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Mar 30, 2008 11:00 PM

Some customisation is OK... but this??

So last night we got home and I couldn't deal with cooking (mustard-grilled lamb, boiled potatoes with butter, salt and parsley, and broccolini), so I punted and went to go get us food from California Pizza Kitchen. (What can I say, I like it now and then.) The CPK ASAP location near Angel Stadium is gone, so I went to the new fancy CPK restaurant at the Anaheim GardenWalk, two blocks from (ominous chord) Disneyland.

There were THOUSANDS of people walking around eating at the good (McCormick's and Schmick's), the bad (Bubba Gump Shrimp Company) and the ugly (the Texas Cheesecake Depository). The CPK had a line out the door of cranky, hungry guests in our fair city. The takeout counter was busy too -- and I didn't have the phone number, since they just opened two weeks ago. So I waited... and waited... and waited... while the couple in front of me gave the world's most nightmarish order to the takeout counter.

The woman ordered a Thai chicken pizza. A good choice, and one I often get myself. Then there was the man. He ordered -- and this took nearly 20 minutes -- a pizza with no tomato sauce, but with extra garlic oil, and fresh tomatoes, and Italian sausage, and bleu cheese, and something else, but with the toppings all the way to the edge of the crust, etc., etc. It took the poor 20-year-old at the takeout counter forever to get it all right -- and then, of course, the kitchen read "bleu cheese dressing" instead of "bleu cheese baked on the pizza", and the guy flipped his wig, and it was just too painful to watch.

Honestly, when did it become OK to do this?? I understand a modification because you're allergic or averse to something. I could even understand it if you called ahead. But when you're "building your own pizza", you need to go to a place where you build your own pizza. Not a really shockingly busy CPK on a Saturday night. To CPK's credit (or is it?) they accommodated him. I'm surprised they did, but it's a credit to their customer service (and the dark side of the "guests are always right" philosophy).

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  1. I don't think it's wrong to choose specific toppings for your pizza at a take-out pizza counter. However, "with the toppings all the way to the edge of the crust?" Make your own pizza! Not being from California, though, I don't know what CPK is like. If I went to an upscale, sit-down Italian place that served pizza, I would not be modifying it except for health reasons, (Which may include no tomato sauce and no cheese, if I'm having a bad day.)

    And when I started in the customer service industry when I was 16, I remember reading something in my handbook after my first day: the customer may not always be right, but the customer is STILL the customer.

    6 Replies
    1. re: miss_bennet

      CPK (which is in NYC and locations all over the country) offers several "specialty" pizzas. They don't have the option like a typical pizzeria of pizza with 1 topping, with 2 toppings, etc. from a list.

      1. re: Amuse Bouches

        Where is there a California Pizza Kitchen in NYC?

        1. re: KTinNYC

          I passed by one around Madison or Park Ave in the low 30s this weekend. And I think there's one near Bloomingdales.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            Thanks, I've never seen one before but then again I'm in neither neighborhood very often.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              there's one on park ave south between 29th & 30th...i walked past it last week & stopped dead in my tracks. it just seems so out of place! i used to live in the neighborhood, and it certainly wasn't there back then. i guess i've just always equated CPK with shopping & strip malls.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                Yep, it's on 60th just east of 3rd avenue next to Dylan's Candy Bar. We used to live right next door. If we wanted pizza, we usually went to Patsy's, but I love CPK's BBQ chicken chopped salad.

        2. Yikes. How awful.
          Due to my own personality flaws, I probably would've interjected and said something sarcastic. It likely comes from working in the restaurant business and not being able to say something to people who are being obnoxious or inconsiderate.

          I work at a nice restaurant that's part of a small chain. We have a 2 rule add or subtract policy regarding most dishes. You can add or take away 2 things, but after that, you're altering the recipe and we can't guarantee the food anymore. So, we don't do it. Telling people no when they're making crazy requests usually goes over fine. And we make exceptions, of course. Something simple, fine. But there are people that come in and want to create their own recipes. We don't do that.

          1. It's another one of those frustrating situations where the limit ideally should be in the customer's sense of restraint rather than in a restrictive policy. The idea of build your own is great, but there will always be people who abuse it.

            I just read an interesting article about why the customer isn't always right: As I read it, I wondered what food hounds would say about it. I tend to agree wholeheartedly with the points made.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Kagey

              As a current service employee (not in the restaurant business though), I loved that article and wished more businesses thought that way. Employees need to be the focus if you expect to offer great service, not the customers.

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. My husband had to wait a long time to order take out pizza once because the woman in front of him wanted the pizza divided into 1/8th for toppings. She wouldn't accept that they don't do that. I wish take out places would have computers on the side where you can place your order and then pick it up--you could take your time and get exactly what you want. I could really use it at Five Guys because they have so many toppings it's hard to get it straight.

                6 Replies
                1. re: chowser

                  Chowser, I am LOL with this story. This is when I would tap the lady on the shoulder and say "here's $20 - make your own at home".

                  1. re: Cheflambo

                    The sad thing is the restaurant even offered to do 1/4 portions, though they don't normally do that but she insisted on the 1/8th. I love your solution, though! Maybe we all need to carry around a fund just to pay off the clueless.

                    1. re: chowser

                      Well, as good a solution as that might be, even Donald Trump could not afford to pay off all the clueless people I've encountered lately. DONT get me started on that topic! LOL

                      1. re: Cheflambo

                        It could be funded by a stupidity tax. Or a "bad restaurant karma tax". I can just see it now!

                        Man Diner: "I'll have the porterhouse, medium rare..."

                        Woman Diner: "I'll have the shr..."

                        Man Diner, interrupting: "...and the little lady will have a green salad, low-fat dressing on the side, no croutons, because she's watching her figure."

                        Server: "Certainly, sir. That's $38 for the steak, $5 for the salad and $1400 in jack*** tax."

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          Love it. Just love it. Some of my employees would be broke in short order.

                  2. re: chowser

                    I don't know that I have ever asked for 1/2 one topping and 1/2 something else. It never even occurs to me. Like I over-cook, I over-order (without exception, typically at my house someone will ask me WHY is there so much food for X amount of people?!) so I would just get 3 or 4 diff pies if there were any nutjobs who hated pepperoni (or whatever)
                    Anyway, your post reminded me of when I lived in NJ right next to a WaWa (I used to get a coffee there almost every am until I moved closer to a Dunkin) and they had a sub place inside that you would use a small keypad to order your sub EXACTLY how you wanted it. The receipt would print out and you would wait until they called your number for your EXACT creation. I never did it, but it seems like a great idea...for a sandwich, not pizza.