How do you rate a restaurant? Is it based on how the food tastes? The variety of menu options? Is it the décor? Customer service? I judge a restaurant chain on consistency.
For my family, eating comes with complications. My daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies when she was just a wee toddler, so having food prepared for us in kitchens other than our own can verge on terrifying. Finding restaurants that understand the gravity of allergies - and that treat us with respect - while ensuring my daughter will not have an anaphylactic episode makes eating out a challenge for us.
Reliable dining establishments we can trust are few and far between, especially when they are part of a big chain. At these corporate restaurants, I’m often made to feel like I am an annoying, high-needs customer inconveniencing the kitchen. My daughter sees the subtle flicker of impatience from the server and shrinks from embarrassment. It breaks my heart.
There is only one chain where my husband and I have had consistently fantastic family dining experiences over the years: The Keg Steakhouse + Bar. We’ve basically eaten at every Keg location in the GTA, and no matter which location we’re at, we experience fantastic customer service. Plus, there’s that delicious steak! (Is your mouth watering?)
Without a doubt, my vote for best restaurant chain goes to The Keg Steakhouse + Bar.
The first time we visited this restaurant was eight years ago, when my daughter was five. As per usual, I was extremely nervous articulating to the wait staff about the importance of keeping my daughter safe. I didn’t know it back then, but they have an an allergy protocol in place which involves the manager overseeing the situation. When we advised our server about the allergies, he immediately called his manager over. The manager was lovely; he took copious notes about what she was allergic to and headed to the kitchen to personally talk to the chef.
My husband and I were blown away. Not only were we taken seriously, but the concern about allergies was dealt with politely and efficiently. When my daughter’s meal was ready, the manager personally delivered it. I get a little teary thinking about this. While it may not seem like a big deal, feeling heard and knowing my daughter was safe was quite emotional for my husband and I. It allowed us to relax and enjoy our meals without worrying.
Generally speaking, upscale dining with little kids isn’t always ideal, but The Keg gets that piece too. Their menu is more than just fried kiddy food. There are grilled options and lots of veggies! I remember my kids fidgeting and complaining while waiting for their steak or ribs to arrive. Like many family-friendly establishments, The Keg has colouring puzzle booklets that kept our kids busy for a little while. Just when they started to lose it, our server would magically appear with trays of fresh veggies and dip for them to snack on. Of course, they gobbled up all the veggies. (Parenting win!)
Going out for dinner is one of our family rituals. There are some nights when I’m just too tired to make supper. I may have worked all day and didn’t have time to pull something edible together. I may have endured a stressful day at work and just need to decompress with family. I may be feeling overwhelmed and under-cared for. A stress-free night out with my family at The Keg is my gift to myself.
To be honest, as a small business owner, I was curious why the customer service is so consistently good at this chain. There seems to be a unique corporate culture. When we were there for dinner last week, I asked our gregarious server, Chris, if there was special training for the staff to provide exceptional service. He told me that to get a job as a server at The Keg, he had to beat out 700 applicants. Not only are there face-to-face interviews, but all potential employees are put through a rigorous process of role-playing and team-work exercises where management looks for people whose personalities shine. It works. We’ve only had charming servers who turn our dinners into an experience. If you’ve been to the Keg, you know what I’m talking about.
My husband and I have become loyal guests. For the last eight years, almost every single family celebration - birthday parties, landing a big client, my dad coming in from out of town - happens at The Keg. We are always made to feel welcome; the wine is flowing, and our steaks are cooked and spiced to perfection.
Which reminds me, Mother’s Day is coming up quickly. Guess what I’m asking my husband for? Reservations! (I hope they’re not already booked up!). We all deserve the best when we go out and spend our hard-earned dollars. The Keg Steakhouse + Bar is my place.