Posts Tagged ‘service’

Shitty Service – I’ve Had Enough

I’ve had enough of this. A new cafe opens with a great fit-out, well regarded design, and a fancy coffee machine. To the ThreeThousand or Broadsheet crowd it’s a winner, an instant success. None of it matters though, cause the service is shit. I’m not talking about first-day blues. I’m talking about blatant lack of care for some simple customer service on any day. It seems to be happening more and more. I’m no longer going to smile and hope they figure it out next time I return. I’m going to call it out. I’m going to do it the minute I get home while I’m still pissed off that I was screwed around.

The hospitality industry shouldn’t be about how cool the place looks; it’s about taking care of your patrons. “The menu here exists only on a single piece of perspex…” Making sure they don’t sit around trying to get your attention, offering them another coffee when their’s is empty and ensuring that they get their meals quickly. It seems so simple, yet this is what separates the great restaurateurs from the impostors.

The first on my list, is the recently opened Manchester Press. It has a great fitout. The place looks amazing with some great pieces of massive artwork and a great interior theme. I especially love the fire extinguishers above the kitchen. Yet they seem to have missed the point.

Manchester PressThe menu here exists only on a single piece of perspex presented to you upon request. It consists of nothing more than five or six different bagels. It seems the thinking goes that during the lunch rush they are easy to pump out. Nothing more than a bagel, some cream cheese and a few good ingredients. Rarely seen in Melbourne, they should be a crowd pleaser. The reality is very different. Too few choices, prepared with little inspiration.

Extricating service from the staff was painful. I had to awkwardly look around the cafe trying to get the attention of a waiter. My coffee arrived in good speed but not so the salmon, capers and cream cheese and pastrami bagels. It was then the waiting really started. When the meal finally arrived, we ate, but had pay cash, no EFTPOS available. We returned to our car to a nice $60 parking ticket. The outing was a $87 lunch for two bagels and a coffee. The time on the stopwatch, 50 minutes. I know because I parked just around the corner and that’s how much was on the meter.

The question is: how long does it take to make two bagels at 2.30pm in the afternoon in a half-full cafe?

Second on my list is an operator who should be better – Cafe Vue at the Tullamarine International Airport Terminal. So rarely have I experienced such disinterested service. My meal was  62° eggs on toast with a side of bacon and 2 lattes. The food was alright, though the eggs lacked the creamy texture I expected and it arrived promptly. I had to interrupt the waitress twice to order and my second coffee order was ignored as she rushed off. But this waitress was not the problem, seemingly she was the only person on the floor willing to actually work.

The other wait staff managed to avoid actually providing service even though I had tried to make eye contact with them a number of times.

And this was all before I tried to pay. Apparently you can’t pay at the table, instead you are forced to stand in line at the mismanaged counter, watch while people skip the line and generally witness a lack of interest and emotion to the people in front of you. All the while hearing the annoyed barista yelling “Coffee service!” every few moments.

For me, it’s a case of failed expectations. An otherwise amazing operator being reduced to the same poor quality as the rest of the airport lounge. What a depressing feeling after leaving, wishing you had eaten at McDonalds because of it’s friendly staff and efficient service.

Which brings me finally to my third case of slightly poor service at a busy time but redeemed by great hospitality. Salford Lads Club is the culprit but it’s hard for me to be mad. We arrived at the worst time possible – 11.30am on a Saturday morning. Our coffee order was taken quickly and our waitress took our order warning us that it was a busy time and that our meals could take a little longer than normal. About the time you would normally expect to eat I was informed that the steak sandwiches were out and that I would have to change my order. It’s annoying and probably should have been told at the time of ordering, but not the end of the world. When our meals did arrive, perhaps 15 minutes later than normal and during my second coffee, the manager who delivered the food apologised profusely and offered it for free.

And free it was. The entire meal. I was a little taken back, the delay warranted nothing but an apology, perhaps knock the coffee off the bill. So I put the $20 I had in my hand in the tip jar and scampered out.

I’ve had enough and it’s time to call it out.

The Tip Tray Question

Everyone has been there, that strange moment where you have your hand out waiting for the change and the barman has your change on a tip tray putting it down on the bar where you are standing. The barman inevitably then breaks any sort of eye contact with you and goes about doing something else. What are you thinking? Why can’t he just put it in my hand? What’s wrong with a bit of conversation? Why on earth is the money on a strange little tray? Is this what they call hospitality around here?

This same thing seems to be happening in drinking establishments across Melbourne (the world?) As with many things in the hospitality industry, the rationale often isn’t shared by management and the service staff are following the orders blindly — perhaps missing the point?

There are a few options when handing over the change in a bar, placing the change directly in the customers hand, placing it directly on the bar or putting it in a tip tray. In the past, I have alternated between the former 2 options deciding on which is better on a case by case basis and certainly wouldn’t have a problem with using a tip tray instead of putting the money directly on the bar. At my current job, I’m made to use a tip tray for each transaction, never placing the change in the customer’s hand.

Table service is a case where using a tip tray is always better. Without a tray, the transaction regularly becomes a jumble of change, drinks and hands. Yet with a tray, it allows the server, present the drinks and the change in one fell swoop and leave the customer with a convenient place to leave any gratuity.

When table service isn’t involved, what is the point of the tip tray? Is it to encourage people to tip or to give a vibe of more professional service? If it is the former, I think it does help, but somewhat losing your credibility. The same way begging on the street would garner more change for the tip jar. The case for the latter is not so rosy, the uncomfortable moment where the customer has their hand out and the tip tray is placed on the bar kills any impression of improved service quality. As far as I’m concerned it is far too impersonal to be considered good service.

What are your experiences? How do you feel about the tip tray?