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My friends, I have been to the other side. I have seen it, I have tasted it and I have been appalled by it. And now I am here to shout it: Noodles and Company, here is, to quote a robot, my shiny metal ass. Please bite it.
It started innocently enough. My football supervisor called me up to inform me that Noodles & Company was sponsoring his team at a national competition. Because of this, the entire contingent of football referees gets a free dish at their restaurant.
“Cool,” I said to myself. “Now I can try someplace new and exciting, and maybe lessen my dependence on Chipotle and the CU Grab-and-Go’s. And what’s more, I can just walk over to the place from my apartment; it’s a five minute walk at most. This is going to be sweet.”
I arrive, and my fellow referees and my supervisor are all present.
My supervisor tells me, “Go ahead and order anything, just tell them you’re with intramurals.” I scoured the menu, and finally, upon discovering a dish that wasn’t covered in mushrooms, walked up to the counter. I noticed that there were no prices listed on the menu, but it didn’t faze me for the time being.
“I’d like a pasta marinara with a parmesan chicken breast.”
“Anything to drink?” I once again searched the menu, and found a mention of a “fountain drink,” with, again, no sizes and no price.
“Sure, a drink.”
He inputted everything on the register and then went to grab a special card that enabled me to get my meal for free. As he grabbed the card, I couldn’t help but notice the total staring back at me from the register.
I was taken aback. Speechless. There had to be an error there; the first digit in the display must be broken and displaying things upside down. In a panic, I looked up at the menu. Drinks, it turns out, are $1.40. Somewhere in the back of my mind it registered that I could get a larger drink at the gas station next door for less money, but I let it pass as I searched for what went wrong. There’s no way that they can charge $7.60 for a bowl of noodles and get away with it. No freakin’ way.
Once I calmed down a bit and was calmly reminded by the cashier that I had not yet answered if I wanted to dine in or take out, I stepped aside and let my coworkers order. Soon, however, I began to feel giddy. I was about to have a nearly $8 bowl of pasta, which, I concluded, means it has to be nearly the best pasta in the world. There’s no way they can charge that much and not have it be the best pasta in the world. I started having visions of noodles lined with gold edges, caviar-encrusted chicken and a bowl so deep, it would take me three days to finish it.
My name was called (actually, it wasn’t, even though they explicitly asked for my name at the register; unless my name is now “Marinara with chicken,” they didn’t really have any use for my name) and I grabbed my dish. It wasn’t encrusted with jewels, to my dismay, but I still had hope. This was going to be the greatest thing ever.
You know where this is going.
Generic sauce, soggy noodles, processed pre-packaged chicken and low-quality “cheese” to top it off, all in a portion that could only be called generous if I was feeling incredibly generous. I got halfway through my dish and realized that I was bored. There was no flavor to any of the pieces. The sauce was so bland that one literally bores of eating it halfway through. Good thing there isn’t a lot of it then, I suppose, because otherwise I would have been even more bored.
And then I finished it, and was still hungry. As I finished drinking my small drink, I started thinking.
What in the world makes people come to this place?
I could’ve gone to Chipotle and paid $2.50+ less for a meal and a drink (the drink being free, of course). The meal would be more filling, since it’s tough to make it through a whole burrito in a single sitting. The meal would be more interesting, because they actually use spices; each bite is decidedly different from the last. And best of all, I wouldn’t have felt awful giving them my money; they give me a quality product, and I don’t mind paying for it.
Noodles & Company, however, has betrayed that relationship by overcharging for a sub-standard product. I could have gone to Safeway to buy some noodles, some marinara and a chicken breast, cooked it all myself, added some spices and still spent less than $9. Plus, it would’ve tasted better.
Suffice to say, I’m glad I didn’t pay for it myself. I don’t think I could live with myself, in all honesty.
So, Noodles & Company, consider this an open invitation to lower your prices and create higher-quality food.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Nathan Bellis at Nathan.firstname.lastname@example.org.