Monday, March 9, 2015

Bolt Burgers Food Review III

Marinated Chicken Breast Burger

My first two visits to Bolt Burgers were pretty terrific (especially the second one) but visit #3 was an unexpected bust. Weekends are tricky (owners and managers are usually off) but that's no excuse for what I encountered. Knowing the owners as I do, I doubt they'll be happy. Heaven knows, I wasn't.

I stopped by around 2:15 PM, and pretended to be new/clueless. That's important, because Bolt Burgers requires a certain level of training to navigate. I asked one of the employees if I could sit anywhere I like (there were about five other diners at the time) and she said, "Sure, but make sure to remember your table number for ordering." Ordering is done a number of ways; and this time, I was determined to place an order at one of their tablet kiosks. This first encounter was positive, as the employee was quite cheerful. I secured a table in the back (#28) and went back to the front to order.

Bolt Signature Fries

As I've said before, I'm not a fan of ordering via tablets. It's confusing, and the novelty disappears after your first try (at least it's better than restaurants that make you WRITE out your order... ugh.) Changing your mind requires (1) plenty of backspaces or (2) starting over from scratch. The credit card payment screen is downright terrifying; but luckily I swiped my card (despite no instructions to do so) and the tablet took care of the rest. If I were them, I'd scrap it completely, and let the employees process orders like everywhere else.

As for lunch, it's relatively pricey. A Marinated Chicken Breast Burger is only $6.99, but add in an individual order of Bolt Signature Fries ($3.50) and a fountain drink ($2.25) and it starts to add up. Even worse, Bolt charges an extra buck for "a Bolt of relish." In this case, a tiny sprinkling of Asian Slaw. I can't stand that kind of nickel-and-diming... especially for such a paltry amount of slaw (half a sauce cup.) Grand total? $15.11. Too much, I'm afraid.

Sprite Zero Cherry

Once seated, it's easy to fall back in like with Bolt Burgers. I love the slate grey tables & seat-backs (modern and sleek) and Majic 102.3 is a hip/refreshing choice for a radio station. Bathrooms (individual, hooray) are also very clean and modern. Toss in free Wi-Fi, and it began to feel like home. Wait times are minimal (11 minutes total) but Bolt still serves hot fries in a fryer basket with NO PLATE to put them on. They also forgot my Killer Catsup, and the quality of said fries was nothing short of terrible.

For starters, they were cold (almost a third were flimsy) and another third was downright burnt. Had this not been a review, I would have sent them back immediately. As is, I ate two and left the rest. As far as passing our unofficial "oil test," Bolt may have the lowest score ever. You simply HAVE to change the oil more frequently. Lazy, lazy, lazy. There's no way this would happen with the owners on site.

The burger was generously sized and tasty (although the meat was dryer and less juicy than my previous visit.) Kudos for two thick slices of tomato and a fresh wedge of lettuce. The Asian Slaw (what little there was) definitely made it taste better. All in all, a nice burger.

As far as atmosphere goes, the energy level was way low... bordering on somber. New customers were given lukewarm greetings and rushed explanations of how things "work." I also couldn't help but notice small negatives, such as the above-pictured condiment sorter. Way messy, and there was even a dirty, rolled-up napkin propping up a bottle of mustard. Not the end of the world, but nowhere close to how it was before (I even made a point of taking a picture during my first visit... that's how nice it looked.) For what it's worth, nobody walked the room to check on anything either. Never assume your customers are enjoying themselves: At the very least, check. Details, details.

Speaking of, the nail in the coffin came as I left. I passed not one, not two, but three employees... who appeared to be deep in casual conversation. Not one even looked at me (and I was literally inches away from them.) I heaped praise upon the staff's excellent customer service on my first two visits... Not this time.

Everyone's entitled to an off-day; and I can only hope this was Bolt's. I plan on contacting the owners, and I'll be sure to report back on their "take" of my surprisingly poor experience.

Follow-up: True to form, one of the owners contacted me ASAP to discuss my concerns. He apologized, and (more importantly) didn't make excuses. He did say all the right things... renewing my faith in the process. I'll check back in a month or so, to see for myself. Another review to follow.