I was sitting beside a couple of ladies (one from Toronto the other from Ottawa), who had plenty to say about last year’s Grille. “We were here last year and took advantage of the BBQ,” one said, “I just didn’t think it was worth it.” The other nodded in agreement as she added, “looks like we were right not to do it this year.” A staff member I spoke with during a lengthy stoppage in food service said, “I feel so embarrassed, not for myself but for them.” “The caterer or the winery?” I asked. “Both,” he replied. “This is not at all like we planned it.”
Of course there’s the story about the irate group that finally got their meal after waiting an hour and a half for it, and they ended up with a burnt chicken breast and hamburger tartar. “We didn’t pay $105 each to come here and starve,” she wailed. 20 minutes later complete plated-dinners were brought out to where she, and her group, were sitting. I looked back at her throughout the evening and noticed that she and her party barely touched their plates.
Having been to two Vineyard Grilles I would suggest Jackson-Triggs simplify this whole ordeal by opening up the BBQ to all in attendance as a pay-as-you-go option. Have a couple of large grills going, offer burgers, dogs, chicken breasts and sausages for around $5 a shot, salads for a couple of dollars, drinks (pop, water) a dollar and wine the usual $5 a glass … make it to order. I just think they’re trying too hard at this Grille thing – it’s a concert in a field folks, an upscale field mind you, but a field none the less, most people are expecting to let their hair down, give them the opportunity.
One couple I spoke with did think everything was hunky-dory, “we love the atmosphere and the food is good – we got to eat in a vineyard, what could be better?” They said enthusiastically. “Values good too,” they remarked, though, when I asked what they had paid for this night out neither could remember. To Jackson-Triggs credit, and in an attempt to “make good” on this fiasco, staff wondered about to Grille goers and offered them a $20 gift certificate (per person) to use on concessions, wine or in the wine store.
Amidst the grumbling of a half satiated crowd Del Rollo, national director of hospitality, and Rob, introduced as the artistic director, took to the stage to announce the band and apologize for the glitches. The crowd half-heartedly applauded their appreciation as 54-40 took to the stage, the band had been given an uphill battle to win this unhappy crowd over, half of which were miserable after a lackluster meal and a long wait to eat, some were even still in the middle of their dinners. But these 27-year veterans were more than up for the challenge – I can imagine they’ve played tougher crowds. By the first intermission the crowd had warmed up to them. By the last song the crowd was riled up and enthusiastic; and as they stepped onto the stage for the encore, the crowd had become downright giddy.By the end, it seemed that all was forgiven about the dinner nightmare, as the band invited all to get on stage with them, “in the spirit of the evening and rock n roll” – more than 100 people packed the stage and danced around with the band as they played “Nice to Luv Ya”. The bad taste of the Grille replaced by the sweet memories of a joyful evening of music. Which is why I say again: Get out of the food business and embrace this music thing you’ve got going – these concerts are amazing, intimate and very memorable affairs, the dinners, not so much.