Sunday, 16 May 2010

At your service, madam, or not?

Had an interesting morning this morning. Being in the Cygnet area, I popped into my favourite café, Red Velvet Lounge, for a drop of mid-morning refreshment. It was about 10ish. On entering, I asked the girl at the coffee machine, as I walked past, if Steve was in today (for the reason that I would poke my head in the kitchen and say ‘Hi’ if he was there – it’s called courtesy!). On being told he wasn’t, I kept going and sat down.

And waited…..and waited…..and waited.

I have no problem with waiting. I love sitting in a restaurant or café and watching the various machinations, as staff go about their daily business. What I got pissed off about was that, knowing exactly how Steve feels about customer service, and how he would ideally like his staff to work in his absence, he wasn’t being given (by his staff, in his absence) the level of service he would prefer. I empathized totally, as I felt exactly the same when I had my café. Nothing pissed me off more than having a customer tell me (after the event) how they’d gone into my café (when I wasn’t there) and had to wait 10 minutes to get a menu, or got forgotten, or were ignored, or their order had got mixed up!

I seemed to spend my whole life at the cafe asking/pleading with staff to (at a minimum) just make eye contact with my customers, if they were flat out, which they usually were. As long as the customer knows that staff are aware they’re there, all is well. A staff member can make various hand and head gestures which inform the customer that they acknowledge their presence and will be with them when they can get there, or they can do what many in hospitality do and totally ignore them!

I don’t care what the excuse is. It is SO easy to make eye contact with another human being – and that’s what you should do!

It got interesting, to me, to see exactly how long I would have to wait before I received service of any kind, and I was placing small mental bets with myself, when…..

As luck had it (or not), Steve came into the café after I’d waited for around 10 minutes, noticed me sitting there, came across greeting me warmly and asked how I was. I wasted no time telling him that as his Secret Shopper, I was unhappy with waiting for a menu as I had been for 10 minutes! He asked had I been welcomed, or acknowledged, and when I answered in the negative, he instantly got up and went off to speak with his floor staff about the matter. It wasn’t because it was his friend not being waited on. It was because his service standards weren’t being met.

I’m your typical person who doesn’t want to be perceived as a dobber, but I’m afraid my frustration on Steve’s behalf got the better of me today, and I felt that it was only fair that I tell him how things had been prior to his entry (on his day off), and I would expect the same myself, were the positions reversed.

I need to say at this stage, that it wasn’t only my table that was lacking in service. A table of four next to me were obviously ready to order when I arrived, with their menus sitting on the table (= a clear signal to waitstaff that you have finished reading it and have decided what you want), and ending up having to go to the counter to enquire whether they were meant to order at the table or at the counter.

With three floor staff cruising, Steve was justified in getting a tad techy with staff.

Anyway – I had a beautiful slice of old style CWA-type sponge cake (complete with strawberries and cream) and chai latte, and am not saying that because Steve is a mate.


Anon2 said...

Had lovely lunch at RVL on Friday with friends Sally, Peg, Clint and Deb. Able to report that both food and service were impeccable. Introduced myself to Steve and we favourably discussed this blog.

Rita said...

Lovely to hear from you again Anon2, and I'm glad you introduced yourself to Steve. Now I know why my ears were burning on Friday! Also note that Steve WAS there on Fri, so I'd expect the service to be impeccable then. He rules with an iron fist! x

Tassiegal said...

What you describe Rita is the service I have had every time I have been into RVL. I must pick days that Steve is not there or something, because the staff have never impressed me at all.

Anonymous said...

Rita, if you realised how hard-working and underpaid a huge number of cafe staff are, you'd probably begin to realise how stupid this post looks.

I work in a cafe, and take every opportunity possible to try and relax for a few minutes. Getting high blood pressure over a customer having to wait 5 minutes to order a drink is not something I need.

I generally find there are the following types of customers.

1. Those who monopolise your time.

2. Those who are exceptionally impatient and NEED to order within a minute of arrival.

3. Those who take up a table for ages, and then pick whe they want to order. If you arent at the table within 30seconds they begin being rude.

Customers really need to be more tolerant of cafe staff.

If half the customers I served had any idea how hard I worked, I'd be surprised.

Anonymous said...

I disagree!!! Customers DO NOT have to be tolerant of cafe staff... Polite - yes. Courteous - yes. Friendly - yes. It works both ways of course.

I belive it is a relationship you are building, albeit for a short period of time, but one which can last for many years as you, Rita, have created with Steve.

If this is your attitude towards customers then no wonder you are getting high blood pressure. Find another job!

Customers pay for service (ie your wages)and they are entitled to recieve it. A few minutes of "Hospitality" can make the difference to their day (and yours).

Having spent over 15 yrs in the industry (some of it with the esteemed Steve) I can remember very few difficult customers but many, many wonderful ones.

Anonymous said...

Ok so Rita does not like having to wait 5 minutes for a drink, here are a few things I dont like about customers

1. Customers who don't say please and thankyou. I always say these two words, yet rarely hear it back.

2. Customers (generally over the age of 60) who think that (because they are over the age of 60) they are better than me, because I work in a cafe/restaurant and they know that they are wayyyy better than me, for whatever reason.

3. Referring to point number 2 customers like this who think that because they eat a toasted sandwich with knife+fork, or talk in a posh voice that they are better than me. STOP being so arogant. Because

a) you arent better than me
b) your poo DOES stink, just like mine
c) even if you were better than me, the sun dosent shine out your arse, sorry.

4. Customers who drag furniture along the floor, throw chairs to each other across the room, and re-arrange the dining room to suit their needs without consulting any of the staff.

5. BYO is not acceptable unless we say so. So rocking up with cartons of beer, cheap cask wine and half drunken cans of Coke, Mother and UDL does very little to impress me.

6. Ordering. Customer mentality - "Hey, lets all order the cheapest thing, because it's cheap" Dosen't matter what that particular menu item is, but customers will order it and then complain about it (gee why do you think it was cheap?)

7. Efficiency. Customer wonders why food takes so long to come out from kitchen etc when there is obviously a large number of PAX with orders in front.

(In this case we generally give them a "Tasting Plate" ie the chef simply goes to the fridge and gets out anything that has been in there too long, puts it on a plate and sends it out .... YUM).

8. Closing. If we shut at 10, I start packing up and doing pre-close at 9. So don't rock up 5 minutes before closing time and expect a 3 course, 5 hour meal.

I have a life too.

9. Coffee. Milk is expensive and not an endless resource. If you want all your tastebuds to be burnt off with boiled milk, thats fine, but please just advise us first. We can also heat up the cup which keeps your drink extra hot.

10. General annoying-ness.
A) Don't argue with me over petty things like "is my coffee heated to 69.78547 degrees?"

B) Don't try to grab plates out of my arms when I am carrying them, your not helping.

C) I would love $1 for everytime I am clearing a table and someone yells out, or clicks there fingers at me, as they want to order. Not sure about you, but I would probably rather NOT have my order taken by someone with an arm full of plates.

D) I can carry 3 plates, which for a waitress is a pretty good effort. Then when I rock up at the table with all plates bar one I hear "Excuse me can I just get my blah blah blah?" WELL HELLO YOUR BLAH BLAH BLAH IS JUST HERE IN MY POCKET YOU IDIOT.

The people who say THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT have obviously never worked in retail or hospitality.

sir grumpy said...

My God, Rita, you'be got a couple of live ones responding here (or is it the same one twice?).
Can you imagine them in the industry or looking after your meal?
No wonder customers and food critics get brassed off.
I just can't belioeve it.

steve said...

Rita I have thought about your experience at RVL yesterday & your subsequent post.

I spoke to the staff concerned & wrote them a note underpinning my expectations of service at the RVL.

I am very proud of the team at the RVL & the service they provide. I know that sometimes people take their eye off the ball, I know I do sometimes & it was a shame that it happened yesterday.

You have every right to publish your account & for the record of your readers I didn't try to stop you.

However I do think your last paragraph was a bit creepy & it did weird the staff out a bit causing one of them to get very upset.

".....and now the staff are running scared (you just don’t know WHO is a mate of Steve’s, do you?) I’m sure the service will be impeccable!"

I do not want the staff 'running scared' as you put it, I dont think that this comment is in any way constructive. Also the staff concerned spoke to me & said that they try to make everyone welcome not just friends of mine.

Again, I stand by my staff who are not always perfect but they do try hard.

Anonymous said...

Sir grumpy, you cant believe 'it'?

Well I cant believe your spelling.


Anyway Steve, its a fact that staff bludge when the owner isn't present. It's what we do. :)

Rita said...


sir grumpy said...

Itz not me speling, anon, it's me fat fingers typing on this shitty little keyboard!
Mind you, I'd check your punctuation (punkchewashion).

sir grumpy said...

Last time we were at RVL we got a welcome, water and menus very smartly (without sprinting to us like crazy).
I've never had anything but good service there since the olden days, when it was friendly but a wee bit muddled!
Mind you, when a gentlemanly huge hunk like me goes anywhere,people flock to look after me.
I'm a flocking nuisance.

Fair suck..... said...

Anonymous 2:21 and his/her lists of demands and complaints re customers - what can I say? I pity any employer who mistakenly employs this arsehole. With pre-packed attitude like this, the employer's business won't last 5 seconds!
Once you locate this wretch, sack it at once!

Anonymous said...

anon 2.21pm
I think its time you moved on from this job

Victor said...

I must say when I read this post last week, I was really surprised by your experience. I have been to RVL many times and never had a bad service. I am sure it is not because we are friend of Steve. I have seen how all the staff serve the other tables, and they give the same service and attention as us.

Susannah said...

My first visit (so far the only visit, actually) to the RVL was when Steve wasn't there (I know that because I was delivering some old Gourmet magazines to him).

The service was fine. Prompt, attentive without being over the top. And they were reasonably busy. Everyone has a bad day, sometimes, and the unfortunate thing in hospitality is that we remember the bad days, and talk about them, out of proportion to the good days.

Speaking of good days, I had a lovely visit to Ut Si the other day. The orange and almond cake looked very tempting, but after several days visiting family, the idea of facing the usual generous serve was a bit daunting. I asked for, and got, a nice small serve, which hit the spot. And I was lucky enough to get the last loaf of fresh bread (ensuring that the rest of my family in Hobart welcomed me home!).

Having a very slow trip back down the Midlands, i also wanted to stop at the new spot at Campbelltown (just for a coffee this time, to help stay awake), but unfortunately for me it is not open on a Tuesday. So it will have to wait for next time!

Hope you are not away for too long, Rita.

Anonymous said...

Get a life, the lot of you, especially the person who is putting everything in point form, write a book you wanker, and tell everyone where you work so we know to avoid it.

Anonymous said...

Not happy?

That's a shame about the service Rita. Might have been an off day?

Anonymous said...

Been to RVL twice.. both times the serve was dreadfully slow and the food underwhelming. Always suprised to read people rave about the place!

Anonymous said...

Went to RVL today-friendly service, great food and lovely cake maybe some of you are going to a different R Velvet than us?

Anonymous said...

Which part of 'everyones perceptions are different' don't you lot get?

Anonomouse said...

I think the last anon is anon 10:50pm.

So what's the problem? Why not expand for the benefit of us all.

Anonymous said...

This chain of posts is hysterically funny!!!

Anonymous said...

I am just new to returning to the RVL and I have to say every exp has been very good. I find the current wait staff to be very attentive, they have got the memo and they really work well. The food is great...I am so proud that Cygnet has 2 great cafes..RVL being one The Lotus eaters the other...years ago the town was slammed as being out of the way and not on the Huon Trail etc etc and it has proven all critics wrong with being able to have more than 3 pubs for food...sad the Old Bank or what was once The Conservatory isnt open for the has such potential to be more than a B&B was established to be more. Will be back to the RVL soon...well done Steve!

Sarah said...

I visited the RVL yesterday; not my first visit but, as the Lotus cafe was closed (along with the rest of Cygnet) I found myself entering in desperate need of coffee and cake.

It wasn't busy but, the service was as slow as always; I always have to ask for a menu in this place; "meet & greet" is obviously not plat du jour and, when I requested some bread & butter for the 16 month yo we had in tow, the waitress appeared very nervous and, was unsure if this were possible... are you kidding? Isn't Bakery painted on the walls outside and, how hard to slice/spread? Thankfully, some B & B did arrive. Unfortunately, the flour-less chocolate cake reacted badly with both myself and, sister - It looked great on the fridge platter but after a couple of mouthfuls whatever flour replacement thing they had going on (I suspect some kind of almond meal)kicked in with the chocolate suddenly tasting very bitter and, eating the cake became hard work! Safe to say, I had a brick in my tummy for several hours after and, have not eaten a great deal today as, a result. I would love to give the RVL another go as, the venue is fab however, via x 6 visits now, I have yet to be served competently or, fed!