Fish Fry Friday: Riverview Presbyterian Church (Perry North) – Part One

Welcome to Fish Fry Fridays, 2018 Edition! Click here to learn more about this project.

Name: Riverview Presbyterian Church (Perry North)

Date: February 23, 2018

Time We Ate: really late

Random review of #fishburgh adventures during Lent. Find a fish fry on this map! You can also follow them on Facebook and find tons of reviews and suggestions. And vote in The Incline’s Fish Fry bracket.

In review, the factors we assess include:

  • Location/directions/parking/signage
  • Atmosphere/Volunteer Friendliness/Engagement
  • Accessibility
  • Menu: variety, portions, taste and price
  • LGBTQ cultural competency
  • Ecofactors such as reusable/disposable items, recycling bins, takeout containers

After some consideration, I’ve decided to give this outlet a partial review and return again later in the season. This is in part due to the fact that we ordered takeout because I wasn’t feeling well and because I wasn’t there to see things with my own eyes.

So Riverview sent out a press release announcing their fish fry which was organized to benefit their property maintenance fund. The menu looked fine, the prices were good, etc. I thought it was worth a try as our original plan was to eat in immediately after Ledcat came home from work.

However, I didn’t feel well Friday, so we decided to switch to take out. Ledcat zipped up the hill to Perry North. And waited.

Riverview’s capacity was overwhelmed; the wait time was up to an hour. But that’s not the actual error. The error was they did not communicate with the customers. They did not give estimates on wait times, they did not update them on delays, and they did not engage them while waiting. If someone is waiting 45 minutes for your fundraiser, offer them a glass of iced tea and a cookie.

Ledcat reported that another woman sitting next to her said she had been waiting 45 minutes. A man whose family was seated said he had been waiting ‘over an hour’ which she thought was an exaggeration. She waited 45 minutes herself until she realized she had to go (we had a veterinary appointment at 8 PM) so she asked for a refund. The woman at the desk was very apologetic, said she would check on her food and then brought her a bag. As Ledcat was exiting the door, the woman ran up and said ‘Here’s the rest of your food.’  ???

By that time, the desk folks were telling people about the delay and suggesting they go to the ELKS club down in East Allegheny.

So let’s talk food and then return to the general analysis.

Ledcat ordered fish sandwich meal with two sides, a shrimp meal which came with french fries, and an additional side of pierogies.

Fish Fry Pittsburgh
Fried fish.

The fish was tasty with a nice batter, but they didn’t provide a roll/bun for the sandwich. The portion was small for a meal, but probably good for a sandwich.

Fish Fry Pittsburgh
Shrimp

The shrimp were actually popcorn deep friend shrimp. They were pretty typical and a generous portion. The fries were very sad, probably cooked a bit before the rest of the food. We tasted them and didn’t eat the portion.

Pittsburgh Fish Fry
Sad french fries

Our sides were macaroni & cheese, coleslaw, and pierogies. The macaroni & cheese was pretty good, good enough to draw me back under the right circumstances. The coleslaw was fine, not spectacular and a little on the tangy side. The pierogies were fine.

Pittsburgh Fish Fry
Pierogies

Ledcat saw a cooler filled with canned beverages, but didn’t buy any since we were eating at home. She also saw a table with cheesecake and other desserts.

She told me that the meals served in-house were coming out on actual plates, not disposable items.

Our food came in paper dishes wrapped in big pieces of paper. The pierogies were in styrofoam and the other sides in reusable plastic containers.  So they get points for less reliance on styrofoam.

I went to the fish fry Facebook page and see that the larger problems of a backed-up kitchen started last week. Ledcat told me that one man who seemed to know the people was needling one of the men who worked the fish fry about hiring a half-dozen Catholics to go back into the kitchen and get thing sorted out. That second man replied that they had purchased new fryers and were cranking things out as fast as possible. This was amusing, but the conversation needed to happen with customers, not just amongst the faithful.

I’m no expert on food service or the back-end organizing of fish fries. But I do know that if your fundraiser goes off the rails because of demand, you have to engage the people.

Riverview is new to this game. Maybe they bit off more than they can chew. Perhaps they were too ambitious. There has to be some allowance for growing pains when you choose to support a fundraiser. But while I don’t know if they can address the production line issues, they can absolutely address the front end customer service issues. Tell people what the wait time is. Offer people chairs for their wait. Talk with them. Offer a beverage (even a cup of water.) Show them around the church. If the wait is beyond what was promised, send home a few slices of cheesecake.

I’d also suggest not pairing fries automatically with any meal, especially if they aren’t fresh (they don’t look anything like the photo on the Facebook page.) Allow people to make choices among a reasonable array of side dishes to best accommodate personal preference, dietary restrictions, and health concerns.

Pros: fish batter was excellent, macaroni & cheese was also good, takes all credit cards, less use of styrofoam

Cons: delay, lack of customer engagement, mandatory french fries

There are things I couldn’t measure because I wasn’t there and Ledcat was already irritated that I asked her 89 million questions after she waited 45+ minutes for dinner. Plus, we had to eat and dash off to the vet.

So some of the constraints were on our end and some due to the newness of the event. So look for Part Two down the road.

We have a really exciting update from Assumption Parish that I was told was in direct response to the ‘constructive criticism’ shared in our reviews over the year. We’ll post that later this week. So if you feel I’m too hard on Riverview, consider that feedback helps improve. Walking out the door and taking your business elsewhere without any feedback does not.

If you have suggestions for us regarding fish fries, please leave a comment. Tell us your favorite. See you next week!