This was meant to be a some sort of a review..

.. But has turned into a bit of a rant, sorry.

So anyway, there I was wanting to write up about TGI Fridays because I’m not just about Fine Dining yunno – The casual dining scene is increasingly popular and is particularly good for gathering people from the office on a night out after work that isn’t the local pub or making them trek to Birmingham. TGI Fridays is an ideal place to get a few drinks, then some food at a reasonable price and everybody would have a good time. I mean, you gotta go to TGI Fridays on a Friday, right? It would appear that I was not the only person in thinking this and using their online booking system for a table of 13 at 7pm resulted in the following email:

Dear YSL (I’ve obviously changed this bit, they addressed me by my name)

Thank you for your booking enquiry to Solihull regarding a booking for 13/05/11 for 13 at 19:00

Unfortunately we can only provide you a table before 1600 hrs or around 2130 hrs.

Regards

Manager
Solihull

WTF?! OK, they can’t fit us in at the time we wanted but where was the line “If either of these times are convenient for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me?” In NOT adding that line (or words to the same effect), should I think twice about contacting them? Even if I could do any of those times given, should I still not let them know? More infuriatingly, what was their name? If you take the effort to personalise the email by addressing me by MY name, then at least have the courtesy to give me YOURS. Again, does this go back to me not replying to them, therefore they didn’t leave their name? Am I over-reacting here? I understand that they may be busy, but surely an extra sentence doesn’t take up that much time?

To say I was disappointed is an understatement – Fridays are known for their great service and thus far, I was less than impressed. So, I replied to the email saying that it was a shame that they couldn’t fit us in at 7pm but could they perhaps suggest something if those times weren’t suitable? We were looking to welcome a new colleague at work so thought that Fridays would be the ideal place for a celebration. There, I wasn’t shitty and offered an olive branch for them to demonstrate their legendary service and get me to give them my custom. 4 days later and still no reply so I finally had enough and phoned them.

Fortunately, this is where they redeemed themselves; I spoke to Manager (he did tell me his name after I asked, but I’ve since forgotten) and had to give my booking details again for him to check against his system. He was apologetic in that he couldn’t accommodate us fully in our preferred time and he did say that there were plenty of other places to eat nearby if we wanted to grab something to eat. He did also mention that Fridays in general are very busy for them and they get a lot of bookings as a result so I could perhaps call them on Friday to see if there were any last minute cancellations which wasn’t ideal, but perhaps something to consider.

The phonecall was of course, in complete contrast to the email and restored a bit of faith in them again. It’s a shame that it took for me to chase them to get to that point and before that, the customer service was appalling, but that one phonecall saved the whole situation for me – We did indeed end up going for drinks at TGI Friday’s (which were OK, despite the lack of draught beer for the menfolk) and a few sharing plates to nibble on (which were duly wolfed down by everyone) before moving on elsewhere to grab some food. The restaurant was packed and everyone eating looked like they were having a good time.

However (surprising as this may sound), this post isn’t to rant about TGI Fridays – I think it’s one of the better choices available and I still want to eat there (and to write about it for here) – This post is to bemoan the lack of any real decent choices of anywhere to eat and drink in Solihull town centre. This was supposed to be a review of some sorts, but since our first choice wasn’t available, we needed to decide on somewhere else. Our alternatives were: Handmade Burger Co., La Tasca, Pizza Express, Nandos, Pizza Hut, Bella Italia, Ask Italian or Wagamama. All big chains but nothing like TGI Fridays where we could congregate in the bar beforehand then head to the restaurant for something to eat. We ended up going to Wagamama where to be brutally honest, I could have cooked something better myself at home for a fraction of the cost or got something much nicer (and cheaper) in the Chinese Quarter in Birmingham. RB summed it up best when he said after he finished eating “It was nice, but not £9 nice.” – And this was his first visit there.

The lack of choices other than places where the food is of average standard (at best) and horrendously overpriced is depressing. It’s hard enough getting people from the office to go out at all – let alone suggesting we have drinks in one place, then head off somewhere else for food. As a result, I don’t blame people one bit for not wanting to go out for something to eat in Solihull – I often feel guilty even suggesting it knowing I’m essentially asking people to pay for substandard, overpriced food. For all the talk of living in times of austerity, shouldn’t we be expecting demanding something at least half decent given the money we have to fork out for it? Hell, there isn’t even a decent coffee place in Solihull other than the large chains (Urban Coffee Company – Solihull needs you!). I don’t mind heading into Birmingham or other surrounding areas, but there are times when I want to go somewhere close to the office and have a few drinks then something decent to eat – Is that really so difficult? Sadly, it currently is.

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