H|BurgerCo, located on Pearl Street at 17th, did its best last night to vie for the worst service ever performed in a restaurant. This for our group of four right before we went to Mackey Auditorium to hear two eminent chefs, Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert, in the Good Versus Evil tour talk about the passion needed by chefs to work in a restaurant.
My personal philosophy is it takes more than one visit to pass judgement on a restaurant, especially in the food department since you can’t try more than a few menu items on any one visit. And the funny thing is I had been to HBurger before (one of our other writers had even reviewed HBurger positively) and quite enjoyed the veggie burger with the side of grilled asparagus, excellent options at a burger joint for a vegetarian.
Sometimes, though, a story is too good to not be told. Even based on one visit.
The problems we experienced were due to the overall management of the restaurant, from availability of product through staffing to how problems were solved. It started with the order of beers. HBurger has a nice but small listing of about five local draft beers on tap. “We are out of the X, Y, and Z beers”, our kind waitress told us. “I guess that just leaves Joes and White Rascal.”
Sort of a funny start to the evening. But it got worse.
- Paul tried to order a vegetable burger. They were out of vegetable burgers.
- Paul and I both ordered the portabello mushroom sandwich with a side of grilled asparagus. 25 minutes later the waitress returned saying they were out of asparagus.
- Paul and I both ordered Asian Cole Slaw instead. Three minutes later the waitress returned saying they were out of cole slaw.
- Paul and I both ordered the only non-fried item remaining with our sandwiches, a side salad. I asked what the Thai dressing was and the waitress said she did not know but would check. She returned to say no one in the kitchen knew what the dressing was either! (It didn’t bode well for the freshness of the salad dressings.) I asked for a side of both the Thai dressing (“I’ll tell you what it tastes like”) and the balsamic dressing, just in case.
- The waitress apologized profusely for the delay and all the missing menu items and said the manager will come speak to us.
- A second waitress brought a side of onion rings for the table. We told her we hadn’t ordered any.
- The food finally came. Our two companions’ burgers were overcooked. One of them, who is a chef, only ate half his burger. The other had onion rings on the burger he had ordered and the waitress, as she served it, said “Oops. You said you wanted the onion rings on the side. I guess they thought you wanted a side of onion rings.”
- They served me my side salad with only the Thai dressing, which was tasteless. No balsamic dressing.
- The manager never came.
Unfortunately, I can only attribute all of this to bad management. The restaurant was understaffed and thus slow. The ingredients were woefully out of stock and the servers weren’t aware of this. Neither the kitchen staff nor the servers knew their product.
Stuff happens. And on a rare occasion, multiple stuffs can happen on the same night. This was a record. But in my opinion, the worst transgression against good restaurant management was that once the server recognized the experience was terrible for us, the restaurant should have done something about it.
The manager should have apologized. The waitress might have cut some items off the bill. They might have invited us back for another meal on the house to prove their worth. None of that happened.
Editor’s Note: As we often do, we sent this review to the establishment’s management. In this case, we received what we consider an outstanding reply, reprinted here.
Thank you for making us aware of your article. We are very sorry you had this experience at our restaurant. We take this kind of feedback, whether from an individual customer or in a written review, very seriously. While I wish we could say this was an isolated incident, that simply and unfortunately was not the case this past weekend. We are very aware of some significant staffing and management issues at H Burger which have affected our service over the past couple of weeks and are in the process of correcting them.
In fact, this is partly the cause of the inexcusable service you received during your visit. A recent positive review of the restaurant – and we’ve had many, including from your site – created a larger-than-anticipated volume of guests over the weekend, and we were caught by crowds with a staff that was, frankly, unprepared. This is not an excuse, but an apology to anyone who received poor service during this past weekend.
Please know we strive to create the best experience possible for our guests and will be using your feedback in the most constructive ways possible. As local restaurant owners and operators, we know that great service – much less the mess that you encountered – is imperative, and equally important to the quality food we promise to deliver.
We do hope that you will come and give us another chance as we settle into our new staff and get everyone properly trained in the coming weeks. We’ll be more than happy to have you with our compliments so that we can hopefully prove to be worthy of yours.