Home > Uncategorized > The Illium Cafe – Chaos on Multi-Grain with Heavy Olive Oil

The Illium Cafe – Chaos on Multi-Grain with Heavy Olive Oil

I’ve already been in a half-pissy mood over the last several days, and now I’m so cranky I suspect I’m unbearable to be around. But I don’t want to get too much into that (at all).

But before I go any further, let me rant about my lunch break.

I have a friend who used to work for the Illium Cafe in downtown Troy in Monument Square. She quit, saying something along the lines of it was chaos and she was too frustrated to keep working there.

Until today, I thought she meant that was behind the scenes, rather than behind the counter (which affects everyone going in there). The Illium is run by the same individual who runs Tosca and the doomed gourmet market that either just opened or will open shortly in downtown Troy, with the idea being I guess that if you open up several different business far out of the price range of the Capital District as a whole (let alone Troy) eventually people will eat there and sacrifice their monthly utility bill just to be seen eating there.

The one good item of news: the food there is still good from the last time I was there (when it first opened).
The bad side of the good item: it’s still just soup and sandwiches.

Yes. Soup and sandwiches. “Gourmet” soup and sandwiches, but still just soup and sandwiches. And yet…

Well, let me paint the picture for you. I went in with my friend Chris, and we waited for Sam to meet us there (she was running just a little late). The woman behind the counter asks if we’re going to be eating together, and I note that yes, but we’ll be paying separately. Chris decided to wait to order until Sam comes, although I had a feeling things weren’t going to go all that smoothly so I suggested he order now so more than one person will get their food before I have to leave.

He paid for this lapse of judgment.

I should also mention that before we even got to that point, I had to go near the register (the line’s all the way in the back) to see what was on the menu. They had none posted behind the counter that I could see, and you’d think they’d at least strategically place them throughout the counter so that people can look at it while in line and decide what they want before they get to the point where they have to order. But no, this is GOURMET soups and sandwiches, so we can’t do anything that might prevent people from getting good service in a timely manner.

So I finally put in my order, and I was instructed to go and sit down. I waited about fifteen minutes for an Eggplant Tosca sandwich, which wasn’t too bad. But then Sam and Chris had to wait a good twenty plus minutes for their food. Oh, and did I mention that while I was given a number, told to sit down, and had to retrieve my food when my number was called, they were told the food would be brought to them? Well, it was decided that though we were at the same table that we’d be given two completely different styles of service.

About four or five minutes after I finished my sandwich (it’s worth noting that I took my time with it and we ordered only about ten minutes apart), Sam and Chris finally received their sandwiches. At which point I unfortunately had to duck out since I only get a limited amount of time for lunch (which I had already stretched out). So I went to the counter to pay.

And waited at the register to pay for six minutes, with three people working behind the counter. With only one person in line waiting for food. One of the women working the counter apologized to the older gentleman waiting for his food, saying that they aren’t normally this rushed or busy. So I looked around, surveyed the customers (as I had been also observing them when I first sat down), and crunched some numbers.

Head Count in the Cafe: 11
Number of Individuals Who Didn’t Already Have Their Food: 1 (the guy in line)
Number of Individuals Who Hadn’t Already Received Food When I Walked In/Came In After Me: 5

THAT was their unmanageable lunch rush.

ANOTHER thing worth noting: if I didn’t specifically tell the girl behind the counter that I also had a Viatmin Water, she would have had no idea to charge me for it. Because not only are the beverages and coffee out of the line of sight of the staff behind the counter, but evidently you don’t pay for food until after you eat it. Even though they had me take a number to get my food and bring it back to the table.

I’m going to go out of my way, I think, to contact the guy who owns and/or manages that place and just query him as to what exactly his prior experience was with this sort of thing. Anything like it, even. Because it seems as if they have at least three to four different styles of lunch service being employed simultaneously, with none of them being done correctly.

Their service was a bit messy and disorganized when they first opened, but I passed that off since it was a new establishment and attributed it to growing pains. The fact that it’s gotten WORSE over time with FEWER customers coming in and out of the establishment is a feat that I don’t think even Bizarro Superman could accomplish if he decided to open up a soup & sandwich joint.

So, let’s see…
– Terrible service.
– No idea of their customer base.
– Overpriced.
– Good but not GREAT food…marketed as gourmet.
Gourmet soups and sandwiches.

Gordon Ramsay, keep an eye on your inbox.

Wait, what else was I going to write about? *shrug* Ah well. Hey, other than that so far the day’s gone okay.

More later….

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  1. December 26, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    If it’s any consolation, the boss will have to be out of business soon for having such a shitty place. Unless he’s laundering money for Spitzer the Capital District mob.

    • December 26, 2007 at 9:57 pm

      I AM the Capital District mob. And I ain’t seeing any money from this dude.

  2. December 26, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    I say this having no experience in food service…

    But I know most counter service cafes have one of two set ups. The first is obiviously the most simple: You order something, you pay for it then and there. The second is just slightly more complicated: You order something, it gets put on a tab that is usually written down on a pad of paper for all counter staff to see, and then you get rung up when you’re done.

    I’m not a businessman or a manager of a cafe. But this is common sense even to me.

    • December 26, 2007 at 9:57 pm

      EXACTLY. And this is why it frustrated me so, because you don’t need a degree or even experience in that sort of thing to know that stuff.

      • December 26, 2007 at 10:40 pm

        I have worked in food service before, and I can tell you that what GOOD management is supposed to do is to determine the sort of service plan that they will be operating under before the business opens for the day. Lack of doing so can not only cause what you mention in your entry, but can cause things like missing inventory (vitamin water freebies!!), employees double-charging someone, mixups in customer orders, etc. A lack of organization behind the counter and on the floor can also lead to a lack of upkeep on the store, which means that this “gourmet” store could become a dirty shithole because the management team doesnt know how to sit down and assign taks/duties to their employees.

        BTW, I have heard that, in real life, Gordon Ramsey is actually a pretty nice guy! You would never guess that from watching him though.

      • December 26, 2007 at 10:53 pm

        It comes across a lot on the UK version of “Ramsay’s Kitchen Disasters” and especially on “The F Word” (despite what you’d think by looking at the title of it).

        In the UK, it’s only on “Kitchen Nightmares” where he occasionally becomes the character he portrays in the States, and even then it’s only in circumstances where you watch it and realize you’d probably have the same reaction (dealing with big-time assholes).

  3. December 27, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    I only went into Ilium once, and it confused me. Francesca’s handles a much larger crowd in a very sensible, organized way. And I don’t think Ilium’s “gourmet” food is any better than what’s over at Fran’s.

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