Sometimes we conflate a high-price tag with quality. This is an understandable mistake as many good products come with a value that makes one really consider before handing over a credit card. However, other times some things are expensive and are just not worth it. My boyfriend and I visited the One Bellevue restaurant in Newport, Rhode Island for breakfast one morning. This little dining establishment is situated right inside a nice hotel near a shopping center. The upscale setting and pricey menu items suggest that this eatery offers a quality breakfast experience… or so we thought.
We were seated in a sunny section of the small restaurant at a table already made up for two. Glancing at the menu, I saw many dishes with eggs, avocado, and salmon that I thought I may enjoy. However, when my eyes drifted to the dollar signs, I reconsidered all my thoughts. For example, salmon on a bagel could be a nice breakfast, however, for $15, the entrée seemed wildly overpriced. I quickly scanned the room to see what other guests had ordered. Omelets, waffles, toast, all looked nice but not worth the “dinner prices” slated on the menu. When I peered back down at the menu, I immediately became irked. Why was it okay to sell a breakfast sandwich for $16 and an additional egg for $5?? I became so heated in the moment that I resolved myself to order the cheapest thing on the menu—the oatmeal with brown sugar, berries, and nuts.
The server came over to take our drink orders. My boyfriend requested an orange juice granted that it was fresh. The server confirmed that the orange juice was indeed freshly-squeezed and I placed my order of a tap water, stressing the word “tap” to avoid any extra charge for bottled water. When the server came back she brought the orange juice (forgetting the water…). With a quick sip of the juice, it was apparent that the tangy liquid was procured from a carton rather than pressed from a fruit. At this point we had a different server for some reason. When we asked the woman whether the juice was fresh she brusquely said “no, none of our juice is fresh.” She removed the drink and promised to bring me the water that I never received.
The entrees appeared rather quickly. On this bone-chillingly cold morning, I was looking forward to my overpriced “old fashioned rolled oats.” Only, when I inspected the dish, I was disappointed to see that there were no nuts. When the server returned, I quickly asked whether there were supposed to be nuts in the oatmeal and she said matter-of-factly, “people don’t really notice the nuts.” What!? “On the menu, it said that there would be nuts,” I retorted. She responded that the kitchen was out of nuts. Again, what!? If an ingredient is missing, isn’t it necessary to inform the consumer? I really like nuts and one of the reasons I went for the oatmeal over similarly priced items was because I believed that it contained a solid protein source. I became upset upon hearing this. The woman curtly said, “well, do you want it or not?” Her tone and request caught me off guard. I became flustered and mumbled something signaling that I would stick to the dish. However, one spoonful in, I changed my mind.
I was able to order another dish, but much to my disappointment, nothing on the menu seemed to be very appetizing. In resigned calm, I ordered the Raisin Bran—a cereal of my youth served to me in a small bowl (a mere 140 calories) with a tiny cup of berries, and even tinier dispenser of milk for the cost of ten green, American dollars. Ten bucks, Dear Reader. You can buy a family sized box of cereal for $4.99, a gallon of milk for $3.99, and for the berries—who cares, it’s Raisin Bran.
Experiences like this make me want to write Yelp reviews. A nice exterior and a high price tag should be signs of quality. However, I have now experienced a few instances (more here), where an elegant appearance is nothing more than a fanciful façade shrouding mediocrity. I think that restaurants are free to charge what they will, but I think that we as consumers should be made aware in advance of what we are paying for. Pictures of the entrees and detailed descriptions from our servers go a long way. When we asked whether the juice was fresh, our young server was caught off guard and perhaps just said ‘yes’ without thinking. She was not very well informed. Our second server neglected to tell us that an ingredient was missing from my entrée. Maybe she forgot, however, she really did not seem too concerned or apologetic. In fact, she seemed taken aback that I would even care that the dish I ordered turned out to be incomplete.
This dining experience left me feeling disapointed and annoyed. The more I experience displeasure eating out, the less that I am willing to go out of my way to try new (expensive) things. Immediately following the breakfast, we stopped at a café for breakfast number 2—an egg, cheese, and avocado sandwich on a bolo bun (which is like a sweet English muffin). This little sandwich cost me $5.85 and was worth every single cent. Maybe I’m just cheap, but, I don’t even care anymore. I feel uncomfortable when I feel like I am overpaying. Upscale dining is apparently not for me and I think that my wallet and sanity are all the better for it.
Eating out should be a treat. If it is expensive, I hope it’s worth it. If it’s not worth it, then I think it is worth talking to the server to understand why the quality is not what was promised. I will no longer be meek; I demand quality. I will make a Yelp account and be sure to share my experience with others. We’re all on the same team here. When something is great—tip the waitstaff well and spread the word. When something feels like a rip-off—speak with your server, tip what you think is fair, and spread the word. Whether a five-star restaurant, or a food truck, it is important that the price tag match the quality.