Good Food – Bad Policy

January 14th, 2009 · 3 Comments

1230 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, British Columbia
tel. 604.255.7771

Monday – 4pm – 11pm
Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday: 11am – 11pm
Friday: 11am – 12am
Saturday: 10am – 12am
Sunday: 10am – 11pm
Serving Brunch Saturday & Sunday: 10am – 4pm

** 2 Stars (out of a possible 4)

With a friend recently here from Toronto for the holidays and staying briefly in the Commercial Drive area the breakfast and catch-up journey led us to Fets for the second time – the first being the last time this same individual came to town a year ago. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the choice of venue. My recollection of last year was a lackluster breakfast served piecemeal with items incorrect, food cold and, in particular, my burger, overcooked and dry.

I’m happy to report that this year the experience – aside from a slight “policy” blip that I will explain in a moment – was unexpectedly very pleasant, in fact I would go so far as to say, delicious! Unfortunately we were caught without a camera so no visual experience to accompany this review this time.

While I was very reluctant to order a burger again my visiting companion was jonesing for a chunk of meat to sustain her through the long flight back to Toronto that afternoon and I was too hungry for eggs. As I always try to do when I am uncertain on menu items I queried our server in a casual way about the burgers and observed her reaction keenly to try to tell if her positive answer to “Are the burgers good” was couched in any non-verbal “you’re out of your mind” physical betrayals. Satisfied we were getting an honest appraisel, we both settled on the Fets
Standard Deluxe Burger that comes with cheese and all the fixings with a choice of fries, salad or soup. The soup choices were a Cajun clam chowder or a bean soup. I chose the chowder and my friend chose fries to accommodate our third companion and the aforementioned “policy” blip.

Before I get further into the meal let me pause for a moment to rant about one of the most arrogant, aggravating and egregious abuses of service to customer experiences that a restaurant can perpetrate and that is the “no substitutions” policy. While there are certain legitimate reasons for denial of change from kitchen to customer like when the baked Alaska already has strawberry ice cream in it and you want maple walnut or the long lovingly simmered soup has thyme in it and the customer hates thyme or some such thing – you get the idea. If the item is pre-prepared and complex then it’s fair to say that it may be very difficult if not impossible to provide a substitution but when the requests center around exchanging one existing item for another existing item on a plate or in a recipe – particularly at breakfast – then a denial policy is the height of arrogance and abuse. Please be reminded that the customer is paying the bills and should be accommodated as much as is humanly possible. This is the SERVICE business people. At some levels restaurant food can be art but rarely at the breakfast and burger level. GET OVER IT and find a way to accommodate your customers.

OK. Moving along. At Fets you can’t deviate from the pre-defined breakfast plate. Ridiculous I know. Our third companion wanted to have eggs and french-fries (like the British egg and chip) but this was simply impossible in the totalitarian environment of Fets without a song and dance of extra charges so we organized it amongst ourselves. Our Toronto friend would get the fries with her burger and give them to the Egg friend. After we got our meals the not-overly-worldy server still couldn’t get over the idea of having fries with the eggs and was laughing and shaking her head. Another tip for you restaurant folks is that passive-aggressively ridiculing your customers choices is probably not the best tactic for your tips or for the restaurant.

I don’t want to give the impression that this policy episode overshadowed the meal or our enjoyable time. It did not. The burgers were absolutely delicious. Served on very fresh grilled Portuguese style buns, they were moist and tasty with fresh ingredients and generous proportion. The really pleasant surprise though was the Cajun chowder. I often think a restaurant can be judged by the quality of it’s soups. This was beautifully rich in clams and vegetables with a perfectly spiced succulent broth. I tasted it first when the meal arrived and immediately wished I had ordered just the soup for my meal – though once I dove into the burger I was also completely satisfied on that front.

Our Eggs friend was (finally) happy with his simple but well prepared breakfast items and all in all the food was hot, fresh and tasty.

I will go back to Fets. It has the kind of low-key, casual, unpretentious and slightly grubby charm that I find very comfortable sometimes. And, with this recent visit it seems, the food is good. I would like to try some other items but I know that next time it will be another burger and soup.

Tags: Breakfast · Burgers · Cafe · Diner Fare

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 shokutsu // Jan 16, 2009 at 4:11 am

    Always great to have a more than “one strike” policy to enable you to get a better experience at a previously disappointing place to eat. I’m totally with you on the soups – its so easy for places to cheap on these, and so the places that do it great from scratch need to be recognized. Overall, sounds like a comfortable place.

  • 2 Doran // Jan 20, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Shokutsu, thanks for the comment! It is a comfortable easy going place, I hope that the quality we experienced this particular visit is the ongoing standard there and not a one off cause I really do want to go back for soup and a burger!

  • 3 dave // May 13, 2009 at 6:49 am

    One thing to consider with substitutions is that the food has been costed out to reflect a certain menu price. I’m not saying that it’s always the case, but this can make it difficult to substitute one item for another without having an upcharge fee (and this can cause as many gripes as a no substitution policy so it’s often times a no win situaiton – in fact, the review itself indicated that). Also, there *is* something to be said for a chef’s idea of how a dish should be presented. Finally, there’s the whole ordering snafu that can occur. Most of the time, you order “an entree”, not the component parts of it. So then you have to modify it, which can cause confusion in the kitchen.

    As it turned out, there was a simple solution that the reviewer took. Seemed to work pretty well. Just give the fries to the person who wanted them. That was probably easier than ordering the sandwich without fries and then ordering fries as a side (and probably cheaper too).

Leave a Comment