When I’m not cooking, I love to go to restaurants to try out new things, in different cities and as much as possible. Ribs & barbecue meat, most of us tend to be seduced by a succulent rack of ribs, or a nice thumb-thick steak. Preferably with fries? Maybe… yes. And do also bring a portion of onion rings!
Months, probably longer, back I went to have dinner at Sticky Fingers in Leuven. Great place, great food. I’ve been back a couple of times since. As their recipe for restaurants seems to work so well, other cities have been opening Sticky Fingers as well. It’s not clear whether they are franchising, but Sticky Fingers is becoming a chain – one I like for that matter. I’ve given both Leuven – the original one – and Ghent a try and was very happy of the service and the food there.
Antwerp also has a Sticky Fingers, which has been there not that long. When I found out, I was thrilled to try out their ribs as well. I, by now, have done so three times. Three times, I’ve been disappointed as the standard just does not live up to what I’m used to getting compared to Leuven and Ghent. Or any other restaurant with hopes of keeping their costumers.
What is profoundly lacking in the Antwerp one is a sense of direction, team work and positive feedback by the highest-ranked. The personnel is painstakingly trying to manage in hopes of being able to deliver the least bit of costumer friendly service and even then, they fail miserably. According to what I’ve seen so far, this is only because of a lack of good leadership. This is the Chronicles of Ribs Disappointment:
The first time I was there was the weekend after their opening. Not too many costumers, all very new which makes the waiters a bit nervous since they are still looking for their flow, which is only logical. After the order had been taken, we probably spent another two hours and a half in the restaurant, mostly waiting for our food. There was a problem in the kitchen and a lack of staff. As you will read later, this seems to be the recurring problem. Mind you, the waitress was wonderful and very customer-minded which is what saved them the first time. And the fact that the ribs are indeed very good.
We considered the problems we had encountered during our first visit there the typical wrinkly start-off, so we decided to give them a second chance. A Monday or Tuesday evening a couple of weeks ago, nice weather, hardly anyone on the terrace or inside. This seemed promising, didn’t it? Well.. It wasn’t. We again waited a very long time to get our food. I’ll keep it at that. Or maybe not… The owner’s presence was just too overbearing.
A week ago, we were back again, one last time. Far from a full-house, groups of people on the terrace here and there, not too many people inside. To begin with, it took us a long time before we were even able to order. The same goes for other customers on the terrace, up to the point that some of them would get up themselves to get a menu. We had drinks and starters: the sticky fingers plate for two with chicken wings, onion rings and nachos. A couple that arrived after us is being served a sticky fingers plate before us, a similar non-chronological serving order happened to us during the second visit. The plate arrives, halfway through I find a hair in the nachos. Okay, this happens, it is not nice for the customer but it happens. Astonishment when I mention this to the waitress: really? Yes, there, you see it? If I didn’t know better I’d say it’s a pubic hair. Sarcasm just flies through my head the whole visit long. My table companions luckily enjoyed my piques of irritation, eyeballing Statler-&-Waldorf commenting and not-so-resting bitch face. Of course we got offered a new portion. The leftover onion rings and chicken wings from our first plate, however, we did not see again. I would have loved to finish them myself, but can only hope that the – understaffed – kitchen crew finished them tastily. Waiting for the main course, one of the waitresses announces that there is an electrical failure which means the ribs will take a bit longer to arrive (similar to the first or second visit, they should really get an electrician in). The waitress and customers live in different time dimensions, where the notion of ten minutes is something completely different. But.. At last the food arrives, just in time to not get completely hangry. Three dishes, two right, one wrong. An included bowl of fries only brought when pointed out it is in fact included. The ordered still water I have to go and get myself, since it’s been forgotten. Again. On the house of course, but that sentence no longer charms me.
One of the waitresses and the boss argue in the doorway. Not very professional, especially not when the waitress leaves, fed up with whatever comments she’s been getting all evening, and other evenings I suppose. One waitress down, there is only one waitress left to deal with everything. Strikingly enough, the boss decides to make one of the kitchen people work as a waiter, while he joins his group of friends for a continued chat on the terrace.
The nice waitress? I haven’t seen her anymore, maybe it she both times had a day off, maybe she left. In any case, if they continue like this, customer numbers will just dwindle. They will no longer attract the people from Antwerp, but only the tourists. In the future, I’ll be going to Ghent or Leuven, three times seems more than a reasonable number of benefit-of-the-doubt try-outs. Oh, and if you do want to eat ribs in Ghent, please don’t go the Amadeus restaurants, you can do better. Go to Sticky Fingers or De Gekroonde Hoofden. You’re welcome.