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Getting the Most out of a Pizza Restaurant Chain

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This entry was inspired by a chain of red-roofed Pizza Restaurants - and in particular, the East Wabash one in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA. The joint in question is located on the east side of Terre Haute, right on Wabash Avenue. There's also an Express version1 just a little west of the East Wabash location, and further outlets on the north and south sides of Terre Haute. For some reason the west side of the city has not been graced by the presence of the big red roof - the reasons for this are unclear.

However, seeing as the corporation in question builds its restaurants and sells its concessions to a formula, what goes for East Wabash can be applied to similar outlets anywhere. Red-roofed huts selling pizza, and their imitators, are springing up all over the world, after all.

The East Wabash restaurant is one in the old style - you sit down, and they serve you. You leave a tip, they clean up after you, and hopefully you pay for your meal2. It recently scored 100% when visited by the board of health, although that was during the day, when there's more time to clean up - things can get a bit messier during the night shifts. But they never serve dirty food, and the ovens are hot enough to get rid of anything bad on your food. This entry was originally written by someone who was (and may still be) employed at the East location - technically as a cook, but this is a blanket description as the job involves pretty much everything that doesn't involve customers. It does involve cooking your pizza.

Tip #1: Always Tip Your Server

Nine times out of ten, it's the cook's fault. Here's why: Let's say you just ordered a supreme pizza without onions. The cook is getting yelled at by his supervisor3, and the normal course for making a supreme pizza involves onions. So, anyway, it goes through the oven, comes out, and another supervisor, often the manager in charge for the shift, takes it out of the oven, checks the ticket, and sees that you had no desire for onions on your pizza. The cook gets yelled at, and you get your food heavily discounted or, if you make a big deal about it, free. This happens fairly often in the course of a normal Wednesday to Sunday schedule.

However, this is no excuse for you to not tip your waiter/waitress. In Terre Haute, it's often common not to leave a tip if you think you received horrible service. But in all of the trouble with the onions, the server had no idea what was going on. They just brought out your pizza, and it was horrible. You can't blame them for the cook's mistake.

You should always tip your server, even if:

  • Your food is late
  • Your food is incorrectly made
  • The specials you expected aren't on anymore
  • The pizza doesn't taste like you expected
  • You didn't get what you wanted

But, occasionally, you can not tip them if...

  • ...they were rude

That's about it, really. Please tip them, because mostly they work hard to serve you well. And they get paid about two bucks an hour, so they're living off your tips.

Tip #2: Think About How Long You Want to Wait

The pizza oven used under the red roof is pretty simple. It's made so the staff don't have to do much. There's a conveyor belt. It moves very slowly. A large pizza takes seven to eight minutes to make it through the oven. There's also a door half-way through the oven allowing things to be added then, which cuts down on the cooking time.

Items that go all the way through:

Items that go half-way:

  • Garlic Bread and Cheese Garlic Bread
  • Sandwiches
  • Cavatinis

Items that don't normally go through the oven:

  • Spaghetti
  • Regular Breadsticks

Breadsticks often have their own oven, except late at night when only the main oven is on. Breadsticks are almost always pre-baked, then heated again before served. Cheese breadsticks are the exception - they're always fresh. Usually, you can get a single order of breadsticks (usually around five breadsticks) out in about three minutes, if there's time to jump on it as soon as the ticket goes up. You could be very unlucky, however, and there are no more breadsticks that have been made. On the flip side, you will get very fresh breadsticks.

When you order an appetizer, you have to wait for that to come out before the pizza goes in. Cheese breadsticks and buffalo wings are the longest-cooked first courses. If you get those, your pizza will take twice the time to get out. There are several customers who ask for it all at once. Also, you get some things along with others. All pasta bakes get two breadsticks. All other pastas get garlic bread. The juggling of what goes in the oven when, often causes problems.

Tip #3: Getting Maximum VfM (Value for Money)

There's a very good chance you'll get a free top-up if you order soft drinks. Soft drinks cost the restaurant next to nothing per pint, so they're not too stingy with them. This, sadly, rarely happens with beer.

If there's an 'all you can eat' salad bar, don't order the largest pizza you can eat. Instead, you can request the next size down, and then stuff yourself on multiple trips to the salad bar. Even people who faint at the sight of lettuce can cram themselves full of bacon bits and boiled egg.

When you're taking advantage of an 'all you can eat' deal and you've come for pizza, avoid the pasta unless you really fancy it. It's probably quite nice, but it's there because it costs the restaurant a lot less than the pizza, and will fill you up double-quick so you can't get as much pizza down you as you'd hoped.

Tip #4: Tell the Staff What You Want Clearly

It's as simple as that. They will do it for you if you ask. There is a regular East Wabash customer who always orders light cheese. Occasionally people order a pizza without any sauce. There have been weird, wild orders.

You didn't think you can eat à la carte here? Well, you can. If you're prepared to pay for it, they can do it. Some things, of course, are impossible, but there is a lot the staff can do. If you want fresh breadsticks, they'll throw in a pan4.

When placing your order on the phone or in person, state what you want as clearly as possible. If they can get it down on the ticket, it's not a problem. When you say 'extra' whatever, they double the amount. When you order a pizza, try not to be vague. You can get any ingredient on the menu on your pizza. If you want a pizza with anchovies and pineapple, they can probably do that. Work it out with the waiter/waitress, and the staff will cook what you want. It's just a matter of knowing what to ask for. Of course, the cooks will grumble, but they're there to serve you, no matter what weird things you ask for. Just be clear.

Now, go out there and get some pizza!

Further Reading

1The only one in town that delivers, thus no doubt making them the richest one, too.2'Dining and Dashing,' which could be the subject of an entry all by itself, is not appreciated.3Usually because the store hasn't been cleaned in hours, there are two carts of dishes that need to be done, and they've had a really long day.4This is actually a lot more convenient. For the cook, waiting for the breadsticks to go through individually in the small breadstick oven is like watching his life trickle through his fingers.

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