We used to like watching Restaurant Stakeout until I read somewhere that it is fake; having read that we quit watching. One day while doing a search for new culinary shows, Restaurant Stakeout popped up with their new episode titled Somers Almost Over. When I read that I immediately wondered if it was the same Somers in New York where I used to work. I read the synopsis, and not only is the restaurant in the same town but it is literally right beside the school where I worked. Seeing this I figured, what the hell, fake or not, we’ll watch it.
Okay, so if you are not familiar with the television show Restaurant Stakeout, the premise is: Willie Degel, owner of Jack’s Steakhouse in New York City, goes around to failing restaurants trying to help owners get out of debt by videotaping the staff and their behavior when they think no one is looking. After surveying the restaurant Willie takes charge and the restaurants do a 180. Well, we were in New York last week/weekend and we decided to take a trip out to Somers 202 and see if it was anything like the television show had said it was; for the good or bad.
We headed to the restaurant during a pretty intense storm, and when we arrived it didn’t seem very busy. The front entrance opens to the bar, which is where we originally planned on sitting, except that we weren’t too keen on the atmosphere, and I didn’t think there was much seating. We decided to head to the back where their dinning area was. Scott, the manager who was on the television show, said hello and told us a waitress would be with us shortly. A waitress brought us two waters and we didn’t see her again for about 20 minutes. When she did come back to take our order, Duane had asked how many wings were in their appetizer. The waitress said she wasn’t sure…sigh…really. I had a special request on my order, which they did accommodate; so I’ll give them a point there.
When you have worked in the restaurant business you tend to pay attention to detail when you dine-out, which is one reason we do not eat out often. Appetizers are served within 7-10 minutes of ordering and cold salads take the same amount of time (especially when the fruit is not freshly cut). After 20 minutes (and no one coming over to our table up to this point) a different waiter brought us stale bread. About 10-15 minutes after the bread, we received our dinner; 35 minutes total waiting for our two appetizers and salad. Let me remind you that there are only two other open checks/tables and the bar had not started to fill up for trivia night (which surprisingly had a large crowd by the time we left two hours later).
Like most restaurants on the show, it is the service, not the food that is the restaurants downfall, and we can agree with that on our visit. I ordered a Summer Salad and even though I could tell that fruit had sat, the salad itself did taste good 86 (without) the dressing they serve. Duane ordered their “inferno” wings, which were anything but inferno. We do understand that we have a high tolerance for heat, but to have a name like “inferno; not for the faint of heart”, you would expect something a little more than what they served. Duane also ordered fish tacos which he said were decent.
While Duane and I ate our dinner, no one came over to the table to see how we were doing. We did watch the various servers and hostesses standing around so there was staff on the clock . As we were eating our dinner, Duane went to take a sip of his beer when he noticed stuff floating around in his glass. If our waitress had returned we would have said something but since we did not see her again until she brought us our check (and she briskly walked away) we left it alone. During our meal no one came over to check on us, no one asked if I wanted a refill, or if we needed anything else. At the end of our meal the waitress took our plates before asking us if we were still eating, if we wanted anything wrapped, was our meal okay, would we like dessert or coffee…nothing!
Before I go any further, I am going to have to bring up the fact that I worked in the restaurant business for over four years and was quite good at my job. I know how waiters live off of their tips and getting shorted by any amount really sucks, BUT, this girl really sucked. Every time I go out to eat I plan on giving 20% toward gratuity, it is up to the server to decide if they want less OR more. Well our waitress decided she wanted less than 20%, and not just because of the poor (or lack there of) service, but because there was an extra charge on our bill for “Open Food Charge”. Of course I googled what the charge meant, and it is explained as “a charge that the waiter or establishment adds to a check if they believe the total is not with in average for the amount of people in the party.” This was a complete BS charge, there were two people and a 37.00 bill, which is not below the minimum for two people. I believe (here comes my cynicism) she wanted to throw an extra charge on there for us to tip on top.
Well it would have been nice to ask our waitress about the random charge but we never saw her again. As I am writing my notes and taking a picture of the check (journalistic purposes), Scott the manager makes his way to the table (I was busted). Scott asks us “How did you guys get here tonight?”, now looking back I wish we answered with something witty like, “we landed our helicopter out back”. Being caught off guard by the stupid question we responded “we drove”. While this “conversation” is going on I try to cover up my little slip of paper knowing he caught me writing. Scott then comes out and asks “is there anything I can help you with?” in a very accusatory tone. Now, if I were a manager, and if I saw customers looking the way we did (aggravated), I would have approached with “was everything okay with your meal?”, “Thank you for coming in this terrible weather, come back soon”, “I’m sorry if something wasn’t to your liking, is there anything I can do…?”, I would have been happy with “have a good night”. Instead we received a “can I help you?”. We answered “no”, he took our money and walked away. Great customer service Scott, I can totally see why Somers 202 is portrayed so negatively on the television show. I know one thing is for sure, we will never be back there to eat.
Based solely on our experience with Somers 202, our conclusion on whether the restaurant issues are fake or not is: the restaurant problems are real but they are over dramatized and the fake part of the show is when they say the restaurant has improved.
You can check out the full episode: http://watchseries.lt/episode/restaurant_stakeout_s4_e11.html
Fun Fact: The bartender on the show waited tables with me for a few years during college.