Saturday, 28 February 2009

Ocean Child 2009; and Lansdowne Cafe service

Last night Rita attended a farewell dinner for a workmate who was leaving. The venue was the Ocean Child, one of the first places I reviewed when I started blogging in 2006. I didn’t enjoy the food then, and again, last night. Exactly the same comments as I made in 06 are valid for me today.

The main reason I mention the meal there though, is to show you the Beef Parmagiana that Mary ordered. Is that obscene or what? The plate was a usual sized pub food plate, and that bit of meat covered the WHOLE plate. The veges were underneath the beef. It cost round the $20 mark, and for a hungry bloke or babe, would have had them returning there week after week for this meal. For them, the meal represents excellent value for money. But for both Mary, and I, it was astounding.

I don’t feel like being negative today, so am not going to dissect my food and explain to you what I found amiss. Suffice it to say, I ate maybe 5 mouthfuls then left the (again, large) plate of battered fish, chips and salad ($19.50). No one asked why I’d left pretty well all of it when the plates were cleared back. Probably no one gave a shit.

Onto another totally different subject:

My post about Toulouse/Lansdowne Cafe and its subsequent comments were extremely interesting to me, and caused me to think more deeply about what a few of the commenters were saying, added to a conversation I was privvy to the other day.

The subject is the one of the level and standard of service you receive at a café or restaurant being dependent on whether or not you know the owners or workers there on that day. The inference was that at Lansdowne Café you only enjoy it there if you are a regular, or maybe know the people there; you only get decent treatment, and maybe food? if they know you.

As I have only been there twice, both times with my daughter (Nellie, and the Nellie family) who is a regular there, naturally I have come away with a favourable impression, based on the treatment we received – which naturally was extremely positive as she, her husband and kids go there maybe at least once a week, probably more often. The same discussion came up a few years back too, when I reviewed Lee How Fook at Lindisfarne. Once again, in the comments on that review the issue of preferential treatment was discussed.

The conversation I heard was between two people who are semi-regulars of Lansdowne Café both agreeing as to the (extremely low) level of service and food there, and relating the instances for both of them which demonstrated this.

I think we need to build that ‘regulars’ aspect of dining out into our psyches. Naturally we all have our favourite restaurants. It stands to reason that the people at our faves will get to recognize us if we keep going there. Then they’ll start being more friendly and familiar with our wants and needs. We’ll develop a semi-friendship based on the fact that now we all know each other from this one common place. We feel totally comfortable there. We know what the food is going to be like before we go there, order it, then receive it. We know how much it’s going to cost us. We know they’ll probably recognize us and make us feel welcome, and be happy to see us eating there again. They’ll probably ask us about our day, or life, or kids, or work, or holidays. In effect, they are sharing our lives with us, and as such are part of our lives.

We like this and respond to it. We’ll take friends and family back there, to share in this bonhomie. So of course we’re going to get preferential treatment.

It’s the key to the way things work in Hobart! It’s the old ‘not what you know but who you know’ thing working again.

So how does this relate to the two people chatting about their recent experiences at Lansdowne Café? Maybe the staff have changed, and as the discussing people were semi-regulars, the newer staff didn’t know them, or treat them in the way they expected to be treated and had previously been treated when they went to LC. Maybe not? I really don’t know. I just know that that is one huge reason why staff, and the recruitment and induction of new staff, is so important, especially in a relatively small place like Hobart.

It is vital to your business that your staff can carry out your hopes, dreams and wishes for your business by promulgating the fabulous customer service ethos. By treating EVERYONE who comes in there with love, care and respect.

I won’t live to see this happening but geez I’d love to get my hands on every person in the customer service domain and subject them to a week of MY training methods in customer service!

Posted on by Rita


earmuffs said...

I totally agree with you Rita.
In my local cafe I am a regular & I have to say that I do get superior treatment. I can only measure this by the way I see non regulars get treated by the staff & the owners. This is not to say they are rude or indifferent at all but their is a noticeable lack of familiarity & discourse that I thankfully do not recieve.
This dosn't set a good example to the other staff & I think they are aware of this & try hard to address it, but show me a place where regulars are not treated better than other clientelle? Conversley, show me a customer who does not expect better service because they are a regular, I do & that why i go there. Its the chicken & egg thing, we are regulars because we ARE looked after, when we dont get treated as such, we cease to be regulars.
Interestingly, a friend who runs this particular cafe at which I am a local(see, no wonder I get treated royaly!) tells me of a few people who come in & monopolize her staff & when they are busy with other patrons, get visibly miffed & start complaining about virtually anything just to get the attention that they percieve they are not getting. She says she cant win sometimes!

Rita said...

Totally hearing you Earmuffs. And I empathetise with your cafe owner friend with her miffed customers. At my cafe, I had a customer-turned-into-friend who did exactly the same! She still keeps in touch with me, even though having moved to Sydney, and despite the passing of 17 years since I sold the cafe! But I well remember her tantrums in the cafe when she wasn't being treated as she perceived she should have been! She was a nightmare to serve, and staff generally left her to me to deal with. If she'd been one of my kids I'd have boxed her ears, but as a customer, she naturally had to be pandered to! And the fact that she still wants to keep in touch with me, to me speaks volumes.

Christina said...

As like most times Rita you are totally spot on with your view of why we revisit our favourite haunts.
Phil and I have a couple of places we frequent on a regular basis and all the reasons you mentioned are exactly why. We feel at home, we know the menu well, we know the standard of service, we feel safe taking others to share our enjoyment. All this lends itself to a happy dining experience.
Having said that they must have all done something right to get us to return again and again. They must have been welcoming to us, friendly, great food and service, to get us to return in the first place.
So maybe they're just keeping up the good work.
Two of these favourites we've been going to for years, the other is relatively new but we go whenever circumstances allow.
Thats because the food is fantastic, the service excellent and the owner friendly, approachable and welcoming
I remember my Mum, years ago, questioning us on why we went to one particular place so soften. After coming for dinner with us one night, and experiencing the service, meals and especially the friendliness of the staff, she said
she could now see why we did.
There is one place we go that bucks that trend for us.
The service is passable, the owner surly and gruff and opinionated, but the food is die for.
I like to patronize places where I really like the people who run it and work there. It makes sense to me to spend our hard earned dollars at places that we feel deserve it.
It's hard to say if we'd enjoy it as much if our familiar faces were absent. At one place, definately, at the other I'm not so sure, I could nearly say probably not, and at our new one, half the attraction for us is catching up with the owner and having big chats about food.
Basically it all comes down to getting the customers in the first place, and then keeping them.
Everyone should get preferential treatment. Which should be then considered the "norm"

Anonymous said...

So where are these places Christina. I like food to die for (but not Botulism) or are you going to hog it for yourself and watch it go down, come on share it.

Rita said...

Yes - I too thought that Christina! I'm willing to bet my house on the fact that one of your places of choice is REPUBLIC, but what are the others?

Christina said...

Your house is safe Rita.
The Republic is the best.
We've been going for over 9 years now, since my return to Tassie. In fact we went for lunch yesterday.
Over this time I've never had one bad meal there. The food is consistantly great. I might also confidently add the best steaks in Hobart are served here.
We've had birthdays, get togethers etc. and taken many family and friends and never been let down.
Tony and his lovely wife are always so welcoming, but even when they're not there, the service is friendly and helpful. The menu so varied the seem to please all of the people all of the time.
I know it can get a little noisy of an evening but we love nothing better than Sunday lunch, the papers, bottle of red and a warm fire in winter.
Another favourite is Amigos in North Hobart. We've been going since it changed hands about 5 years ago. Maybe not so much for the food but definately for the fun and margaritas.
The food is great, always fresh, with lots of vegies and salads.
The agave prawns, chicken mole and chicken and prawn chimichanga are particular favourites especially served with Dale's wonderful fresh chilli sauce. Not to everyone's taste though. Although I did have my 40th there and from feedback received, almost 80 people left more than happy with their meals.
Segretto's also in North Hobart always has wonderful food. The menu is varied so no matter what you fancy, you can find something to please. We've been about 5 times in the last year, always had something different and have loved every meal.
I can see a pattern here!
Now for a change.
We love going to Farmgate Cafe at Kettering.
The food is above excellent as is the service. Lee is always up for a chat and always so pleased to see us. Again a place we have taken friends and family and have never been disappointed. Sadly we don't get down there as much as we'd like.
Hope this helps Anon and Rita.