Saturday, 18 April 2009

Mmmmmm.....eating out can be good, or bad....take your pick

Rita has been in Melbourne since Tuesday attending a national conference, returning last night. Before going, I asked a local (Melbourne) food blogger for recommendations on eateries close to where I was staying but, due to circumstances way beyond my control, had to take pot luck with evening meals each night, so ended up doing the old hunting and foraging exercise.

Imagine my surprise when I found that all meals I ate out were of the highest calibre: service, food and price. I don’t know whether it’s the effect of a slower economy or less customers coming in the door, or financial uncertainty, or what, but I was astounded at the level of everything about the whole eating out experience I received in all manner of places – from your cheap and cheerful to your upper market lunch yesterday at (mega expensive) Grand Hyatt in Collins Street.

Any waitstaff, in every situation, were friendly, efficient, courteous, informative and helpful. Some could even be described as caring as well. I expect people in service industries to vary. I expect to come across a few, over the course of a day out, who are feeling a bit jaded, or even resentful, about their day, or life, or job. Not one skerrick in the last week in Melbourne.

I have to tell you, and this is sheerly my own observation, and not a judgement, that to have been eating out and about in Hobart over four days, and have gone to a similar number of eateries expecting great service and food, I would have to be revived if I hadn’t been on the receiving end of at least one shitty experience. Would that it were different, and that excellence in both was tantamount, but unfortunately that has never been my experience here. Even now, if I feel the need to feel nurtured and cared for, as well as eat beautiful food lovingly prepared and made, I need to choose wisely. I think about these issues before deciding which emotion or feeling needs to be met first, and decide accordingly.

My message – we seriously need to look at general hospitality food and service if we want to progress the Excellence theme much further here in Tassie. What’s the point in a relatively few top establishments being flawless when you can call into a suburban place on your way from A to B and get shit food and service in an industry that embraces all of us?

Posted on by Rita


Another Outspoken Female said...

Am so glad that you enjoyed your time in this fair city. You could visit for a year and only scratch the surface as far as good food is concerned.

Maybe there are more career waiters in Melbourne than Hobart? People who make a good living plying their craft can raise the bar for the whole profession.

ut si said...

Hi Rita,
My brother lives in Flinders Lane surrounded by food fabness lucky bastard! Off to NYC tomorrow with favourite youngest the yanks know how to do service...sometimes they're even sincere...shame the food's so crap & don't get me started on the coffee.

sir grumpy said...

Good stuff, Rita. But it shouldn't take a downturn, or whatever, to make places deliver the goods from welcome to goodbye.
We had a feed at the Mermaid on Saturday and they were friendly, efficient and spot on with everything.
My second visit and both good. Not one of us was disappointed.

Anonymous said...

i would like to know the places that are flawless in hobart? I have eaten at all "top" establishments in hobart and flawless is not the word i would use, inconsistent would be: Marque IV eaten there 5 times 2 good 3 bad, Lebarina 2 times for 1 good 1 bad, monty's 3 times for 2 good 1 bad, Picalilly 3 times for 1 and 2, 373 2 times for 1 and 1, henrys 3 times 1 and 2, peppermint bay 4 times 1 and 3, moorilla 4 times 2 and 2. To me it seems that as no where in Hobart at the top end is busy 5-6 days a week staff aren't there 4-5 days a week to get into a grove with serving customers and for it to become second nature, sure they're good and would be great if they worked 5 days a week but as they aren't constantly busy freak out a bit on the busier times. Just my option

Rita said...

Hi Anon 12.33 - point taken. It seems, reading your ratings, that you've at least had some good experiences at all the places you mentioned. I find it interesting too that most of the places you list (with your ratings) are the ones I myself would classify as top end. That goes to show we're in agreement about what actually qualifies as top establishments.

To draw a conclusion from your ratings, it looks like they excel, if we average it, around 50% of the time. That's not too bad really. When I think of how I myself function, as a human, I reckon I'd be pretty well round the 50% mark for functioning well or excellently, and the other 50% for just ticking along not doing well, or badly, just functioning.

If a restaurant can (with all it's possible faults and foibles, and human failings) function well 50% of the time, here in Hobart, I reckon that's good. Granted we all want them to work to capacity 100% of the time, and make us happy and contented (or whatever we have gone out for) consistently, but frankly, it's just not going to happen.

We all have good and bad days. The chef might be not feeling up to par. Ditto your waitperson. Management might have changed. It might be the first or second night of a new menu, or new staff member. Many things conspire to provide you with that negative experience. I'm sorry to say this but it is an imperfect world. Sometimes unfair.

The places we've agreed are top end (btw - you didn't mention Meadowbank which is up there for me along with the others) are Hobart's finest. As such, as much as I can say, is that I think on the whole they do a great job upholding the title of top end. All of us can improve, so of course they can ramp it up, but generally, I think if I want a reliable night out with guaranteed great food and service I'll find it in those places but if not, I won't be too upset as I acknowledge that when push comes to shove we're only human. If my meal is crap, I'm not going to return there and wreak havoc. I'll just be pissed off, maybe write about it here (maybe not), and learn another lesson about life. Maybe I'll return, maybe not. It depends on many factors. It's my decision, as it is yours.