The Lowest Rated Restaurant in Town

Submitted into Contest #141 in response to: Set your story in the lowest rated restaurant in town.... view prompt

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Contemporary Fiction Happy

It was Paul’s first Friday night in the new town to which he had just moved. The company that had hired him promised him a better job than the one he had worked at for ten years in the big city that was his hometown.  He felt that his life was going to change for the better.

He was going out to dinner. Friday night dinners in restaurants had been established as a ritual for him over a very long time.  He felt that there was no reason why he shouldn’t continue the practice here. There was a restaurant, Diana’s Diner a block down the street from the second storey apartment into which he had moved just the Saturday past. It seemed like a good choice.

Walking down the road, Paul got to take a good look at the town for the first time. On the other side of the road there was a large office building that was named ROGERS CORPORATION in huge black letters. They must be big in town, he reckoned. Just outside the restaurant, he picked up a copy of the local newspaper. He figured that he might be able to learn from that a little of what his new town was like.

On the front page he noticed that the name ‘Rogers’ was prominent. The mayor was Bill Rogers, and one of the councillors was named Freida Rogers, possibly his wife, as she was standing very close to him in the large picture.

As soon as he entered, a waitress directed him to a cosey corner table with a small bouquet of flowers placed in the centre. He sat down in a comfortable chair, and the waitress greeted him with “Welcome to Diana’s Diner. We hope you will enjoy your first time here.” Her smile went well with her encouraging voice.

He responded with an equally friendly, if a little too cute “So are you Diana?” She replied with an equally cute remark of “I’m Diana’s Dutiful Daughter”. They both laughed lightly, a little more than was merely polite to do.

The menu was not particularly long, but it did have some of his favourite foods, so he took a little time with his choice. She did not try to rush him. Once he had chosen, she responded with an alliterate, “A Friday favourite”.

As he was eating, and thoroughly enjoying his food, he decided to take a closer look at the paper again, and see how Diana’s Diner was rated out of ten. He expected, both with the friendly service and the delicious food, it would be an eight or a nine. He was somewhat shocked to read that it was rated 3.5, and there was a significant number of ratings that gave it that low score. He then hoped that the food was as good as the menu.

He then looked for what was a high-ranking place. Right away, he noticed that three places had an identical score of 8.5, top of the list. There were a lot of ratings for them too, the same number found in Diana’s Diner.” He was an accountant, so had a keen eye for noticing numbers. Other places had different numbers.

He was about to think that the poor rating was reinforced by the low number of customers in the restaurant at the time. But it was still a little before six o’clock. He liked to eat early. He would wait to judge the numbers.

It wasn’t long after the hands of the old-fashioned clock on the wall formed the straight line of six o’clock that people started appearing. By six thirty, the place was packed. 

He noted that the service appeared to be good for all the customers.. More waitresses appeared at the same time as the diners did. No one he saw had to wait. “It can’t be the service”, he thought.

Then the young woman who had served him, Diana’s Dutiful Daughter, appeared just as he finished his first course. She smiled and said, “Would you like to have one of Diana’s Diner’s delightful desserts?” The closest to clever that he could say was “definitely.” He was a numbers person, not a word person, as much as he appreciated those who could play with the language, like he did with figures.

The selection of ‘delightful desserts’ was excellent. The decision was the only part of that he had some difficulty with. He would later think of it as a great choice, but that was probably true of the others as well.

He watched and listened to the relationship between the other customers and the other waitresses. There was a lot of local talk shared, not just business. Why the low rating then?

There was no apparent reason. The prices were reasonable, better than in restaurants in the big city that had been his home.

Discovering the Reason for the Low Rating

           Paul finished eating, long after he decided that he would be coming back next Friday, maybe sooner. He still wondered why this great place had such a low rating. He would have to ask.

           The waitress came with the bill. He wasn’t usually a big tipper, but he did on this occasion. It was earned, he reckoned. After he received his copy of the bill, he asked Diana’s Dutiful Daughter the question that had been puzzling him. He picked up the newspaper, and pointed to the restaurant’s low rating. “Why is it that you guys are rated so low here?  This is a great place. It should be at the top of the list.”

           “You are new in town, right?”

           “Yes, I just moved in last week. I got a job here.”

           “Did you notice the name on the big building down the road?”

           “Yes, THE ROGERS CORPORATION (he said with particular emphasis) building.”

“You might have noticed in the paper that our mayor and his councillor wife are featured prominently. Well they are of the same family that owns three restaurants here in town. The boss who runs the Rogers company (brother of the mayor),told senior staff to tell junior staff to rate those restaurants highly (as they are family run), and ours with a low score, because we are the main competition.”

“Well, I am going to give you guys a ten, and maybe give those other restaurants a two, maybe repeating it a few times. And this will be my regular restaurant from here on in. I dine out every Friday night. So you will see my again, new Friday.”

           The waitress paused for about five seconds, and then put her hand on his, not removing it right away.

           “You’re more than welcome to come here as often as you want.”

Paul did not know what to say in response. As often happened, words failed him. But he made a decision, and asked a question.

           “Are you working tomorrow night?”

           “I could be.”

           “See you then.”

April 11, 2022 16:18

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