Saturday 17 March 2012

Slow food

On a few occasions recently I have been having a meal in a pub with friends or relatives, and noticed the clock ticking up over 25 minutes from placing the order, and no food having appeared. On one occasion we asked a waitress and were assured that it was “just on its way”, finally arriving about five minutes later. But there comes a point when you start to wonder whether your order has been forgotten, which I have experienced more than once.

So I thought I would ask what was the maximum waiting time people thought was acceptable for a food order in a pub. There’s a fairly wide spread of answers, but there seems to be a general consensus that it shouldn’t go beyond half an hour. The person who wouldn’t mind waiting more than an hour must either be extremely patient or have nothing better to do.

Obviously there has to be a bit of horses for courses here – you would reasonably expect to have to wait longer for a main meal cooked from scratch than for a lunchtime snack.

One local pub in the past offered a guarantee that your food would appear within 20 minutes of placing the order but ended up having to withdraw it after failing too often.

I would also say that, in my experience, while Wetherspoon’s bar service is often somewhat lacking, once you’ve actually placed your order the food tends to arrive fairly promptly. Obviously it’s only microwave cooking, but even so you need to get your kitchen procedures right.


  1. Martin, Cambridge17 March 2012 at 22:36

    You're right about Wetherspoons; food comes consistently quickly, whether you have the reheated curry or a steak, which does suggest efficient process at least.

    The pub I recall spectacularly quick service in is the Great Western in Wolverhampton, which is genuinely homemade fayre as well.

  2. When in Saddleworth for the folk festival, I ordered a straightforward pub meal of lasagne, chips and salad. It still hadn't arrived after an hour, despite several enquiries. When it did eventually appear, I tucked into it only to find the lasagne was still frozen on the inside. I took it to the bar and said to the barmaid that I'd waited for more than an hour only to find it was still frozen: "You owe me £5", I said with my hand out. A surreptitious glance by her to the licensee who gave an almost imperceptible nod. On the plus side, I'd eaten all the chips first.

  3. Yes, it can happen that pubs are overwhelmed by demand, but if that's the case they should be honest and say "it's going to take about an hour, is that OK?" or simply stop taking orders.

    Some years ago I was in a pub in South Shropshire on a beautiful bright day between Christmas and New Year. The weather had obviously brought a lot more customers out than they had expected. We had to wait the best part of an hour, and my father got a fried fish where the tail had presumably been dangling out of the pan and was still frozen. Then some local 'characters' said "some people only come out to complain!"

  4. There are crap pubs, crap beer, crap service, crap food, that's life.

    Don't go back, let 'em go bust. Spend your money in places that are not crap.

    Then blame the smoking ban for it. Simples.

  5. I love the fact that 28% would complain after only 20 minutes wait. That's some pretty low expectations that some people have for their pub food. How long do you think it takes to prepare even low quality food ? Even frozen chips take 5-6 mins to cook.


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