Tag Archives: customer service

Clean Up With the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

Dirty car? No problem! Clean up with the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas.In spite of a mediocre rating on Yelp (and many complaints), we visited the Finish Line car wash. My daughter’s little car was dirty inside and out. Trips to the barn, trips to school, and traveling out of town plus normal wear and tear had the Dodge a complete mess.

One filthy car. A team of workers. Massive equipment with soap, water, and brushes. Could the Finish Line rise to the challenge of making our car look brand new?

Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

There’s an array of services to choose from, which can give a cause to pause when you’re in a hurry. I hadn’t been to the Finish Line in over 10 years. To say that I was overwhelmed is an understatement.

Various services at the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

We picked a package, drove up, and were immediately swarmed by the first team of workers. We got our stuff out of the car and walked inside.

Inside the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

What I remember (from prior visits) was the service and friendly atmosphere the Finish Line offered. While the service and friendliness remained, there’s now gratis massage, shoe shining, and refreshments. What more could two girls want?

We skipped having massages and cleaning our shoes (we were wearing sandals – too bad!), but we did linger and watch our car go through the indoor washing cycle. I’m a sucker for car washes. And yes, you can deduce that I’m easily amused.

Satisfied that the car had been washed, I went to the front desk to pay the bill. The young woman at the desk greeted me with a big smile. I got warm fuzzies because this, folks, is customer service at its finest. I chatted with her a bit, paid the bill, and began looking at all the goodies we could partake in.

Refreshments at the Finish Line in West Lake Hills, Texas

The Finish Line certainly treats its customers well. We didn’t partake in any of the refreshments, but other people lounged while sipping coffee and eating ice cream cones. What’s really cool is you can leave a donation for the Finish Line’s charity of the month when you choose your refreshment. When we visited, Habitat for Humanity was the chosen charity.

Gotta add that the Finish Line is CLEAN. Something else I look for when I frequent a business.

Service with a smile, gratis food and drink, soothing massages, and clean shoes. Oh, and a sparkling clean car, too.

Yep. The Finish Line did a spectacular job of cleaning the car, inside and out. If I had to be grouchy and complain, it would be that the place was so darn busy, it took some time to get the car finished. I’m not going to gripe about that, however. The crews were working as quickly and efficiently as they could.

My thoughts? The impression I’m left with is how nice everyone was. Even the guys who shooed us out of our car, when we drove up, were smiling. The front desk representative was personable, gracious, and friendly. The guy who gave us back our sparkling clean car was a gentleman. That’s professionalism, folks, pure and simple. Professionalism means smiling and doing the best job that you can. Professionalism means treating your customers right. The Finish Line gets several gold stars for fostering a great environment that’s conducive to good business.

Takeaway

The Finish Line is located at 2900 Bee Cave Road in Austin, Texas 78746. The phone number is (512) 328-9274. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Winter hours are posted on the company’s website. During this season, the Finish Line closes at 5:30 p.m.

Eating Nice at Ginger & Spice in Marble Falls, Texas

Ginger and Spice in Marble Falls, TexasGinger and Spice on Foodio54

Ginger & Spice on Urbanspoon

It’s a goofy headline, but it’s true. You will eat nice at Ginger & Spice in Marble Falls, Texas. If you dig Thai and sushi, Ginger & Spice fits the bill. As you know, Thai and sushi are two of my favorite cuisines.

The first time we scouted Ginger & Spice for a potential foodie review, we did take out. The food was fantastic. I told Afriel that we had to go back when we could eat in. (Of course, my motivation was to try the sushi.) Afriel agreed, and recently we were able to eat lunch at Ginger & Spice.

Gotta say, like many places in Marble Falls, the parking sucks. It’s a shame, because the little dining establishments are trying to make a living and yet customers face terrible parking situations. We asked what people do during busy times. We were told that folks can park across the street. There is a small lot situated across the street from Ginger & Spice, but it fills quickly. We had to park down the street in front of an insurance office. I must say that Ginger & Spice’s staff were extremely apologetic about the parking situation. I only asked because it’s of interest to me. I like seeing how businesses overcome weaknesses, and how businesses respond to situations that are challenges. Ginger & Spice gets a gold star for rising to the occasion and acknowledging the problem and apologizing. Doesn’t make the problem go away, and who knows how parking will be handled as Marble Falls grows, but at least the folks running the business are aware that parking is an issue.

Once we were seated, we told our waitress that we were bloggers who would write about our experiences. She was extremely gracious, and remained that way throughout our meal. We don’t always mention that we’re writers when we eat out, and in most cases, when we do, it’s as we are paying the bill. In this case, I have to say Ginger & Spice was phenomenal. All the staff were as courteous and congenial as when we ordered take out during our prior visit. I am a big appreciator of consistency in customer service.

The salad bar was open, and that intrigued me. For an additional but nominal cost, I could frequent the salad bar for salad, sushi rolls, soup, fruit, and various appetizers. It was amusing to see that the menu specified “In order to keep our costs down, we ask that customers do not eat only the appetizer bar with the intention of taking you [sic] entree home!!! (only small box can be given)”. Course, I was raised in a very strict world of manners and culture: You don’t take more than you can eat, you don’t feed others your food, etc. I have to wonder what happens, in Marble Falls, when people have access to the salad bar at Ginger & Spice. Do people not mind their manners? It’s pretty darn sad when Ginger & Spice has to spell out how the salad bar works.

I asked Afriel to come to the salad bar so she could snap a few photos and check out what was offered. The salad bar was less than I expected, but probably more than some people would care for. It was nothing fancy, but the salad bar contained the staples you would expect. More so, there were a few items I definitely want to check out during our next visit to Ginger & Spice.

Salad bar sampling at Ginger & Spice in Marble Falls, Texas.
Salad bar sampling. From left to right: spring roll, vegetable tempura, and sushi rolls. At the top, rice pudding with fruit.

The tom jerd with tofu soup was ah-mazing! It’s an Asian version of chicken soup, and one of those ultimate comfort foods the hedonist within me loves to indulge in. I told Afriel that I definitely would want tom jerd with tofu if I were sick with a chest cold. The broth was simple yet savory with a deep, nourishing touch. There’s nothing that stood out about the soup yet it was so damn comforting! Total yummy goodness.

Tom Jerd with Tofu soup at Ginger & Spice in Marble Falls, Texas
Tom Jerd with Tofu soup

Big kudos to Ginger and Spice’s chef for the soup. It was excellent!

Afriel ordered from the lunch menu. She had the Saigon noodles, which she jealousy guarded from my wandering chopsticks. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a bite of this luscious bowl of noodles, but judging from Afriel’s expressions while she ate, the meal was absolutely delicious. In case you’ve never had an Asian dish like this, you pour the little bowl of sauce over the noodles. Utterly good, ya’ll.

Saigon noodles at Ginger & Spice in Marble Falls, Texas
Saigon noodles

I read a review that the sushi at Ginger & Spice wasn’t as fresh as it could be. Well, coming from the experience of eating sushi fresh off the boat, why in the hell would you expect a Marble Falls eatery to have sushi as fresh as what you’d get in Seattle? Comparing the sushi I’ve eaten when I’ve traveled to Seattle to what I can eat in Marble Falls isn’t fair. Comparing the sushi I ate at Ginger & Spice to what I pick up at HEB is a fair comparison. It may even be fair to compare Ginger & Spice to my fav Austin sushi bar, Uchi.

I ordered the spicy tuna roll and the chef’s choice 7-piece sushi platter. My sushi platter actually came with an additional nigiri, which I was delighted to find. A girl can never have too much sushi! If you aren’t sure which sushi is what, this site has a great guide. And no, I didn’t eat the nigiri with my fingers (this visit), although sometimes I do!

Spicy tuna roll at Ginger & Spice in Marble Falls, Texas
Spicy tuna roll

I can honestly say, the spicy tuna roll and chef’s choice sushi was wonderful. The roll was freshly made, everything smelled delish, and the texture and cut of the nigiri was spot on. I could see the food was prepared with care and love. Would I get it again? Heck yeah, and I plan on it for the Big Grey Horse Media Christmas Party. It’s an annual tradition, ya’ll!

Chef's choice sushi at Ginger & Spice in Marble Falls, Texas
Chef’s choice sushi with salad

I admit that I’m tough to please. Thai and sushi are my two favorite cuisines, and I am fortunate to have eaten both cuisines at some of the best eateries in America. I’m picky as hell and at this point, I inwardly cringe, just a little, when it’s time to try a new restaurant. I gotta relay the note I wrote in my iPhone after I’d finished my lunch at Ginger & Spice.

The note simply said, “This was one of the best lunches I’ve had in a long, long time.”

Kudos, Ginger & Spice. You hit the nail on the head with this one!

Click here for our pictorial review of Ginger & Spice.

 

Takeaway

Ginger & Spice is located at 909 Second Street in Marble Falls, Texas, 78645. The phone number is 830/693-7171. The hours of operation for lunch are Monday thru Friday, 11:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. The hours of operation for dinner are Monday thru Thursday, 5:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.; Friday thru Saturday, 5:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.; Sunday 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

La Quinta Inn & Suites Woodway in Waco, Texas

We enjoy a good hotel room when we’re on the road. I’m not too picky about accommodations because when I’m traveling, I spend little time in my hotel room. What I need is a place to lay my head after a long day. This post is a shout-out to the La Quinta Inn & Suites Woodway in Waco, Texas.

We were turned on to La Quinta Inn & Suites by my trainer, Paige Erwin. She stays at La Quinta Inn & Suites exclusively when she’s horse showing. Her reason? The hotels are nice to stay at and they allow dogs (Paige has three furry kids).

The La Quinta Inn & Suites Woodway in Waco is amazing. We came in around lunchtime on a Tuesday to check in. Because there were no rooms clean that I had reserved, we were upgraded to a small suite. I already got the horse show rate for the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival II, so this was a deal.

What do I love most about La Quinta Inn & Suites? The hotels are clean, you can pick up fresh fruit, coffee, and yogurt in the morning – complimentary – before heading to the show grounds, and the staff I’ve encountered (Houston and Waco) are professional and helpful. My little dog is always welcome, I make reservations either online or via the phone (to ensure I get the horse show rate), and the rooms are nice. We love the microwave and mini-refrigerator in each room – it’s a must for busy travelers.

Call me a geeky girl, but I dig the “Wake Up on the Bright Side” shower curtains. And the super comfy beds. It really doesn’t get much better than that!

Building Your Brand: Customer Service and Client Relations

Are you building your brand? The answer is always “Yes!” Every step you take while operating a business brands you in a positive or negative way. Whether you are a sole proprietor or employ thousands of people, customer service and client relations should be foremost on your mind.

How are you representing your company? How do you treat prospective clients, and do you maintain positive relationships with the clients you have?

Quite a bit of what I do at Big Grey Horse Media involves marketing. Not only for my business, but for others’ businesses. I grew up in an entrepreneurial, small business environment so I learned early on to treat your customers right.

I’ve had disappointing experiences this year not only with interviews for blog pieces, but actual customer service experiences with companies I wanted to do business with.

A photographer I wanted to buy pictures from didn’t take photos of my horse. That’s cool, as I learned after the fact that the guy runs from ring to ring and is a one man operation. I offered feedback that the majority of the photos he took during the show were of kids and ponies, and to remember that the amateur adults and professional riders were the folks with purchasing power. This photographer was offended by my statement. He set me straight, so to speak, by saying that he did horse shows for free (which I knew), and if I wanted him to photograph my horse, I would have to pay him to do so (which I didn’t know).

In the long run, he missed the boat because paying him was exactly my intention. And no harm was meant when I said adult riders wanted to see photos of their horses, too. Here’s the kicker: “Adults rarely buy from me, and the pony riders’ parents do.” So in this instance, and in this photographer’s mind, kids and ponies win.

Truth is, as long as the shots were good, I would have bought every photo taken of my horse. Heck, I was interested in purchasing photos of my barn mates and their horses, too! And with those fabulous, professional photos of my horse in hand, I would have spread the word. We’re a Texas blog and we thoroughly enjoy endorsing stellar individuals and companies.

This is powerful stuff, people: word of mouth marketing.

Now I will use this experience to portray what happens when you’re rude to a potential client: You lose the sale. Further, your company can go viral in a negative way if someone chooses to call you out.

My take? The show’s prize list indicated this photographer would be at the show. Nothing was said about him being a one-man operation, just that the company would be ringside. Nothing was said on the photographer’s business cards (which were at the concession stand) that you had to ask to have photos taken or that you had to pay him in order to get his attention. Had I known prior, I would certainly have asked him to be ringside while my horse was going.

I felt that I offered this company invaluable insight into a prospective client’s mind. I also think it was a super opportunity for said company to salvage, through excellent customer service and client relations, future sales (the horse world is tiny and I’m sure I will run into this photographer again).

Building your brand is easy. Take good care of the people who come your way. Take good care of the clients you have. Forge bonds with everyone, even if you think they’re not your target market. Relationships drive sales.

 

Alamo Cafe in San Antonio, Texas: A Recipe for Disaster

Entrance to the Alamo Cafe in San Antonio, Texas
The entrance to the Alamo Cafe. Overflow seating areas are on the patio and situated around a waterfall and stream.

Alamo Cafe on Foodio54

Alamo Cafe on Urbanspoon
Spurred on by my mother’s great experiences at Alamo Cafe in San Antonio, Texas, my daughter and I decided to have a late lunch at the restaurant.

Alamo Cafe has two locations in San Antonio. We visited the restaurant at 14250 Hwy 281 North. Arriving after the lunch rush, I figured we would be seated quickly and served just as fast.

Our hostess took us to a booth. As we walked past the tortilla factory, my mouth began to water. The smells swirling through the area were almost too much for a ravenous Texan.

The menu is extensive at the Alamo Cafe. I had a hard time choosing from several pages of meals. I’ve also watched too many episodes of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey chastising failing restaurateurs for putting everything and the kitchen sink on a menu. Nevertheless, the seafood flautas sounded interesting so I asked for our waitress’ recommendation. Kristen, our waitress, confirmed that the flautas were an excellent choice.

Seafood flautas ($9.50) are filled with shrimp, crab, and minced squash and smothered in a jalapeno green sauce topped off with feta cheese. Grilled vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, and broccoli) and rice accompany the flautas. My daughter chose the #3 enchilada plate. For $7.50, you get two enchiladas (choice of beef, chicken, cheese, green chicken, or sour cream chicken) and your choice of red, green, cheese, or chili sauce. Three sides accompany the meal: rice, beans, and a cheese tostada.

My daughter drank pink lemonade ($2.25) and I had ice water with lemon.

Enchilada Plate #3 Chicken
Enchilada Plate #3 Chicken

I gotta say, I had high expectations of my meal and the general experience at the Alamo Cafe. Maybe it’s because my mom loves going there with her friends. Maybe it’s because my daughter and I were having a fun “girl day.” We definitely were in good spirits and expecting the best.

The best is certainly not what we got.

Seafood flautas were a stretch for me. There’s something about fish and shellfish in a Tex-Mex restaurant that seems off. However, I thought I’d throw caution to the wind. That wasn’t a wise choice this time.

I ate part of my meal before putting my fork down permanently. Honestly, it was some of the worst Tex-Mex food I’ve had, but I suppose if you’re not well-versed in authentic Mexican food or just dipping your toes into the world of Tex-Mex, you might be fooled. The blend of shrimp, crab, and squash didn’t mix well. The seafood didn’t taste fresh and the flautas, overall, were bland. The fried tortillas were too crisp and burnt on the ends. The jalapeno green sauce certainly smothered the seafood flautas, and practically everything else on my plate. What I came away with? An overwhelming sense of what Alamo Cafe’s jalapeno green sauce tastes like. It’s also worth noting that feta cheese and Tex-Mex don’t mix.

Seafood Flautas with grilled vegetables and rice
Seafood Flautas

The side of grilled veggies were okay, but they tasted frozen, not fresh. Yuck.

It’s sad to say that the rice was the overall winner on my plate. However, this rice couldn’t hold a candle to the Tex-Mex rice sides I’m used to.

My daughter enjoyed her food more than I did, but wasn’t impressed enough to frequent the Alamo Cafe a second time. Her thoughts were, “The enchilada sauce was really tasty. This food is a good medium between Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican food. But there are far better Tex-Mex restaurants out there, like Tamale King, which is not saying much considering Tamale King is in Buchanan Dam and we’re eating at what should be an amazing restaurant in a big city.”

The chips and salsa, served when we were seated, were nice. The chips were warm, multicolored, and crisp. The red salsa was okay. Personally, I make better fresh salsa at home, and I can get authentic, interior Mexican salsa that’s far tastier at the taco trucks in Kingsland, Texas.

The flour tortillas were the best items that I ate. Fresh, hot, and perfectly cooked, these homemade tortillas are to die for. I can see why the staff in the tortilla factory are smiling. It’s a slice of heaven in there!

All in all, I felt Alamo Cafe’s prices were unreasonable for the quality of food served.

If my story ended here, we’d be good. I’d simply say the Alamo Cafe’s food sucks and I’m not going back. But there’s more.

Tortilla press at the Alamo Cafe in San Antonio, Texas
Mmm…fresh, hot tortillas off the press!

Beyond feeding your patrons quality food, you should give your customers quality service, too.

I rarely complain about waitstaff because I know how hard servers work. It’s a thankless, demanding job. Hell, I’m easily impressed by even mediocre service. Our waitress, Kristen, seemed nice enough in the beginning. She smiled, helped me look through the vast menu for dishes I’d like, made eye contact, and seemed interested in my daughter and me as customers. After the initial greeting and handing out our menus, taking our drink orders, and offering meal suggestions, she disappeared.

Keep in mind the time we arrived. It was after the lunch rush. Alamo Cafe was not busy and Kristen’s section had only our table to serve.

About fifteen minutes after we ordered our drinks, Kristen returned with the water and lemonade and asked if we were ready to order, which we did. Shortly after that, two young men were seated in the booth in front of us. For whatever reason, Kristen couldn’t tear herself away from flirting and talking with these men.

It bears adding that throughout our meal, which ended quicker than usual because we weren’t keen on the food, Kristen was present at the booth in front of us and eagerly helping those customers with anything they wanted.

All this while my daughter’s lemonade needed refilling and I wanted the tab so I could pay and we could hit the road. I waved to Kristen several times and she ignored me. What? Not appropriate. Not cool at all.

Would I recommend the Alamo Cafe? Nope. Truly, having a better waitress would have made a mundane meal more pleasing. I’m big on customer service and Kristen annoyed me to no end. Disappearing acts and ignoring customers when they depend on your services is unprofessional.

Takeaway

The Alamo Cafe is located 14250 Hwy 281 North, San Antonio, Texas 78232. The phone number is 210/495-2233. A second location is at 10060 IH-10 West in San Antonio, Texas 78230. The phone number is 210/691-8827.

The establishment has been in business since 1981. Both locations are family-friendly and casual dress. Banquets and catering services are available.

The restaurants are open every day of the week and hours are as follows: Sunday-Thursday 10:45 a.m-11 p.m, Friday-Saturday 10:45 a.m. until midnight. Alamo Cafe is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Easter Sunday.