Big Town Hero is hardly local, with locations in WA, OR, NV and TX. But it started in 1981 by one guy in a locale somewhere, and each location is owned by someone, often local. As it is a chain I try not to go, but the other day I was really jonesing for the Italian panini for lunch. It's a quick walk from work, so I enjoyed the nice-ish weather and took a stroll downtown.
The decor of the location downtown is sorely lacking. What it has is a bit dingy, not well suited for the space it's in. It could be a cool college-like hangout, but it doesn't have enough unique personality to score that. And, oh, did I mention dingy? Regardless, I'm thinking of hot Italian meats and pepperccini via take-out, so what do I care?
One would think that counter service at a sandwich shop isn't very taxing and thus a really easy task to master, but you wouldn't know it thanks to the attitude of the woman behind the counter. How hard is it to look up from the cash register, maybe even smile a little, and say, "Hello?" Apparently too hard for this woman. But it didn't matter, because right behind her was a poster for their panini sandwiches, as if there to welcome me itself. Once I deduced that her zombie like stance behind the counter was in, in fact, her way of waiting to take my order, I placed the simple order and then sat down to wait.
Two staff were finding it very hard to keep up with the staggering flow of customers, which I counted to be three tables (two already eating) and two other people waiting for take out. Not what you would call a lunch rush by any means.
Finally my bagged sandwich is handed over and I skip back to my office, already savoring the soft bread with it's crisp outside grilled crust. When I unwrap my sandwich, I kind of pause for a minute because I can't quite make sense of what I am seeing. My friend Thomas comes up behind me and says, "What's that? It looks like someone sat on it."
Indeed, it does. Instead of being sliced, grilled bread like I expected on a panini, what I'd HAD on a panini there before, and what was on the very poster behind the counter, what I had was a sub roll cut cross ways, smashed into what had to have been a cold panini press because there was no toasting. Just... squishening.
I'm hungry and pressed for time so I bitch a little more but then dig in. The insides are as I had dreamed, and I made do.
But I'll not go back, for this place struck out in customer service, ambiance, and quality. Things happen and sometimes substitutions or adjustments have to be made. But if a key element of an offering isn't available or has to be changed, you should tell the customer, and give them an opportunity to make an alternate choice. If your panini maker is broken, don't serve paninis until it's fixed. If you are out of panini bread, offer an option. But for goodness sake, if you've got BOTH problems going on... just take the paninis off the menu until further notice!
I knew I should have just gone to Croissant and Company for a tuna salad croissant with provolone and olives.