Smiles are Free

In any food service industry–actually, any service sector–a smile goes a long way. There are some places where the food is amazing but the service is bad.

The last time I was at a particular Asian food court, I noticed the cashier of a Japanese vendor was very friendly, genuinely smiling at each customer. I made it a point to give her some business one day. That one day was yesterday.

Again, she was very pleasant, and I’m glad to have bought my lunch from her. Unfortunately, the food was pretty bad. There were way too many bean sprouts, and something about them tasted bad.

Still, I want to give them another chance because the cashier was so respectful. It does make a difference. I wish more vendors would realize that.

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Behind the Counter

I’ve seen Asian people working at many food court vendors: like Jimmy the Greek, New York Fries, Tandoori, McDonald’s, Mrs Vanelli’s, Caribbean Queen… But it is far more rare to see a non-Asian working at Manchu Wok.

Just an observation.

Centre of Attention

I want to switch gears and focus more on anecdotal entries.

The other day, I was at the Asian food court in First Markham Place. It was around 6:30pm. There was a martial arts group practicing in the open area in the middle of the food court.

I thought this was a weird place for that. I wouldn’t want to practice martial arts while surrounded my people eating and staring. I feel Chinese people are nosy in general (yes, I can say that). Their stares would be enough to irk me.

A Line in the Stands

At most food court vendors, lining up is usually a no-brainer. But at fast food places like McDonald’s, it can be a bit of a head-scratcher.

Whereas most places have one place to order which follows logically to the cash, McDonald’s has multiple cashiers. Some people are from the school of thought where there should be one line, but I think, more accurately, each cashier should have its own line.

I’m not saying which is ultimately better, but I have seen one McDonald’s with a sign that clearly asks customers to join the shortest line for service. Some people still ignore it, of course; such is the way of our society.

Despite the rule-breakers, I think it would be a good idea for other similar vendors to adopt the sign approach. That way, when people conflict, it would be clear who’s in the right.

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Live Green or Dine Hard

While I love eating out at food courts, there is one thing that really bothers me: the amount of garbage produced. I’m not an extreme environmentalist, but I think I have an obligation to do what I can, when I can.

Just about every food court vendor serves up their food on styrofoam plates and boxes. Add to that the plastic utensils and you’ve got a nasty set of garbage for one meal.

I’m really grateful for places like the Urban Eatery at Toronto’s Eaton Centre where they use reusable plates and utensils. Sure, the food might cost slightly more, but it helps ease my guilt.

Is it worth it? That’s up to the individual.

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The War on Prices

When I was much younger, I remember going to the food court in the malls.  Seemed like a good place to get good food for cheap.  To a kid, cheap food was good.  Then there was a long time when I mostly ate at home (living with one’s parents has its advantages).

After I finally moved out on my own some years ago, I started going back just for something different.  That’s when one thing shocked me: it had gotten a lot more expensive!  A simple burger combo came to almost $10.

Maybe I was spoiled.   I’m Chinese, and I love Chinese food.  Because of that, I went to Chinese food courts too.  The equivalent amount of food can cost a fair amount less.  Even so, I’ve found an interesting trend recently: even though Chinese food court prices have increased slightly over the years, some vendors have started offering specials such as including tax.  And when one vendor did it, their neighbours felt compelled to as well.

Competition must be getting stiff.  I’m glad for it.  Now if only mall food courts would follow suit.

Happy Just-Another-Day

Valentine’s Day 2012.  Seems as good a day as any to kick off this blog of mine.  I spend a lot of time eating at food courts, so I figure why not share some of the observations I’ve made over the years.

Why eat at food courts so much?  Well, I don’t like to cook beyond the basics (I’m terrible at it), and food courts have the cheapest good food.  Yup, lazy and cheap, which probably led to the primary reason I eat there a lot: I usually eat alone.  I’ve found that restaurants are not comfortable places for people to eat alone.  The staff and other patrons give you weird looks.  I think.  Maybe it’s all in my paranoid little head.

At any rate.  I feel I need to put some of these thoughts down.  While I’m just writing this blog for me, if you are reading this and have some input, please let me know.

Until then, eat well and be well.