restaurant do-over

Last Thanksgiving because everyone was scattered, we ended up having Thanksgiving at The Farmhouse Bistro at People’s Light and Theater Company in Malvern, PA.  They had only reopened at the end of September and were advertising a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  It sounded perfect, as well as fairly close to home….too bad it was so disappointing.  As a matter of fact, the whole experience was so bad that I wrote to the restaurant.

The restaurant, when they finally responded, were very gracious, and offered me a modest gift certificate if I would give them a second try.

So this past weekend, we did just that.  When we arrived, this time we weren’t left standing at the hostess station, nor were friends of the hostess/manager who arrived after us, seated before us.  We were seated promptly, but rather ironically  they seated us at same service marooned table as last time.  At first, I must be honest,  I had the “do-do-do-do” Déjà vu/Twilight Zone sound in my head.

They are still disorganized, but the food was vastly improved over last time.  Our meal was excellent.

However, I can tell you exactly what the restaurant’s problems are:  they do not have enough staff on the dining floor, and the staff that is there needs support.  They are all nice people. They know the menu.  They are articulate and pleasant.  But management of the Farmhouse need to buy a clue and support their wait staff.  It is not that the restaurant is so huge and cavernous that staff can’t cover the floor.  There are simply not enough people on the floor.

The Farmhouse Bistro has terrific food and a mixed menu (I don’t find wraps to be a dinner item for example) and the setting is beautiful. But they need more staff on the floor, and while I get they want to get the people attending the People’s Light theater performances moving through their meals to make their curtain on time, there are plenty of other diners who are just there for the restaurant.  When you are out to dinner, you do not want to feel either rushed or abandoned.  Because the dining rooms do not have enough staff working the floor, you feel abandoned, as well as sensing confusion on the part of the servers as to who is responsible for what table and when.

So all in all, would I return again after trying the restaurant a second time? The short answer is maybe.  And I am appreciative they tried to make up for their initial dining disaster we experienced. I am not trying to sound ungrateful.

Here’s hoping that now that the menu and kitchen work well together that they step up and give their staff the support they deserve.  Otherwise, what will happen is they will lose all these tremendously nice people because they will get burnt out.

If you decide to give The Farmhouse Bistro a try be patient with the staff.  They have a lot of tables to cover.

The Farmhouse Bistro is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355.  The have a website, a Facebook page and are on Twitter.

Quite a few of the reviews by other diners on various websites have similar issues to what we have now experienced twice. See one example below.  I will note Urban Spoon which we use to find new restaurants regularly only has 57% of the people enjoying the restaurant. on 08/03/2012

3 / 5
1 / 5
3 / 5
“Our first and last visit. So many service mistakes:waited almost 25 minutes for someone to take our drink order.The waiter never introduced himself, or apologized for the wait; his excuse was ‘nobody told me you had been seated,’ even though he was the waiter for the other two tables currently occupied. That’s how rarely he checked in with his tables.We were never offered or given bread. We left 1.5 hours to eat before the show, but service was so slow that, although we only had salad and entree, we had to skip dessert, barely making the performance. We only saw the waiter to place our order, and once during meal. Water boy and hostess did almost everything. We had to seek out the waiter to get our check.

 Main Line Today Magazine had this to say this past spring:

When Places! Bistro at People’s Light & Theatre Company reopened as the Farmhouse Bistro last September, it had everything necessary for a seamless transition to an exciting new place: a beautiful setting, lush gardens with tables lining the terrace, and cuisine that was seasonal and inspired. Three chefs later, the kitchen seems to be struggling with its identity, seemingly unsure of how to juggle its roles as an event space, a casual-yet-classy restaurant and a post-theater martini bar….Chef Joe Maguire says attracting non-theater diners is a big focus right now…THE SKINNY: Playing mostly to the theater crowd, the Farmhouse Bistro can be eerily vacant during the week or after the pre-show rush. It is a beautiful setting for a wedding or private party, and light bites and drinks are a real pleasure when enjoyed on the garden terrace. Given that the space has such potential, here’s hoping the kitchen works out its glitches.

I am thinking maybe Chef Robert Irvine should be invited to dine.