Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Essence of Local and a Return of Balance to the Force

I have been wanting to try Essence Bakery in Tempe for quite some time.  I'm not sure how I originally stumbled across the restaurant; it may have been in one of many searches for local restaurants that use local ingredients, as this is something that Essence strives to do.
After I first learned about it, I was intrigued.  Then I found this article, and I can honestly tell you that I was salivating the entire read.
That was it.  I had to get there.
Of course, it's not the closest place to eat, and I knew that busy mornings (and lunchtimes) had the possibility of creating a cranky Wee One, so I've held off.
Fortunately, I was at a workshop in Tempe today, and I convinced my co-workers that this was where we needed to go to lunch.

It was pretty busy, and as there were seven of us, we had to wait a short time to get all of our orders in.  I, of course, had to get a croissant and couldn't resist trying one of the chocolate ones.  Oh, my, it was delicious; buttery to the core.  Honestly, I kind of wish I had gotten a plain one to revel in its buttery goodness, although the chocolate did slow me down a little (I may have horked a plain one down like my dog might do to her dinner).  Had we not needed to get back to our workshop, I may have ordered about a thousand more.  You know - just to make sure that the deliciousness wasn't a fluke or something (I'm thinking of my fellow foodies here!).
As for the actual lunch portion of lunch, we all had a salad or sandwich; I got the special, which, unlike the space special, had no nasty side effects (that would be Mel Brooks reference #3, for those of you keeping score).  The soup of the day was cauliflower, and it was combined with a chicken sandwich.  While not THE BEST sandwich I've ever had (that honor still lies with The Jake at my all-time favorite local restaurant, Dirty Dave's in Olympia, Washington), the fresh arugula and other ingredients did stand out.  My friend Christie had a grilled cheese, which I would have gotten were it not for the pesto on it (that whole thing about basil), but she said the potato salad, which clearly had plenty of lovely grainy mustard, was extremely tasty.
In all, this is definitely a local place that will get some repeat business from me.  I can see why people come here every day to have a little slice of French gustatory heaven.

I am also happy to report that I received a response from Chompie's to my email about the situation I encountered this past weekend and that the email was clearly not a "thank you for your comments; we value your feedback" form letter that really doesn't tell you whether or not your feedback was actually read (it doesn't have to be read to be "valued").
This response, posted below verbatim, with only a small portion edited out for privacy purposes, shows that not only is my feedback valued but also read and most certainly considered:

Ms. Powell,
I apologize for the poor service experience you received at our Chandler Chompie\'s. It is very frustrating to read your comments.  I shared your feedback with our General Manager and he informed me that the younger hostess (...) was working her first Saturday shift and is still in the process of learning the position. Unfortunately, she is learning at your expense and inconvience. She was obviously not set-up from a training and experience standpoint to provide proper guest service.  I want to ensure you that we do strive to provide great customer service and continue to teach and train our staff accordingly. Your feedback will help us get closer to achieving that goal... Without your feedback, we cannot improve! Thank you again for writing us and hope you give us another try in the future, because our future successes will be driven in part from your candid feedback.

So, in the end, yes, sometimes local chains and businesses do not meet certain expectations that larger chains might just because of specific corporation-wide standards (whenever I say something like that, I always think of the requisite Johnny Rocket's dance moves).  However, this email response clearly shows me that these businesses are more than willing to take feedback, even less than glowing approval, to heart and make changes that they deem necessary.  More importantly, this email shows me (and I hope it shows you, too) that these businesses are grateful for their customers.  
I do plan on returning to Chompie's at some point, although I don't know if I'll make it a point to go on a busy day when I am feeling more than peckish.  A girl needs her grub, after all!  Thank you, Chompie's, for turning a negative situation into a positive learning experience!

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