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Enraged at Engrained

It sounds great: The opportunity to have a sustainable, healthy meal in the fast-food laden Memorial Union at the expense of a few extra dollars at the new Engrained Cafe.

Unfortunately, my recent visit reinforces the lack of customer service and efficiency on their list of “green” intentions.

At Engrained, you receive a number for your table and then tour the exposed kitchen to take a look at the various prepared foods. Then you order from a cashier and find your numbered table. Or try to.

My girlfriend and I should have realized then that the difficulty in finding tables applies to the servers as well. First, the numbers are on cards that are only labeled on one side, so you have to walk on both sides of each table to check for the number. Second, the font is confusing as our “07” was mistaken for a “20” by both the cashier and us.

After ordering and sitting, the perpetually confused servers deliver your dishes to you, one at a time, engaging in water-conserving tray-free dining. We were in a hurry, so we ordered the simplest looking food to serve, a panini (which we saw several ready to eat in the kitchen), a salad, and a soup. Their Web site refers to engrained as “fast-casual dining atmosphere,” but even the simplest dishes took at least 15 minutes. If they ever came at all.

While I received my panini in about 15 minutes, we waited endlessly for our salad and soup. Sharing our bad luck, the couple next to us received the wrong dish. Later, their correct dish was brought to our table, which we had to argue was not for us. Mentioning the lack of our food to a confused server provided no result, so we left with half of our food undelivered.

We observed two scenarios during our wait: A handful of servers huddled around the kitchen, waiting for food to deliver, and others walking around in circles looking for their table, often returning the food to the kitchen after failing to find the table. I understand not using trays, but the system in place at Engrained is inefficient, and surely leads to wasted food, which is hardly “green”. At least I know that unused food is donated to local food banks.

Leaving Engrained, all I had was an upset girlfriend, 40 wasted minutes, a lighter wallet and an offer to come have another meal to replace the one that I never received. No thanks.

Suneth Attygalle

Graduate student

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