Some people decided to “Seacrest Out” and abandon their tabs altogether. With the chaos that was going on in the restaurant with the wait staff doing a thousand different things at once and the deep level of fury that was being generated by the customers, the Iron Horse could unfortunately do very little to stop the jerks who felt that a problem beyond anyone’s control entitled them to a free meal.
It kept getting worse for the servers. When they clocked out of their shifts, they had no idea how much they owed the restaurant and how much they were owed from their tips (they keep their own banks during their shifts). All that they had were numerous handmade receipts and random cash. Not wanting to risk anything, my friend gave back way more than her fair share to the restaurant. In what should have been one of the most profitable days for her turned out to be one of the worst.
For me personally, I could not help but feel infuriated by so many of these customers who acted like spoiled babies during the whole Iron Horse ordeal yesterday.  Because something went wrong that understandably made service a little slower and that made an alternative form of payment necessary, many found it acceptable to make a tough situation even tougher. What was wrong with maybe cutting these young servers a little bit of slack and maybe make their nightmare shift just a little more tolerable? Was getting your third rum and coke at record speed really that pressing of an issue when obviously the whole staff was under incredible pressure? I have never worked in the restaurant business before but that does not stop me from respecting the people who wait on me each time I go out to eat. By the way some of these scumbags treated the Iron Horse staff last night I really wonder what deep personal issues they must really have. Unleashing your wrath on a waiter or waitress who is trying to do all he/she can to serve you the best way possible under extenuating circumstances is sad and pathetic.
To the people who walked out on their tabs last night, you are flat out selfish thieves. I know the situation was not ideal but be a decent person and use the ATM that the Iron Horse has in their restaurant to get cash and close out your tab. You have to be one cheap low life to feel that when a credit card machine goes down it gives you the right to not pay a cent of your $200 tab. How can you justify going into a place, eating tons of food, consuming numerous drinks, and benefiting from good service and then just walk out and leave?
When an unfortunate situation occurs that you are directly involved in or indirectly involved in, you can do one of two things: You can let the bad situation consume you and make the situation worse or you can step it up and be positive and help remedy the situation. The people who bitched at the staff last night and who walked out on their tabs have probably never faced true adversity in their lives. They were probably spoiled growing up and had everything given to them. Someday, karma will catch up to these people.
Always treat people who are serving you in any area (restaurant, taxi, car dealer, espresso stand, haircut place, etc.) with respect and patience. Not only does it make for a much better experience for the server, but it also says a lot about you as a person. Do the right thing. Don’t Blink.

Leave a Reply