Never EVER go to Woody’s Bar-B-Q (@WoodysBBQCorp) in Lake Wales. Here’s why:
I moved to Florida in 1988 and I have been from one end of the state to the other and back again hundreds of times. Jacksonville to Tallahassee; Orlando to Miami; Tampa to Key West. With that in mind, the number of restaurants I’ve frequented are astronomical.
So when I say I experienced THE WORST restaurant experience in Florida last night, it’s from an impressive base of reference.
Here’s the story:
Yesterday I had to make the drive from Vero Beach to St. Petersburg to wrap up some unfortunate family related business. About halfway through the state, Shannon and I started feeling hungry and decided to stop for dinner near Lake Wales. The first place of promise we saw was Manny’s Chop House. Unfortunately, there was a line out the door and we didn’t have the time to dedicate waiting (since we needed to get to St. Pete at a decent time.)
We drove a little while longer and saw a Woody’s Bar-B-Q from the highway and decided to stop there. There’s a Woody’s in Melbourne and I’d been there a few times. They had pretty good food so we decided to try this one. Here’s the location:
The place was busy, too, but not slammed like Manny’s was – so we decided to give it a go. We gathered with the others waiting near the entrance, but no one seemed to be working the host station. After a few minutes of no one coming to ask about us, I asked the family of five in front of us if they knew the wait time or if they had been helped yet. They said they hadn’t been and had been there for a while.
“Don’t worry,” I said. ”I’m THAT guy.”
We all laughed together for a moment and I stepped ahead to find someone to flag down. An older man walked by and I asked him if there was someone seating people or if he knew the wait time. He snapped at me (and the other family standing near me) and said “yes, but we’re busy and I’ll help you after I clean off a table for a party of nine.”
I was kind of taken aback, but – you know – people get agitated when they are busy so I shrugged it off. The other family, though, didn’t take kindly to it and after pointing out how rude the man was, they left.
We continued to wait a few more minutes when the older man returned to seat us. Another couple had shown up after us so he sat all four of us and (at this point) he seemed a little more amiable.
After a few minutes our server came by. He seemed flustered and disorganized. Having waited tables, I knew how to plan and handle a busy night at a restaurant. Thus, when he asked for our drink order, I told him that we knew our entire order so that he could put it in. His look conveyed that my being ready seemed somewhat of an inconvenience, but he took the order anyway and left. We watched him run off to a couple of other tables… but not to get our drinks.
The older man who had sat us returned to the table that he sat AFTER us with THEIR drinks just moments after. We, though, had nothing.
Sitting around waiting, I started playing on my phone and checked in on Foursquare. At this point, we had been already been in the restaurant for over ten minutes.
Another ten minutes went by and I stopped the server and pointed out that we had given him our FULL ORDER over fifteen minutes ago and we didn’t event have DRINKS. He said he was sorry and that he was “helping a nine top and my boss is watching me.”
As if this was my problem.
He left and finally showed up a few minutes later with the complicated drinks we ordered: water and a sweet iced tea.
Time continued to crawl by… and I watched as the table seated AFTER us got their appetizer.
And then they got their meal.
We have been there for almost 40 minutes and all we had been given was water and iced tea. Let me remind you that we put in our ENTIRE ORDER within MINUTES of being sat.
I asked to speak to a manager and he said he would get her. After five minutes of waiting, NO MANAGER CAME TO THE TABLE. Aggravated and starving, I Googled the restaurant’s phone number and called it from my cell. A woman near the front of the restaurant answered and I asked to speak to a manager. During this time, the couple in the booth next to us started talking to my wife stating that they were in practically the same circumstance: their server was too busy for them and they had been there for longer than us.
When I finally got the manager on the phone (she still hand’t come to our table) I explained that I was the person in the booth who had been waiting for a manager and, if it wasn’t too much trouble, could she swing by. Instead of coming over, she started telling me OVER THE PHONE that she was waiting for our appetizer to come up to bring over to us.
Seriously. She kept talking to me on the phone and NOT coming over to the table.
THEN IT GOT WORSE.
Remember the older guy? He came over to the table and started talking to us. He started telling me how busy it was and I immediately countered with how that wasn’t an excuse for the lack of a manager coming to address the situation OR the fact that we didn’t have appetizers yet after 45 minutes. The scene was escalating because this guy was just RUDE and the staff and other patrons began taking note. While I was explaining how the lack of service was out of hand, he started yelling at me about how he “wasn’t going to put that kind of pressure on his staff.”
Pressure on his staff??? TO PROVIDE SERVICE???!!
My wife saw how agitated I had become and said, “You know what? This is ridiculous. Let’s go somewhere else. They’ve wasted enough of our time.”
“Yes. You should go,” stated the rude older man. “Leave.”
I was livid. His stood up and continued my conversation as he walked away. ”Excuse me,” I said trying to regain his attention. ”I need the name of the owner of this place.”
Then he dropped the bomb: “I am the owner.”
Dumbfounded, I said I needed his business card so that I can report his franchise to corporate.
“I don’t have a card.”
“Fine,” I replied. ”I need your name then. Please write it down for me.”
“I’m not going to give you my name.”
I was floored.
“So, you’re the owner and your WON’T tell me your name?” I asked – flabbergasted. “Really?!”
I was at a complete and total loss. I let him know that I didn’t need his name and that I would be calling corporate regardless.
And we left.
I wasted 45 minutes of a long trip I had to make that evening dealing with the worst and single most unprofessional restaurant in the state of Florida. Forty. Five. Minutes.
I Googled the the Woody’s corporate office info (they’re in Jacksonville) and called their number. Get this: you can leave a voicemail for one of the founders… Woody himself.
I did so. I’m curious as to whether or not they’ll take the time to follow up regarding a franchisee that is making their brand look like a complete and utter train wreck of service.
We wound up stopping at a place called Mike’s Restaurant down the road. We had a great dinner and you know what? They were pretty busy, but we still managed to get sat and get our drinks in five minutes.
So I’m writing this post to share with the world my WORST restaurant experience ever – and then emailing it to Woody’s Bar-B-Q.
And then getting lunch ANYWHERE else but there today.
In 1994, I was living in South Florida with my family. My days were spent working as a manager for a small movie theater and taking classes at the local community college. Near the end of that year, my father informed me that he and my sister were moving to Georgia and I was welcome to come along. Instead, I saw the opportunity to finally step out on my own and opted to move to Orlando, Florida.
That November, I signed a seven month lease at a small apartment complex down the street from Universal Studios Florida with my cousin Jim who was, coincidentally, also looking to get out on his own, too. That December 1st, I celebrated my 21st birthday by moving into my new apartment.
On December 4th, I started work at Universal Studios Florida. Within a week, I was working at my first theme park job: Boat Skipper at the Jaws Ride. One of my trainers was a stocky muscular man by the name of Brian Newsome.
Brian took the theme park experience seriously. His passion for how important it was to believe the shark; to believe the fear of the experience… his passion was something that made YOU passionate just by being around him. In later months (and years) I would learn of Brain’s love of theme parks worldwide. He was always talking to me about Cedar Point and the roller coasters and, to this day, that excitement continued for him. He even has a photo album on his Facebook called “Amusement Parks/favorite rides“.
Seriously. The man LOVED theme parks and cherished conveying and being a part of “the guest experience”.
That’s not how we first connected, though. Flash back to that December in 1994 into the beginning of 1995. While working together at Jaws, Brian and I got into a couple of conversations about our respective love of video games. I had just gotten into PC gaming with my newly acquired Packard Bell with a Pentium chip. Brian had a Sega CD and he and I were constantly talking about the rumored Sony CD based video game system that was coming out. Through these conversations, I learned that Brian and I (coincidently) lived in the same apartment complex. He invited me over and I would swing by to play games with him on his Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.
A couple of months later, a fellow boat skipper at Jaws heard me talking about hanging out with Brian. The skipper pulled me aside to talk.
“You know Brian is gay, right?” she asked.
I paused for a moment. I honestly hadn’t thought about it at all up until that moment.
“No,” I replied.
“Well, you’re hanging out with him a lot. I thought you should know in case people start to wonder if you’re gay, too”
This hit me pretty hard. My brain processed that information…
Brian likes theme parks.
Brian likes video games.
Brian’s a cool guy.
None of that changed with his sexuality. So I answered the boat skipper with what turned out, in retrospect, to be one of my most important and profound discoveries about myself in life.
I looked at her. shrugged, and said, “I don’t care.”
Brain was an amazing human being and, by all accounts, my first gay friend. The thing is, he wasn’t my friend because he was gay – he was my friend because he was my friend. We shared a passion for theme parks, video games, and loving life. Time went by and, thanks to the power of the Internet, Brian and I reconnected again via Facebook a few years back. We chatted a couple in 2012 when he saw I posted pictures of my trip to Tokyo Disneyland, and I remember him replying to some Jaws photos I posted even more recently.
Well everyone, I’m in icu with cancer of an unknown primary…They’re trying to fix my breathing. I could really use everyone’s prayers
This morning, my Facebook feed is full of posts conveying that Brian lost his battle with cancer. People pass through our lives all the time, but sometimes they don’t always know the impact they have on the people around them. Having Brian as a friend helped mold me as a person – and for that, I am entirely and eternally grateful.
Rest in peace, Brian. You were nothing short of amazing.
It’s been a long few months and a lot of my life, soul, and brain function has been dedicated to finding answers. Dad took his own life 107 days ago and I’ve been slowly and steadily trying to clean up the wreckage.
It’s been rough. It’s been burdensome. It’s been a special kind of hell that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies.
And it’s almost over.
My wife made a profound observation this past weekend when we were going through my late father’s (and his late wife’s) remaining worldly possessions. It stems from the items we all collect in life. Take a moment and look at your apartment, condo, house, etc. Now look inside it at all your stuff: clothes, furniture, photos, files, toys, books, towels, magazines, pots, pans, phones, old cell phones, the junk drawer in the kitchen…
When you die, it’s a lot of things that some poor soul somewhere is going to have to go through. Morbid, I know, but it’s the truth. Shannon, while we were going through everything, spoke out loud the same thing I was thinking: “I hope my stuff is more organized than this when someone has to go through it.”
The truth is, it isn’t. Now that we’ve had that thought (and the experience to impress it upon us) we might actually get things more organized in our house as a result. Or simplified. Or both.
As a I stated earlier, though, it’s almost over. I spent the past couple of days going back and forth to Dad’s old house (roughly 300 miles round trip) to finish gathering the important stuff: photos, records, and evidence of a life lived. The rest is ready to go away. I snapped this photo the other night when leaving the house. It’s what’s left of the room where my father left this world:
A stripped bed. Empty drawers. The overwhelming smell of the room of a chain smoker.
I’ve talked with my siblings and we’ve agreed upon the best way to wrap up the estate and, in accordance with those plans, the universe of my father and his wife will be officially closed after next Monday. Sure, there will be fringe elements to deal with here and there – but the pressure of decision making and finding answers will be done. Gone. Closed.
So, dear Internet, I apologize for not posting a single damn thing in February. My mind, heart, and soul have been on hiatus these past one hundred days. For now, though, I request a few more days of patience and I finally find the end of my father’s ending.
Then we can return to our regularly scheduled program of anime, conventions, food, video games, and the exciting life of my hobby gone horrible wrong.