Time for a nice, cleansing rant. And what more deserving subject than the cafe at the Red Hook Fairway supermarket?
Is there a more colossal, abysmal failure in all the New York food service industry than this lackluster, indifferent, actively frustrating cafe? The fare on offer is unappealing and unappetizing, and the help so disinterested and inefficient, one suspects it is run by a city agency, like the MTA or the DMV. How could it be possible that a corporation as successful, and as talented at image-crafting, as Fairway could allow the cafe inside its showcase Brooklyn outlet come off like a concession at one of the mangier terminals in LaGuardia?
The menu is a predictable array of sandwiches, pizza and the ubiquitous panini—all unexciting in their choice of ingredients. The items are allow to sit around on display and get stale, until someone actually orders food and the crew is given the opportunity to overcook it.
But worse than the cardboard food—much worse, INFINITELY worse, worse than Duane Reade cashiers—are the people who man this cafe. Sullen, unsmiling, slow, unresponsive, incompetent, uncommitted clockwatchers all. They do not know the food that they are serving, and they do not know how to prepare it in a way that would make it edible. They lack basic communication skills and any comprehension of the concept of customer service. For instance, a person standing at the counter eyeing the food with a look of ready anticipation on their face is not, to the Fairway Cafe worker's mind, a potential customer with an order to place. That person is perhaps a loiterer, or someone who is lost.
I have been to this cafe about a dozen or so times. (Why I return, I do not know. Probably because the view of New York harbor from the dining patio is so breathtaking.) I have never once been greeted with a "May I help you?" or any sort of entreaty. I have always had to get someone's attention, and that with difficulty. On average, I have waited 10 to 15 minutes for simple orders like pizza or a hot dog. At least three times a worker has completely forgotten my order and I've had to place it again. (No apology has ever been tendered when this has happened.) I have watched workers take my order of a hot dog and wait a full five minutes before placing a frankfurter on the grill—all the time in between doing nothing in particular.
I have never met a Fairway patron who has a good opinion of this cafe. I'm sure the market is far from realizing the traffic it could on the restaurant due to the cafe's mismanagement. Why does the market allow it to continue in such a fashion? Hard to know. Maybe they don't care. Maybe the cafe is a loss leader, there to draw customers to the cash cow that is the market itself. But do people really come to Fairway to go to the cafe and then think, "Hey, maybe I'll do some shopping while I'm here"?