The seating arrangement at Doc Watson’s resembles my restaurant, The Mao, on Facebook’s Café World. In the video game, players routinely place tables and chairs right next to each other, regardless of appearance. In the case of Doc Watson’s, a high school cafeteria setting with a performance stage and booths. Since the pre-programmed Café World customer never complains, the Mao can be a naïve and audaciously idealistic approach to running a restaurant, and does not consider the obvious fact that real people aren’t going to like sitting so close to one another.
We walk into Doc Watson’s. No greeter. Looking at the awkward seating, families occupying two out of three connected picnic-like tables, I question how someone could tell if the patrons were together. For several minutes we deliberate, passively sitting at the bar. We question the stone-cold, burly barkeep, and he has to ask a manager if sitting at an open spot would be alright.
Then, there’s the other way Doc Watson’s eschews Café World. The purpose of the cafeteria style seating in a gamer’s restaurant is to feed customers quickly. With happy customers add one percentage point of popularity, and at the maximum 105 buzz rating, business always booms. Slow service, slow kitchen, expect the popularity to drop. At Doc Watson’s, we count a good ten minutes to order and receive our drinks; another ten minutes to order food. A couple sits at the bar, the exact spot where we began our odyssey. Even they are served before us.
At times, I suggest a nearby foray to Little Caesar’s, but the taste, my friend says, of a seven dollar burger must be worth the wait. Other patrons embrace the picnic setting, and it would seem quite natural to sit so close to random people. In forty-five minutes our hamburgers arrive, tasting great, like a bigger flame broiled whopper, left too long under the heating lamp. I haphazardly choke on a handful of lukewarm French fries, as if they had formed into mini matzo balls. My friend loved his burger, and to be honest, I ate mine pretty quickly too. But hunger drugs the average man. After all, my pallet would have been OK with Little Caesar’s.