One of my favorite restaurants, Corner Bakery, has undergone a bit of a shift at it’s Irvine Marketplace branch since the last time I’ve been home. When last I ate there, and since it’s opened, customers would enter the restaurant, pass a few displays, and queue in a short line that takes them past a counter/display case showcasing all of their food. You would order, your food would be prepared and given to you, you’d put it on your tray, and slide it down to the register to pay, cafeteria style. The design was elegantly simple — newcomers had a chance to see all of the available food options without having to just read a menu, and traffic was managed effectively as people moved quickly through the line.
Now, the line is gone, the area is rearranged, and the display cases are no more. While things like salads and soups were dished out right in front of the customer before, they are now hidden in the back, along with the sandwiches and such. There is no food sitting out except for the baked goods, and there is no queue. Now, you enter through the front door, look at the menu, approach a cashier, and place your order. It is a very, very bad change.
The new layout creates a choke point at the door as people line up before the registers. No more are crowds swept into the restaurant through an elegant queueing system; now they are bunched up in a line. Worst of all, because food is no longer prepared in front of the customer, there is a much higher rate of errors. Since I have to sit down before I can receive my food (delivered to my table), I have no opportunity to correct someone if they put the wrong soup in the bowl, if I want a different kind of bread, or whatever the circumstance is. And the last time Shaina went to a Corner Bakery, they forgot to bring her her order, and then didn’t believe her when she went to the counter to ask for it!
At the same time as this change happened, trash receptacles and dish bins were removed, I assume so that customers no longer feel the need (or have the ability) to clean up after themselves. That one confused my mom to no end. Are we supposed to leave everything on the table now, or not? Were we before? Do we need to tip now? The old design was unclear, yes, but now it is perhaps moreso.
All in all, Corner Bakery’s new approach to dining — and it’s gradual transformation into a more full-service restaurant — is a major disappointment, and a very poor choice.