In-line customers — "guests," as they are gratefully termed by management — aren't complaining at all, though, because they know and smell exactly what's in store for them after a relatively short wait: A great meal and excellent service at a restaurant known by a single word — Ted's.
Actually, it's Ted's CafÃ© Escondido, one of several Mexican restaurants by the same name in the Oklahoma City area and elsewhere.
The founder of these landmarks is Ted Curtis of Oklahoma City, who opened the original Mexican eatery at 2836 NW 36 in Oklahoma City.
It was built back from May Avenue, so the CafÃ© Escondido means "Hidden Cafe."
In these tough economic times, Ted's is holding its own, said restaurant President Rick Tate.
Great food and, according to Tate, knowing that Ted's represents "a service industry" of excellence.
"We focus on our guests. We want our guests to feel special and we'll do whatever it takes to make them feel that way," Tate noted.
Tate said a personal goal is to recognize or know by name as many of Ted's guests as possible.
Restaurant employees know the challenge of running a popular, high-class restaurant. "We run a high-wire act with perseverance," he noted.
"We know our guests have high expectations, and we strive to have to have a great operation and be consistently good," Tate said. "We strive to be prompt, hospitable, courteous and humble."
Tate said the Edmond restaurant has what he calls "positively outrageous service."
The time from when an order is taken until food is brought to the guests' table — 10 to 12 minutes maximum. Drinks are brought to tables within two minutes.
Guests' lines leading to the restaurant's tables are diminished as quickly as possible.
"We promptly take care of every guest who comes into our restaurant and wants a great dining experience. Our guests are everything to us, and we have stringent steps for great service," Tate said.
Many of the several dozen servers are students at the University of Central Oklahoma. Ted's has a paid training program of a week before employees start work at the restaurant.
"We want our employees to be knowledgeable, confident and successful, Tate stressed. "We want them to part of something great, and where they can make a difference. We want them proud of where they work."
Ted's food is one area when accolades are regularly won, and guests significantly enjoy their food and service.
When guests are seated, they immediately receive the customary chips, salsa and queso. Then come the flour tortillas.
Ted's has famous fajitas, Mexican tacos and chiles rellenos.
Al Lejarzar is Ted's operations director. He says consistency in food and service allow Ted's to prosper during the economic downturn.
While Ted's does serve alcoholic beverages, restaurant workers don't push drinks. "We won't say 'Do you want a beer'?" said Lejarzar.
Lejarzar said Ted's enjoys unique positions in the restaurant business. "We're a 'destination' restaurant. We also have a family atmosphere," he said.
As part of the dining experience, Ted's employees use the "buddy system" wherein employees help each other by getting more tea or water for a table other than their own.
Ted's is unique in that just about every guest, or party of guests, leaves with something to take home.
"We have plenty to eat for our guests and that's a value ... perfect platefuls with more than ample portions. They take enough food home for a snack or even another meal," Lejarzar said.
In fact, Lejarzar said, guests have the opportunity at Ted's to have food that is spicy, salty or sweet (with sopapillas).
A few of the excellent menu selections include "Ted's World Famous Fajitas." The meats are marinated with a blend of secret spices, grilled to perfection, fresh green peppers and onions are added, and placed into a red-hot skillet. The fajitas are served with rice and beans, cheese, pico de gallo, real sour cream, guacamole and fresh homemade flour tortillas. This is the restaurant's most popular dinner, officials said.
Currently, Ted's has restaurants in Edmond, Norman, Broken Arrow, and two in Oklahoma City.
Rick Tate said there are plans to expand — but very slowly.
"We take pride in being an Oklahoma-grown company," he said. "But opening a new restaurant is like a fine wine. It can't happen before it's time."
Ted's also is involved in its communities by helping schools and churches with meals and benefits.
In fact, Ted's has catering to accommodate parties of 15 to 5,000 people for events including weddings, anniversaries, office parties, birthdays, awards banquets, reunions and religious celebrations.