While my family was visiting from Toronto a couple of weeks ago, we decided the last meal before they returned, a brunch, would be at Lieutenant's Pump Pub (361 Elgin Street, Ottawa).
We tried calling ahead to make a reservation as our group would be eight people including a small child. The response was "we do not take reservations after 10 A.M.".
I could understand the no reservations after 10, as I know "The Pump" can be a busy brunch place on weekends. Nothing disturbs people more than a large empty table with the little "reserved" sign on it while the place is lined up out the door.
I hung up the phone dejectedly and explained the situation to my family. We decided to try for Lieutenant's Pump anyway in hopes the line up wouldn't be too long.
We arrived at 11 A.M. as per the original reservation attempt. The entrance is a set of stairs about six steps down before reaching the hostess' podium.
We told the hostess how many there were, 8 including the toddler. We were promised a fifteen minute wait. Pretty good timing so far considering we still had two stragglers who were circling the block trying to find parking. So fifteen minutes later we were all there with the toddler surrounded by 3 ladies who he had no clue who they were. My nephew is already such a ladies man.
I didn't watch the clock at all while watching either the people walk by on Elgin Street or my nephew waiving at anyone who would look his way. Good thing this entertainment was going on, cause it was apparently 45 minutes before we were sat down. I did not have a clue how long until later. The hostess, to her credit, had kept us updated with the usual bait of "it won't be long now as we are just waiting on one table to pay their bill" and "we are just cleaning the table for you". Normally, these lines are used to keep up the hope of the prospective customers instead of letting them think they should turn around and head elsewhere.
I had started to think about heading across the street to the Elgin Street Diner which I had previously been to before that was across the street and up a block. The service there is usually fast and the food was good. But would they be able to take a party of 8? I knew Zak's in the market had booths large enough for 8 people but the volume of people on a Sunday is usually similar to "The Pump" so a similar wait would be undertaken. Hmmm...
Before I could think anymore we were called and led to our table and handed menus. Before we could order, the owner stopped by and apologized for the wait time. I'm not sure if he knew we had attempted to make a reservation that morning. He seemed to feel his staff had let us down by making us wait so long. He apologized again and said the meal would be on the house and left.
This was a first for me, no manager had ever given out free meals to the entire table. Sure we I have seen meals comped at other restaurants when something went wrong. Usually it was because a dish was cold or a side was wrong and the replacement meal seem to take twice as long as it should to get there.
Reading through the menu I discovered my old favourite at "The Pump", the Turkey sandwich on a croissant with home fries. Mmm..... good. Add to this my wife's big breakfast that she can't possibly finish so she needs help and I'm good to go with additional toast, fruit and even more delicious home fries! CHACHING!
The food was as good as ever at The Pump and the waitress provided timely service with a well run kitchen backing her up. Food was brought out within ten minutes of ordering, drinks were refilled on a timely manner and we all had a good time including the toddler for the most part.
The toddler was a little grumpy at times and I felt a little guilty at his noise and squirming. A quick look over at the next table over from us and smile was returned from the parents of another toddler slightly older reminiscing about what is was like for their own son at that age. The two university age ladies on the other side didn't even bat an eyelash and continued their conversation.
We finished our meals and the plates were gradually being ushered back to the kitchen by the friendly wait staff. We conferred with the waitress about the owner's gesture on the bill. Yes the entire meal was at the compliments of The Lieutenant's Pump Pub.
This left us in somewhat consternation about the tip. Do we tip for the service on a free meal? The answer was unanimously yes. But without a bill or receipt, what do you base your calculation of a tip on? Hmmmm....we settled on a generous tip of $60.00 and pulled everything together. We called the waitress over and presented the money to her.
The waitress had a big smile on her face and again apologized for the wait. We responded that despite the wait, we had a good time at the restaurant, the service was good and the food was excellent. Please share the money with everyone involved.
Sometimes there are mistakes at restaurants. Sure every business, no matter what industry they are in, makes a mistake or something doesn't go right that should have in the first place. The sign of good restaurant is how it bounces back from these situations in an attempt to keep the customer on side. The Lieutenant's Pump could have given us empty platitudes of apologies and understanding without backing these up with action. It could have also given us a 10% discount or something similar on our overall bill. But free meals for the entire table of eight was very generous. I could not help but leaving The Lieutenant's Pump Pub that day without feeling happy. Happy that my family had visited, happy I was full of good food, but most of all, impressed that a possibly bad situation was handled so well and turned into a positive.
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