Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Hard Rock Cafe

2024 introduction

This text is a considerably polished version of a rough draft from, likely, 2012. (It was found outside version control, which makes it hard to date.)

I considered trashing it, based on shortness and obvious memory issues, but decided that it makes a good illustration of how to lose custom by an accumulation of negatives. (The “Accumulated impression” entries are an outright 2024 addition, as is the use of an explicit list.)

To expand on this: None of the individual events would have been worthy of a text of its own, and even the same events sprinkled among a greater number of positive visits might have been unremarkable. (I might, for instance, have had even more poor experiences with the German chain Maredo—but I have might also have twenty times as many visits to Maredo, most positive, and spread over a much longer time period and over many more restaurants.) In the accumulation and density, however, they have not just made me an unlikely future visitor, they also reduced my visits in the interim. Frankfurt is filled with restaurants and why should I go somewhere even just “slightly negative” (cf. below) when I could go somewhere outright “positive” (e.g. Maredo)?

As a disclaimer: While my experiences have a clear tendency, they are from a limited set of restaurants and only one country (or, stretching definitions, two), and need not reflect the overall situation. Similarly, the experiences are dated and need not reflect the now.

(However, I have made the general experience that problems with competence and/or attitude are rarely limited to single restaurants/stores/whatnot. Possible explanations include poor hiring practices, poor treatment of employees and the resulting lack of dedication, poor training, understaffing, and similar.)

Main text

My first, very indirect, contact with Hard Rock Cafe and service was in Sweden around 1994/95: I said something complimentary about a slogan displayed on a billboard to a fellow student—and he responded by some Swedish equivalent of “bullshit”. I do not remember the exact slogan (or his issue), but it involved a (claimed) positive service attitude, and it did not match his experiences. With hindsight, this is almost prophetic.

In 1997, I moved to Germany. In Germany, unlike in Sweden, I actually visited a Hard Rock Cafe on several occasions. Excepting the last, these visits took place in the same restaurant in Frankfurt am Main.

  1. My first visit was in the evening, I enjoyed an unusually good pizza, even by the standards of pizza, and left as a happy customer.

    Accumulated impression: positive.

  2. For the second, I came back during the day time. I ordered the same pizza—but was told that pizzas were not available at this time of day, because they required a special oven that only was turned on in the evening. While a bit disappointed, I took this in a stride and ordered something else. The claim it self was not implausible, but this was certainly something that should have been mentioned very clearly in the menu.

    Accumulated impression: neutral.

  3. Either at the end of this second visit or at the end of a third, if one took place, I received my check, paid, and suddenly found the waitress presumptuously sitting down in front of me. This without asking permission, which regular everyday politeness with a stranger would have required—and the more so as there were plenty of empty tables and seats to pick from.

    I also saw no discernible reason: There was not enough traffic for a “my feet are killing me” scenario. I had already paid, so attempting to flirt for a bigger tip was pointless (and would likely have backfired with me). We had had no special contact during my visit, which makes a personal interest unlikely—and this would have been a singularly poor way of “approaching”, had she had such an interest. (In fact, this possibility did not even occur to me at the time.)

    I proceeded to do what I would have done anyway and left, but with the difference that I was now a bit annoyed.

    Accumulated impression: slightly negative.


    I stress that I did not disapprove of her sitting at my table (but her manager might have). I disapproved of her doing so without asking or being asked. It is a simple matter of interpersonal respect, politeness, and common sense.

    As of 2024, I have no recollection of any other waitress doing so with a previously unknown party, be it involving me alone, a party of which I was a member, or a party within my sight. (However, I do not usually pay great attention to other tables.) Even counting known parties, it has been a rare event.

  4. A few years after moving away, I was back for the day and took the opportunity for a renewed visit. After I asked for the check, several minutes passed and I was then given a second beer. I re-iterated that I had asked for the check, not a beer, Several minutes more passed and the check was brought. I paid and left without closer inspection, as I had a train to catch and this had cut into my safety margins. Once home, I noticed that I had still been charged for that second beer, which I had not ordered, had not wanted, and had not even touched.

    Accumulated impression: highly negative.


    Originally, I assumed that this was just a complete misunderstanding. In light of experiences until 2024, I am open to other explanations, which, if true, would cast an even more negative light on events.

    Two involve a potential tourist-trap behavior (while I had lived in Germany for years, I do not sound like a native speaker): On one occasion as an actual tourist (Brussels), I was given what appeared to be a complimentary drink, which I later found included on my bill. On another (Amsterdam), I was charged for a soft drink re-fill, despite re-fills being explicitly included in the ordered meal.

    A third involved a possible attitude of dumping problems on the customer, which is well in line with German customer hostility, but might also arise through stupidity on behalf of the server or, here, cashier: I was at the checkout of a supermarket. The cashier pointed to damage to a package of (maybe) pudding, and offered that I could fetch a replacement. As I did not want to hold up the queue, I turned this down. The item was put aside, by which token no purchase could possibly be seen as having taken place—but I still found the item charged in full on my receipt.

  5. Another few years later, I was living in Cologne, where there is another Hard Rock Cafe, and I decided to give it a chance. I went to an empty portion of the restaurant, as I prefer peace and quiet for reading in the waiting periods. The waiting periods turned out to be enormous. After some 15–20 minutes, I had yet to even see someone from the staff and had certainly not had the opportunity to order. I decided that enough was enough, put away my book, and left for the next best other restaurant.

    To this, I note that there were no “Please wait to be seated!” signs, no indication of any kind that this part of the restaurant would not be open, and that the restaurant, in general, certainly was open and serving customers at the time. I also note that I was not hidden by a partition, a big plant, or similar—there simply was a complete void of staff in the area.

    Accumulated impression: extremely negative.


As of 2024, I have yet to make another visit to any Hard Rock Cafe. Going by German Wikipedia, the Frankfurt location is closed by now, while the one in Cologne still exists.