I guess you can kind of consider me a “foodie.” I purposely find unique dining experiences whenever I travel out of town in order to try something new and (hopefully) something good. This also explains my recent fascination with Man v. Food… but I digress.
Normally, I don’t really blog about the small town I live in here in Florida. I talk about locations all around, but rarely do I mention the town I call home: Vero Beach. I had lunch a couple of weeks ago with my friend Tatum and she said something so profound that I’ve spent the past few days mulling over it. She was right.
There’s no such thing as great service in Vero Beach.
Now, before everyone in town grabs their pitchforks and tries to run me down in their Lexus SCs – there is good service from time to time, but not great service. I lived (and went to college) in Orlando, Florida. While there, I worked for theme parks and a myriad of other customer service jobs to pay the bills. In Orlando in the 1990s, service was king. When I moved down to Vero to live by the ocean, I just assumed that the swing in the economy was the reason for the average and (often) sub par level of service offered in this town. I was recently reminded otherwise.
Like I said – I love unique food experiences. BrewGrrs is a new place that opened in the old Modernage building in Vero Beach. The concept seems like fun: beer and cleverly designed burgers. It also sounds slightly familiar to those who have been out west. The similarity doesn’t bother me, though, since there are no Red Robins in Florida and BrewGrrs seems to be targeted more towards an adult demographic.
Yet, with everything this clever restaurant concept has going for it, THE SERVICE WAS TERRIBLE. My friend and I sat down to eat lunch and waited for our server. Two ladies would pass by and look at us, but neither ever came to ask us anything. Finally, BOTH of them walked up to the table about to interact with my friend and I. Or so we thought. Instead, what happened sounds like a bit from a sitcom – but it is 100% true.
The ladies stood next to our table and discussed who was supposed to be helping us out. This exchange went on for a few seconds, and it was finally decided that the darker haired woman would be the one taking care of our table. Satisfied with their decision, BOTH WOMAN WALKED AWAY AND NEITHER SPOKE TO US.
At that point, we had been sitting there for almost ten minutes. I asked for a manager and a pleasant enough woman (I am assuming the head server) came over and took our order. Shortly after, while waiting for our food, the two servers from earlier stood near our table and argued about the confusion of who was supposed to have helped our table. Again. In earshot. Classy.
BUT – since the place was new, I gave the benefit of the doubt and returned a few days later. This time, my wife and I went for dinner and – you guessed it – the service was still dreadful. Our server was constantly confused, our beer took forever to make it from the bar to our table, and when our order came out (after WAY too long) it was wrong. It sucks because I really, REALLY wanted the place to be great.
While obvious mistakes were made by the staff on both visits and a manager was informed on the first visit, NO form of guest recovery was attempted EITHER TIME. No “I’m sorry; can I offer you a free appetizer?” or even a sincere “I’m sorry” to begin with.
Everyone in my office has since asked me about Brewgrrs since it is the current new hotness and word spread that I had already been there. I’ve told them not to waste their time. I have a feeling the place will fall victim to the same issue that so many other mediocre places have suffered in this town.
So how does this prove that Vero Beach fails in the restaurant service department? It doesn’t directly, but it illustrates the point. Here’s what proves it:
I used to go (fairly regularly) to a local place called Mr. Manatee’s. I even had my rehearsal dinner there for my wedding. The restaurant is a cozy little place on the water that offers casual Florida seafood. The place screams the Jimmy Buffett stereotypical lifestyle. The problem is, though, that the place is so average. The service isn’t spectacular and the food is (at last in the past year) just “okay.”
Last month, I wound up taking in a show at the Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce, Florida. Having grown up in South Florida, Fort Pierce isn’t the first place I would want to visit in my spare time, but the town’s revitalization efforts have REALLY paid off! Downtown Fort Pierce has the classic Florida beach town atmosphere I remember growing up. It was there that I discovered Jo Jo’s Raw Bar and Grill.
I love this place.
The service (I’ve been three times now) has been awesome for every visit. The servers are fast, detail oriented and (gasp!) they have personalities. Our first time there, our waitress suggested my wife try their house white wine sauce with her clams and now Shannon can’t leave without ordering them. Their fried shrimp? Fried with cornflakes in the batter… and they taste AMAZING.
BACK TO THE POINT: It take me about 20 minutes to drive to Mr. Manatees in my own town, but it takes me closer to 30 to make it to Jo Jo’s. I am willing to invest ten more minutes in time and gas for the great service and the great food. This is becoming more and more the norm among my local friends… skipping town to get superior service. This past weekend, I had two great dining experiences: south in Miami and north in Viera.
If Vero Beach businesses don’t solve the “mystery” of good service, I’m sure we’ll just continue to watch the rotating door of tenants in so many of our local eateries.