Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Don't Eat @ Joe's: A Bad Experience @ Joe's Crab Shack [UPDATED 2X]

* This story has been updated on July 29, 2012

I know, I know … people rarely write reviews about good experiences.

For restaurants, especially national chains, one should expect consistency in quality, taste, and service.

When on vacation, you go to places like McDonald's because you know it will taste the same as it does back home.

There really isn't a need for a good review of a chain restaurant other than a recommendation to try a new special or point to a great discount.


For my daughter's 20th birthday, she wanted to celebrate at Joe's Crab Shack.

Joe's has 120+ chain restaurants across the USA.

I like seafood, but it's not something I crave.

I personally don't like the recent Joe's Crab Shack commercials.

I always check out restaurants and menus so I know what the prices are and have an idea of what to get once I get there. 

I also knew that Joe's ran occasional discount and appetizer specials. I printed off six different free appetizer coupons because that's how the bills would be divided.

Prices at Joe's are high ... averaging $18-$40 per person, not including drink or appetizers.

The atmosphere at Joe's is purposely set up like an old beach seafood restaurant and is very appealing to seafood lovers.

Joe's has outdoor seating that personally appeals to me.

The restaurants have a nice playground with sand for the kids to play and where they can be easily monitored from the outdoor seating area.

The service is purposely aimed at being a kind of "yankee bad attitude" not really southern hospitality.

(Note: The restaurant originally started in Texas.)

My step daughter had made reservations two days in advance for 25 people at 6:45PM. This would require 4 outside tables ~ seating 6 at each table comfortably.

Approximately 12 of us showed up at 6:25PM.

We notified the staff that we had arrived. We saw them clear two tables as they emptied and put them together. Then, as the two other tables became empty, the hostess sat other waiting customers at those tables. This caused a delay for us to get seated and a lot of confusion as other members of our party arrived.

18 from our party had arrived by the time we were seated at 7:10 ~ 25 minutes after our reservation.

While the restaurant was filling fast, no one was really waiting to be seated except our party.

We were finally seated.

Our orders were taken.

The food came out unevenly. While it can be understood that 25 orders takes time, it took nearly 30 minutes for everyone to be served. Some had almost finished as other's food arrived.

My food - "A Steam Pot" was good but not outstanding and to me ~ not worth the $24.95 I paid for it. The corn seemed undercooked and the dish was rather oily.

The Crab Dip, Joe's signature appetizer, was very tasty.

Our party's drinks weren't kept full and I found myself needing water because of the saltiness and oiliness of the food.

My daughter's "steam pot" was cold, the corn on the cob even had ice crystals on it. It seemed as if the pot had been in a cooler and the cook skipped "steaming it".

Several in the party got the wrong dish or no dish at all and there was a significant delay in getting replacement dishes out. I was amicable and just accepted what I was brought.

When it came time for the bills … none of the appetizer coupons were taken off, the bills had added gratuity of 18% ~ higher than a customary 15% (but to be fair, this was understood before receipt). I just personally don't like tipping more than 15% for bad service.

Most of the bills had errant orders and some seemed unreasonably high.

My daughter had been told her meal would be discounted because of the "cold food" error. Her bill didn't reflect that credit.

We sent the bills back to recalculated three different times. The process took nearly 30 minutes to sort out.

Several discussions were made with the manager and assistant manager. A number of excuses, citing short-handed staff and a new cook; were given.

Because of delays and bill errors ~ the entire Joe's experience lasted 3.5 hours as we left at 10:35PM.

While certainly none of Joe's fault, I think the following is worth mentioning due to everyone in the party being exhausted and in need of leaving 2 hours sooner …

My 9 year-old son and his slightly older cousin were playing on the playground and had a bad accident.

The Joe's location was 25 miles from my home … we drove home towards a nearby hospital because my son was complaining of bad neck pain.

Fortunately, the diagnosis was a sprain.

This extended the trip to beyond midnight for my family ~ making it a 5 hour "from the front door and back" journey.

I sent Joe's an email through their "contact us page", I only received an automated response and never heard back from them regarding my issues.

What I had hoped to accomplish with this review … I personally think if you have another choice for seafood … I'd consider another establishment.

[UPDATE] After seeing this review, I was contacted by the General Manager of the Greenville SC location who was very pleasant and sincerely wanted another opportunity to impress me and my family. He's offered another chance via gift card. I declined, but he insisted and like I said, he was very pleasant. I'm always willing to chalk a really bad experience up as a "nothing seemed right night". I will update this review once I've had the chance to visit a second time.

[UPDATE II] I'm glad I gave Joe's a second chance! It's so hard for me to believe that so many different things could go wrong, but it seems like that is exactly case. We, along with other tables that I could see, were treated fairly ~ we got the "crab cracking bibs", the dancing waitresses, lots of visits to the table to ask how our meal was and to fill our drinks. <--- All things that didn't happen, that normally happen at Joe's.

My daughter's "steampot" was great this go around. In fact, everyone's food was perfect! My wife and I split the "Big Hook Up" and is was very tasty. My son got the "Kid's Steampot". We also got dessert this time and  the Key Lime pie, Apple Crumble with ice cream and the kids Painted Rice Krispy treat were all perfect!

While I definitely wasn't seeking out this completely gratis meal by writing this review and I don't write reviews to harm businesses; I'm very glad that Joe's stepped up to the plate to prove that they are tops in not only seafood, but customer service.

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