Saturday, 19 June 2010

With "friends" like this, who needs enemies?

I received the following email below recently from a disgruntled restaurant owner. It provides us with an alternative view of customers, from an owner's perspective. I hope none of my readers fit this description!.......................

"Just have to vent my spleen tonight, here we go….

Over the time I have owned my business one particular couple have often come in at night especially over the winter months.

They have declared several times to me that they are big 'supporters' of mine but often this has made me feel uncomfortable as there is always the slightest inference that they 'have to be looked after'.

I don't have a problem looking after them per se but as all the FOH staff attest they are extremely high maintenance.

Some examples:
Often they won’t book but will expect their usual table - even if it’s occupied
Observing that it might be busy they monopolize all the time of the FOH staff to the detriment of the other punters
When it is busy & they don't get their requisite attention, they become childishly picky over the minutest of details.
They ALWAYS complain, there has not been one instance where they have been happy about the food.

Once after too many reds with company at their table, the man said he wanted a quote for a function, to come in for lunch on a Sunday. Before I could say I'll email you the details, he totally embarrasses me in front of his guests by demanding that I only charge a certain amount. Later when I do get a quote to him he ignores it but later tells me the committee decided to have it on another day.
On the day of the function lunch the streets outside one of my nearby competitors dining rooms were filled with his car and all his friends cars! What a cheapskate!

He & his missus do the rounds at all the local places. They ate at a friend's establishment as well, but unbeknownst to them he's a mate. He delighted in telling me they spent the whole night totally slagging me off! Would you believe!

Which brings me to their ongoing issue of bringing their own wine to our restaurant. We are not & have never been BYO since I have been the owner.
The many staff who have worked over the last two years have all explained this to our customers so now nearly everyone accepts this.

Except them.

Tonight they, well he, was totally rude to one of the FOH staff when she tried to explain to him that it was not BYO. He bullied her & told her I was always changing my mind etc etc. She was quite upset.

When they paid the bill I went out to try & calm the situation & he became quite belligerent. Seeing that this was going to get loud I just said I'd be happy to discuss it another time but he said amongst other things that he'll be taking his business elsewhere from now on. I said I'm sorry he felt that way & left with him telling me to go & cook for the other tables.

Anyway when you get customers like this as regulars its easy to see why eventually people get sick of them - you just can’t win."

Posted on by Rita


Anonymous said...

They sound like total nightmares Rita! Why are some people so arrogant?I would never open a resturant for the reasons stated above sounds like some people are always on the move to be difficult not everyone I know but just enough to make it a bit unpleasant

Anonymous said...

sounds like a certain wine merchant...

Anonymous said...

dido that

Anonymous said...

That is so depressing. We eat often at a certain restaurant. The staff are wonderful - so is the owner/chef. We feel privileged that they recognise our loyalty (which we have never emphasized!) and always recommend them to our friends. The chef tries out dishes on us, we have developed great relationships with the waitstaff and, all in all, it's a fantastic place to visit. Why do people have to throw their weight around? And how, as a restaurant, can you politely cope with the tossers?


bumper701 said...

Thank you Rita for posting this letter and allowing a restaurant owner the right of reply. I really understand this difficult situation. As one of the comments has do you handle these situations? You do as best you can and try to remember that not all of the customers are difficult...even if a large percentage choose to be. I try to understand, I work in a cafe..just what it is that upsets people and many a time I have to come to the conclusion its not the cafe its them.

I eat out, I walk into busy places and recognize straightaway what's happening and how it will go. I order and my expectations are not always met but I don't stand and argue with FOH or the chef.

In the past 3 months where I work has been exceptionally busy and this is exactly what everyone wants. Sadly, it also means the place gets booked out over lunch. If there is no seat and people walk in asking for lunch it cannot be done but I have had people stand and argue with me for tables with a reserved sign on it. Then getting so angry they decide that its our fault and will never come back and will tell friends. No cafe owner/manager/worker wants to turn business away, in fact I just wish half of the weekend traffic would spill over to the slower week days but it doesn't work that way. When I have suggested they could book they get even angrier and this isn't an isolated event it happens every weekend. So sad and frustrating and also time consuming, people are waiting to be served that did book. What can you do? We seat 40 inside, that's it.

Waiting times make people angry. Have we all become so intolerant? I watch people wait in Drs surgeries, banks, lines at Medicare for ages and just accept this...explain to someone their coffee hasn't arrived yet because 19 coffees were in line before them and the machine makes 4 at a time less if its a double and all the other amazing combinations that come in at one go and they explode at the staff. At me also saying "you need more staff" the truth is we could have lots more staff but only one person can make coffee at the machine at a time. Sometimes I wonder how the staff do keep their cool, its certainly an extra human feat not to retort back at the things I have heard people say to them. Then there are times when you do just say what's on your mind and like a child you are told how insolent you are, human maybe is a better response because really you are reacting to being spoken to that way in the first place.

At the end of everyday I remind myself this is not a life or death situation, people are coming out to relax and have a meal and it should not be a drama. Keep the faith restaurant owner you are not alone in these hospitality experiences. Sometimes I wish at the end of the day that I could remember all the really lovely ones who had a good time but for some human reason I mull over the ones that just couldn't do anything but demand, complain and behave badly. I know that's my choice and I do try to let it go. Thank you to all the lovely ones, you keep me going!! Rita, you are one of the lovely ones!!

Michelle said...

There really are some tossers out there. We had a fabulous lunch at the Hamilton Inn recently. Super delish pub food - worth a visit.

A table nearby ordered sausages with gravy and mash and then complained quite loudly to the young waitress about getting onions in the gravy (apparently not the norm, although I understand it to be a must in that dish). She remained calm and polite but they still called her a f**cking bitch. Over onions! Sheesh...

Anonymous said...

The customer is NOT always right!

sir grumpy said...

Crikey, glad I'm not a restaurant owner or chef.
(Bet you are too.)

But Bumper701 brought out one of my pet hates at cafes and restaurants these days....the coffee bullshit.
Recently at Huonville we ducked into the fish punt. Girl couldn't take our order because she was making a fancy coffee for a customer.
She was very pleasanr and reassured us she wouldn't be long. Meanwhile, the cook was at the fryers waiting to go.
They have their system, so we had to wait as the complex coffee was made..seemed like ages.
(The flathead and sundries when we did get them were great, I have to say.)
Next at Fuller's bookstore. in town, ordered food and pot of tea. Got food, no tea, so asked.

Waitress said the guy who does the coffees also does the we had to wait ages while he frothed and bubbled up several bullshit frappo-fucking-cinos and God knows what else.
What about percolated coffee? Just pour it, none of this 15 minutes of showbiz for a coffee. (I wonder if there can be much profit in it...take the time of the maker and all the rest, margins must be slim.)
Save us from coffee crapucinos/

Anonymous said...

To the idiotic customers of the world I would just like to make the following comments.

You go out for a meal. Why? Because obviously, deep down, you know these people can provide you with better food than what you can produce.

If you dislike a restaurant or cafe, don't go in every day and bitch about it. If somewhere is shit, simply do not go there.

If you live in Sandy Bay, Battery Point, South Hobart or you have a lot of money, lucky you, well done, thats great. However just because you have more money than the average person, please do not act as if you are better than us, as it is arrogant, rude and we don't like snobs.

Your arrogance goes straight over the top of my head, and I simply begin to be a smart arse and take the piss out of you, so don't be rude, dont click your fingers at me and do not speak to me as if I am an idiot.

Restaurant owners have been known to tell customers to f*ck off, dont go into some place and expect discounts just because you go in monthly. If you do get a discount, appreciate it, dont expect it.

Don't order one meal to share between 4 people, as it does not help our overheads and frankly wastes my time.

Please be aware of what goes on around you. If we are making twenty coffees for a table of twenty, please note, they ordered first so their twenty coffees will be made before your coffees are.

Any customer with an IQ higher than 7 simply would abide by managements rules RE BYO food and drink etc etc etc. Look we have had people bring food into this restaurant, and unless they can prove they have some kind of deadly allergy, they can get stuffed.

The people who say the customer is always right have obviously never worked in hospitality.

Anonymous said...

Sir Grumpy, No one likes percolated coffee because it tastes like donkey crap and the reason no one likes it is the same reason no one sells it.

No demand = Why bother?

bumper701 said...

Oh Sir Grumpy, how you have made me laugh this afternoon..thank you for that...your coffee statement!! (also to Michelle and Anon comments its seems we need an area for post was made at 3am..why? I was awake before another busy day ahead..that says all really) anyway..Sir Grumpy the coffee situation is mindboggling to me...decaf soy weak latte, extra hot...skinny cap weak, cap with no chocolate, hot chocolate no marshmallows, latte double shot with skinny milk, macchiato with hot milk on the side...(err is that not a flat white you are looking for)? flat white with no froth..(not even a little)? long black with milk on the side, short black but then its sent back because its too short should it be? Once done its long....Mercy! goes on and on and on....

I watch all this going on whilst I work at the stove and wonder...what the hell is going on here?? Add to that chai tea, chai latte, iced chocolate, iced coffee...and I can see people arriving and they haven't had their orders taken...What is interesting to me is the latte situation. Now I have done a barista course and worked the machine for YEARS (err too many to mention) and latte is served in a glass (as we all know) and its done so because the temp is lower and the customer is supposed to be able to pick up a glass and drink it without burning their fingers. The amount of latte's we have sent back because they want it HOT is hilarious..they ask for it to be hot then ask for a napkin to hold it...they want a flat white right? If I am wrong someone correct me but I have never seen so many people ask for a latte and then say its not what they ordered. What do people think a latte is?

In Europe you order a latte and its a 'to go coffee" you can drink it quickly..standing at the counter, same for a Cap in Italy and its not boiling where have we strayed from this?? No takes time and yes, we could do the American style situation of filtered coffee but I have to say personally I like to go out and have a good coffee and pay for it, I want a coffee I cant make at home and such a thing TAKES TIME...and when customers move in groups of 8 or more then it really does take time.

Coffee orders..Sadly it does impact on the rest of the customers especially if they order cakes at the same time..we always laugh at the cafe that the worst time for us is between 2 pm to 3pm when everyone hits coffee and cake at the same moment, plus walk ins for afternoon tea..its coffee machine madness...people say "oh we are just here for cake and coffee" and we KNOW that will take as much time to do as getting meals together...Sir Grumpy you are my fav customer if you order a pot of tea.. I think, at last something I can do FAST!!! I always say to the girls.."TEA fantastic..warm the pot and get it out first...its easy"!!! Oh for an extra pair of arms and a memory of an elephant for these coffee combinations...and yet at the end of the day its my bread and butter and I am grateful for it...if only I knew how to make it faster, easier and meet customer expectation..believe me... I WOULD DO IT!!!

sir grumpy said...

Sorry anon, not being a coffee person, I was unaware the old percolated was so bad. Ah, well no quick fix there I suppose.
Mind you, Hobart council will probably ban coffee smoking, no drinking, no bogans, no Myer, no parking...we'll have to call it Nobart.
Bumper701, yes the compexity is mind-boggling.
It drives me crazy.
At Huonville fish punt the coffee-making process went on for ages and the woman who was waiting for it just beat us in the door by a whisker. Damn!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! Back to your best Rita!
A couple of points though. Clearly Fullers and others could have whoever is spare doing the tea, even I can make tea!

And what does really give me the shits is one person on the coffee machine going full bore while a couple of others stand around and watch!

Sometimes its a prima donna attitude, together with a sort of control freek thing. But surely a barista can teach someone how to warm milk or get the cups ready so that there are two or three people working on the machine! And if you are really busy, buy another machine and make more money.


Jenni from the Hood said...

Oh yea thats right spend five grand on a machine for the 30 mins that everyone decise to come in at the same time-err, that makes sense-not.
Combine it by the billion coffee milk combos that you lot are so freaking particular about & you'll still be waiting!
As to the comment that 'one makes coffee 'whilst the others stand around', well you do my job girlfriend & I'll show you who stands around being a prima donna!

Whilst you are in your desk job doing a few tasks at at time I would love to sit there and helpfully say, 'You could train more staff to do this or that' or 'you could get someone else to help you'.

Tell me your job so I can watch you at work skanky Be-atch!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenni
5k is nothing (if that's all they cost)when you balance it off against pissed off customers. Maybe a few coffees a day! Do the maths!

I'm not talking about places which have a 30 minute rush, I'm talking about places which are slow getting coffees out all day.

I wish I had a 'desk job' doing a few tasks at a time but unfortunately I have customers all day and many evenings with continual requests for more complicated issues than what sort of milk they like!

I am talking about my observations looking around the place. I do see people standing around where if trained they could help get the coffees out.

If you and your place are superbly efficient, well good on you, and I'll love to come and look but keep your abuse for something and someone you know about!

Anyway I'm going to go with Sir G and just order tea from now on.


bumper701 said...

Hi P...good point about having another machine, I have looked at it and basically our operation has not the space for it and those babies take a lot of power to run, it would probably be a bad decision. I never feel that one of the staff watches while the other pumps the coffee out as usually the others are doing either clean up of tables, orders, cakes and washing up so I know that all hands are on deck and that the person at the machine is the fastest, has that milk knack!

I guess the other points I would like to raise to get some feedback on is food allergies. Lately I have been getting the most extraordinary requests for meals that I have to wonder what's happening to people and their stomachs.

Gluten free has always been around and many are and we have meals to that order, as well as veg choices but when its also dairy, nuts, balsamic vinegar, no olive oil, no nothing.. there seems to be a run on no salt too. I have manipulated meals from the menu beyond recognition and I don't think they came out all that good. A tad bland to say the least and then am told that was the case. Mercy. Anyway..the other point is...who has a business that's in The Entertainment Book?

We are and I have to say straight off that I made a mistake in offering a flat discount with no conditions of use. I see that many businesses offer buy a meal get a meal or a glass of wine and limit it to during the week. We are a small operation and I should have done this. I have no idea how many they sold but the use of the voucher is triple to last year. So yes, we have the argument that it brings business in that has not been aware of you in the past. A good thing but what I have been seeing is parties of 6 or more coming with 2 vouchers and ordering minimal items, i.e. can we have a bowl of soup and a meal to share between 2 and so on and then they present the vouchers and we have been clobbered on the weekends with this..the weekends where as you have read in a previous post we have turned walk ins away. One table recently had 5 children in its party, to which they brought out their own biscuits,sandwiches, yoghurt and baby food to be heated. A table using 10 seats. Then out came 2 vouchers at the till. I nearly cried, I really cried after they left as there was food everywhere to clean up and none of it was ours!

I am wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience and what do you think? Is it worth that kind of new business? Will people who just want a day out very cheaply really return? My instincts say no and I am not going to join up again. The few weeks prior to the old book expiring and the new starting we were averaging $800 a week in discounts, that's a mighty bill for a small cafe. Its a wage. Advertising really, we could spend less on a week advertising ourselves and getting full paying business. I am a little unsure..what do you think? Are you a customer with book and how do you use it and feel about it..maybe this should be a separate topic Rita, do you have a book...what is your take on this?.. I am keen to know more. Thank you.

Rita said...

Bumper701 - I wrote a post about this over a year ago, and will find it and post the link here today later, but basically it was affirming what you have now experienced with the Entertainment Book, and told us above.
I will comment on other issues from the above comments later.

Daveq said...

I have worked in cafes in Salamanca for over 15 years and have seen the latte rise and fall in favour, it seems skinny chai lattes are the new long black. This used to offend me as a barista, but now I treat it like tea nice and easy (method, dissolve sugary sweet sickly powder in a glass, add milk) serve.
Sir Grumpy You can now add restaurant / cafes outdoor speakers to your list of HCC banned items according to a recent letter from them, not too sure if it just affects Salamanca or all of our "lively" city.

Anonymous said...

All those cheap arses should just stay at home.
Try going into a bank, butcher, car dealer, dentist, chemist, hardware etc etc and start asking for theirservices products to be changed/discounted or whatever, they'd just laugh at you.
I really empathise with Bumper 701 with that table from hell. Are some people really that ignorant about the costs involved in running a small busienss. They should hacve just gone to the local park for a picnic

sir grumpy said...

Yes Bumper701, do they think you are a welfare agency?
Do they think about how you earn a living, do they even think at all?
Selfish bastards with no empathy.
Also, a note to anyone from the HCC who may read this site.
I like cafes, pubs with people spilling out over the footpath. I love sandwich board advertising on the footpath.
It adds colour to our ailing city heart, especially on cold,grey days with a massive hole where Myer used to be.
You know what, I am not a gambler but always end up at Wrest Point with visitors from interstate/overseas, as part of a night out.
You know, piano bar, wander round the tables, maybe visit the disco when they had them.
Spend $20 (yes, a whole $20) on the pokies to join in if the visitor wanted a lucky punt. Play two-up, etc. Marvel at the plastic shrubbery (!).
My point is, central Hobart needs a go-to place. I want Wrest Point Casino to move into the city, build something grand and watch pubs, clubs and restaurants spring up all around.
They could sell their site at Sandy Bay for a fortune to redevelopers, that would cover the cost of the switch.
The terms of their gaming licence stay the more or less in pokie machines, etc.
Then we would have a draw to the city, rather than a stretched-out North Hobart to Sandy Bay scenario.
Whatcha think?

Christina said...

I was seriously thinking about getting one of those discount books this year. I was going to last year, but Rita's post and the comments received put me right off.
If the comments made are seriously what restaurantuers think of the people that use these vouchers, I think it's a shame.
I am a serious diner and would use this book to try places I may not have before. If I found the experience great, I would definately return, but the the thought of all and sundry whinging behind my back because I dared to use a voucher that they themselves legitimised makes me cold.
It's a real shame because there are some great offers and also incentive because of the funds raised for charity by the sale of these books.
Again, why enter in to it if you're not prepared to honour the vouchers with a smile on your face.
I do understand Bumper701's comments, but to paint all punters with the same brush pisses me off really. I feel now, that if I were to use one of these books, no matter the circumstances, I would be looked down upon and I don't think that's fair.
I do hope you check out Rita's previous post on this Bumper and give us some more feedback.
As for coffee, I bloody hate waiting so long for it. I know it takes time, but I'm too impatient to wait, so I don't. My choice.

Rita said...

Christina - can you remember when I posted that? I tried looking for it today, but obviously didn't use the words Entertainment Book when I wrote it! It was around 18 months ago, but not sure when, or what I headed it.

Anonymous said...

May 4 2009
The flip side of cheap meals


Rita said...

Beautiful, thanks P.

Christina said...

Just re read that flip side post Rita.
Great reading. I still feel exactly the same. Can't quite bring myself to get one because I feel wierd about them now. Should though. I'd save a fortune and look how much extra I'd have for wine!

bumper701 said...

Thank you for the link P and Rita, Christina for the input. After reading the info from 18 months ago I am a little calmer on the vouchers, from the point of view that this has been from the onset a typical situation . Wish I had read this back then. Which is a little sad but Christina I think you have the kind of mindset that most businesses were thinking the vouchers were going to be used for...go to new places and trying them out either because you have always wanted to and maybe ones you may not have heard of all honesty for the first 2 years we signed up I had the general impression that's how they were being used. The company involved is very good in giving feedback and taking all vouchers being used and processing them for the feedback etc. This is the first time for us with the new book we have encountered the big groups using 2 or more vouchers and ordering minimal food...that why I became alarmed and wondered... have I done the right thing signing up for another year..will this just continue as it has for the last weekends and how do we sustain such losses when we are turning business away.

Christina, I think there are many as yourself who would use a voucher and be happy with a discount and know you are actually ordering well and trying a place out. There is no behind hands sniggering at such customers and I have processed vouchers where I have seen this... a couple or 4 who have done this and I have asked "have you been here before etc. It does to go charity, it is good publicity and its not free. We knew that, no one held a gun to our head.We all walked into it knowing we were giving a discount I guess what we did not foresee was the many occasions where it would be abused and that's naive but till it happens its an unknown.

I may be wrong but I think with this new book there would be many businesses that have changed the conditions. My next question to the company is how many have you sold this year as in previous years, before we were given this info and this year they have been silent and judging by the volume used so far, I would say the sales have been very good..if not discounted. Harsh to say this but if you increase your volume of books , businesses maybe should brace themselves for how many will be redeemed in one day. Obviously the company and charity involved have no idea how this can impact a small business, Christina, all I am trying to say is there are discounts and then there are DISCOUNTS and when its a table of 10 and their total bill for a lunch period comes to $32.00 its not going to be a happy ending. As recounted in the post from 18 months ago they had customers drinking the water only, my goodness we have had that too! So I guess you live and learn and make decisions for the next year based on your expereiciences and honour what's presented to you in the best possible manner.

There is so little money in serving food etc, its a strange old business and one that's as old as time itself, I have chosen it and I do get feisty but at the end of the day we try new things to bring customers in, some work ...some fail and it is really helpful to get feedback from all areas..thanks for the blog Rita and the people who post its so good to hear all sides!!

Anonymous said...

My first post in this most vigorous discussion. With discount vouchers I have always (as another poster said) spent extra on wine, desserts etc as I am already saving money using the voucher. There will always be those who require $100 worth of food for as little as possible. It's apparently called "value for money" and I have cringed inwardly in restaurants when people I am with do this. Regrettably I don't think there is an answer, it's human nature to want something for nothing. Still doesn't make it right though.
PS Sir Grumpy is such a breath of crotchety fresh air.
PPS Please keep blogging Rita