If engineering consultants ran restaurants…

…they’d be something like this.

Waiter: Evening sir!  Are you ready to order?

Customer: Yes…I’d like the fillet steak please, done rare.  And a bottle of your red Chateaux Neuf de Pape to go with it.

Waiter: (scribbling away) No problem, sir. (Starts calculating something in his head, scribbles something down on a small piece of paper) There you go, sir.

Customer: What the fuck is this?

Waiter: That’s our invoice for a 10% advance payment, sir.  We’d like you to pay it now so we can start preparing your meal.

Customer: What the….? (overcoming his initial surprise, anger rising rapidly) 

Waiter: (hastily) Okay, forget it.  Fillet steak…rare…okay, no problem.

(An hour later)

Customer: Look, what’s the delay?  I’m getting hungry. 

Waiter: Sorry sir, we’ll have your steak for you in a jiffy.

(An hour later)

Customer: Listen, this is getting ridiculous!  I ordered a steak two hours ago, where the hell is it?

Waiter: It’ll be right with you, sorry about the delay, sir.

(An hour later)

Customer: Right, where’s the manager here?!!  This is a bloody joke!  I ordered a steak three hours ago and…

Waiter: Here’s your steak, sir! (plonks a lamb chop in front of the diner) 

Customer: What the fuck is this?  This isn’t a steak!!  This is a bloody lamb chop!!

Waiter: Eh?  No it’s not, it’s a steak.

Customer: Listen, you twat.  I know the difference between a steak and a lamb chop, and this is a lamb chop! Now get me my steak!!

Waiter: At once, sir.  (beats a hasty retreat, muttering under his breath)

(An hour later)

Customer: Dammit, you bunch of idiots!!!  Where’s my steak?!  Are you killing the cow, or what?

Waiter: Here we go sir, one steak coming up! (plonks a hamburger in front of the diner) 

Customer: Jesus wept!  Does this look like a steak to you?

Waiter: (deadpan) Yes, sir.  That is a steak.

Customer: No, you twat.  It is a hamburger.  Not a steak.  An effing hamburger.

Waiter: (still deadpan) Oh.  Sorry sir.  I’ll change it for you.

Customer: Forget it.  I’m not sitting here waiting for a steak any longer.  I’m starving and I’ll eat this hamburger.

Waiter: Okay!  Enjoy your meal, sir. (turns to leave)

Customer: Hang on, sonny!  Where is my wine?  I ordered that hours ago, and haven’t seen it.  Chateaux Neuf de Pape, red, 1968, remember?

Waiter: Certainly sir, I’ve got the bottle right here.  Allow me to pour?

Customer: Whoa!  Hold it?  What the hell is that?  That’s not Chateaux Neuf de Pape!  That’s some plonk with a screw cap from the offy next door!  It’s still got the sticker on!

Waiter: Well, yes.  But it is recommended by our wine waiter, sir.

Customer: What?  I don’t give a fuck what your wine waiter recommends, I’ll drink what I damned well please!

Waiter: Well, that’s the catch.  Thing is, I’ve been issued a directive by our wine waiter to sell you this bottle and nothing else.

Customer: Let me see this damned wine waiter.  Bring him out here, now!

Waiter: That I cannot do, sir.  I’m dreadfully sorry.  He’s actually in Kazakhstan taking care of another diner.  He told me to do this by email.

Customer: So let me get this straight.  Your wine waiter is some expert on wines who travels the world telling people he has never met what wines they must drink when they are in your restaurants?

Waiter: Oh, no sir.  You’ve got it all wrong.  Our wine waiter is not an expert on wines.  In fact, he hasn’t got a clue.  He’s a carpenter.

Customer: (mouth gaping) Your wine waiter is a carpenter?

Waiter: That’s right, sir.  The problem is, our original wine waiter left 3 years ago after he fell out with his boss, who too left shortly afterwards.  That boss replaced him with a subcontractor who didn’t know much about wines, but did know a lot about cider apples.  We figured that was close enough.  But when the new boss came in, he changed his contract without discussing it, so the replacement wine waiter walked out.  This was in the middle of a banquet, and the only bloke around to take over in an emergency was the fella who had come to flog some barrels to the cider-apple guy, who had just walked out.  Now, this was two years ago and you have to understand that at that time…

Customer: (screaming) Shut up!  Just shut the fuck up!!  Who is the manager here?  I want to see him, now!

Waiter: Okay, but you’re going to have to wait a bit.  The manager isn’t here at the moment.

Customer: What?  Where is he?

Waiter: Erm, he’s next door.  In the cinema.

Customer: What the fuck is he doing there?

Waiter: He’s the manager there.  Really good one, actually.  You see, he’s managed cinemas in 17 cities across the world, and never has there been a complaint about him.  He’s the best we’ve got, I’ll go and get him. (runs out the door)

Customer: (repeatedly smashes head against table top)

Waiter: I’m back! See, I’ve got the manager.  Now you can talk to him.

Customer: Are you the person in charge here?  Are you responsible for this clusterfuck you call a restaurant?  The guy from the cinema?

Manager:  Me?  No, not me. I’m the business development manager.  Now, I understand you ordered our steak and Chateaux Neuf de Pape 1968.  Exellent choice sir, excellent choice.  May I interest you in our dessert menu?  We do a wonderful strawberry cheesecake… 

Customer: (on his feet, bellowing at the top of his lungs) Get this fuckwit out of my face!!  (turning to the waiter) Go and get the person who is in charge!

(Business development manager slinks out of the door, 12 dessert menus left on table; waiter runs out seconds later.)

(An hour later.  A fat man walks into the restaurant, sits down in front of the diner, who is preparing to slit his wrists with the redundant steak knife)

Fat Man:  Ah, you must be the diner who we have been working for.  Okay, I’m the finance manager of the region.  Can I be of some assistance?

Customer: Thank God!  Somebody who is not a complete fuckwit! (proceeds to tell the whole story from start to finish, gesturing wildly as he does so; finance manager listens on with interest, taking notes)

Finance manager: Hmm…So, from what I can gather we have taken an order from you, and then spent … (looking at his watch) … 5 hours waiting on you and preparing your food.  Thing is, our cash flow is pretty crap at the moment, and we need some money before we can complete your order and serve it to you.  We’ve already spent a few hundred quid on up-front costs such as tablecloths, knives, forks, etc. and thus far you’ve not paid us a penny.  So, I brought this invoice along for 33% of the price of the steak and the wine.  Now, please can you pay this now so we can complete your meal?

Customer: (having had his head in his hands all the way through, he looks up)  You can stick that invoice where the sun doesn’t shine, matey.  Screw your steak and screw your wine, I’ll finish my burger and I’ll be gone.

(The finance manager leaves, muttering under his breath about bloody clients screwing the suppliers)

(Customer bites into burger, spits it out immediately, bits of cardboard flying across the table)

(The waiter returns with the cinema manager in tow)

Customer: (to the manager) Right, sit down here!  I want to talk to you.  Firstly, never have I experienced such incompetence and idiocy until I set foot in this establishment, and about five minutes ago I thought it could never be surpassed.  But then I found my burger was made of bloody cardboard!  How the hell do you explain that?

Manager: Don’t ask me. I’ve never been in here before. 

Customer: What the fuck?  Then who cooks the food? Who the hell is back there in the kitchen? (gets up and storms into the kitchen, and sees only two chimpanzees playing cards at a table; the customer crashes back through to the dining area) 

Customer: What the hell are two chimpanzees doing in there?  Where is your chef, the one who was supposed to be cooking my steak? 

Manager: Like I said, I have no idea.   My predecessor recruited all the kitchen staff here, but he walked out last month.  In the meantime, the waiter’s been in charge.

Waiter: Yeah, that’s right.  The chimpanzees are the chefs.  Didn’t you see their hats?  I know some people complain that we don’t have human chefs, but they work out a lot cheaper this way.  Listen, if you want food to be cooked on the premises, we must use chimpanzees or we can’t compete.  Okay, we could subcontract all the cooking part to outsiders in India, but if we do that we can’t offer such a good service.  They’ll be delays and stuff, and we are a customer-focussed restaurant who deliver the highest quality of service and food.

Customer: Fuck this.  I’m out of here.  (gets up to leave)

Waiter: Erm, you need to settle your bill, sir.  According to my note pad, you ordered a fillet steak and a bottle of Chateaux Neuf de Pape, plus you have also eaten part of a hamburger.  That comes to £143, plus the bananas for the chimpanzees are reimbursable, which brings it up to a total of £152.  Would you like to pay cash?

(Customer, shaking with rage, screws the bill up into a tiny ball, hurls it on the floor, and storms out into the street, never to be seen again until the business development manager visits him at his home two weeks later, armed with a dessert menu)

(Thanks to “Leisure Suit” Larry Barrow for much of the inspiration behind this.)

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7 thoughts on “If engineering consultants ran restaurants…

  1. Hey Tim,

    I agree with your assesment of business practices of Engineering companies. This is much more fun than trying to make sense of Middle East politics. I’m glad you changed the names to protect the guilty. I feel a kinship with the Chimps. They are doing what they were hired to do and working with the materials available to them. Sort of like two guys I remember walking down pipelines at KOC.


  2. Rarely do engineers get such precise orders from customers. I did, however, laugh my ass off reading your story.

  3. Actually – being both an consulting engineer and a pretty good chef, I can say without a doubt that preparing a geotechnical investigation and report for a 6-story mixed residential and commercial building with a 1-1/2 story underground parking garage, located in back-bay Boston, overlying 3 meters of fill soils, 1.5 meters of dessicated “yellow” clay, and 40 meters of soft Boston “Blue” clay – is a much more complicated task than cooking a decent steak and serving a glass of red wine. One involves four days of drilling with thin-walled shelby tube sampling, consolidation testing of submitted clay samples from the selected tubes, maybe some down-hole shear vane testing for in-situ soil properties as well – followed by determination of overconsolidation ratios in the clay, settlement calculations, and recommendations and design for the likely pile foundations.

    The other involves grilling the bloody red meat until the cow just barely stops mooing and popping the cork on your favorite vintage.

    On the flip side, the process that many clients go through to select an engineering consultant is nominally based upon company qualifications, but often largely based upon either 1) lowest price or alternatively 2) connections. Imagine if you selected your doctor the same way. Small wonder that the same clients might often get frustrated with the performance.

  4. Pingback: White Sun of the Desert » If oil companies ran resturants…

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