Sunday, 6 March 2011

Devon Cafe Owners - I Implore You.....

I'm not going to name and shame, as I think it would be a bit cruel, but today we had a pretty funny Sunday lunch in a South Devon cafe attached to a farm shop.

The seven of us were seated in a quarter full cafe.  My 11 year old nephew wanted a Full English Breakfast and it was 12 noon.  We were told politely that sorry, they stop serving them at 11:30.  This is par for the course for some places and totally fine (although I wonder why - is it out of concern for our arteries? or because they want us to choose a pricier dish?  I'm no chef, but perhaps the frying / grilling thing makes it difficult to combine with making lunch food?)

My daughter wanted the child's burger (supplied by the Farm Shop, a mere five metres away.)

'Sorry, we've run out of burgers.'

O-Kayyyyy.  The whole table glanced at the butcher's counter within our line of vision, but were too polite to say anything.

'I'll have an omelette,'  requested my mother-in-law, 'they're really nice here.'

'Sorry, we've run out of eggs and we don't get a delivery until Tuesday.'

What? At this point all four adults couldn't help but laugh and point out the farm shop produce that was nearly within grasping distance.  Surely they sell eggs in there?  The waitress was adamant that there would be no omelettes for lunch until Tuesday.  Raised eyebrows all round.... order arrives and it's wrong, and my daughter's drink and nephew's teacake don't arrive.  In fact we had all finished our lunch by the time the mythical teacake finally made an appearance.  After asking for it THREE times.  I think it took 35 minutes for them to toast a teacake.

The owner - manager (?) asked if everything was OK.  He was embarrassed to hear about the egg and burger situation, apologised profusely and before we left, pressed a pack of eight burgers and half a dozen eggs into our hands as an apology.  May as well have said 'Our waitress is useless, the chef's just been fired, better go cook it yourself.'

Devon Cafe Owners, I implore you, please train your staff and pay them more!

Empower them. So if necessary they can think for themselves and, for example, go and buy some more vital ingredients.

Customer service skills are SO important.  If the food and atmosphere are half-decent and the waiting staff are friendly and helpful, the punters are really happy and will return.  Some Devon waiting staff look like startled rabbits. We didn't really mind that things were going wrong - a sincere apology, a smile, an offer of an alternative dish - pretty simple stuff that would have been appreciated.

A bad day for the cafe? Fair enough, things don't always run perfectly. We all saw the funny side of it, but I won't be hurrying back.  For all the great experiences I have in South West cafes, these crappy occurrences are still all too frequent.


Lisa-Jane said...

This is one of my pet hates! We've run out of X, Y, Z. Shops are open 24 hours a day these days so its no excuse, especially when it is something non-perishable that they could have big stocks of. Another pet hate is waiting staff that know nothing of the menu etc. My friend is one of the directors of the Food And Wine Academy that sponsored the finalists on Michel Roux's Service programme recently and what he said is so true - we just don't have the culture here of good customer service. It doesn't take big wages for people to be polite but we just accept it don't we?! Well done for saying something to them!

Choclette said...

So does this mean the farm cafe buys in cheap eggs and beefburgers from elsewhere but giving the impression they come from the farm shop? Doesn't sound very inspiring.

legend in his own lunchtime said...

Sorry to laugh, but it is funny. Almost like the cheese shop sketch OK, it is also pathetic. How do places like that stay in business? My pet peave is to order something from the "specials" board, only to find out they don't have it. A little training on the use of a blackboard duster perhaps?

Jenny Eatwell said...

I was thinking the same as Choclette. I think it's pretty darned obvious that they're using different suppliers and she's more than likely right about the quality and price. It's a pretty darned poor show.

Bristol Bites said...

SERIOUSLY?! One of the issues at most I can understand...but that's just ridiculous. Don't think I'd be hurrying back either!

Northern Snippet said...

Staff training is so important,its also about giving them enough information that they are able to use some initiative..what a shame for the owners..Also a bit suspicious and sad that a cafe attached to a farm shop might be trading on the implied origin of the ingredients.

Dan said...

That reminds me of when I was in KFC and they had to let us know they had run out of chicken. We argued that they should change the name of the shop to just KF.

Grazing Kate said...

Like it, Dan. Mind you, some might say that you were let off lightly if they'd run out...!

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