Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The dreaded Christmas functions...

I can’t remember where I read it recently but I was impressed with the statement that a restaurant owner (and I think this was local) charges diners on a larger (pre-booked) table an extra $10 if they’ve booked and confirmed specific numbers of guests, and are short a few on the night of the meal. This gets rid of the need for restaurant staff to take credit card details which are possibly fake (yes, it certainly happens!) as insurance against that very situation.

We have discussed this issue many times online, both here and at Steve’s, over the years, but it never seems to be resolved enough to safeguard restaurant owners in those circumstances.

As general social standards get lower, so does the level of caring and compassion for one’s fellow man, it would appear!

I continue to hear horror stories about human behaviour (read that as ‘customers’), which will go on for time immemorial, and often shake my head in total disbelief at the ignorance, rudeness and crassness of customers – but with the silly season fast approaching, yet again restaurant owners are faced with hundreds of workplaces wanting to celebrate the end of yet another year by eating out. The workplaces, in these enlightened days of political correctness, need to ‘listen’ to all staff’s suggestions for Xmas venues, so you end up with a situation where the Social Committee book 3 or 4 venues, await the results of staff discussions, then confirm with the winning venue – but neglect to inform the other venues they also booked that they need to cancel.

(A past workplace of mine was particularly noteworthy for this! I swear to god that we started discussions about where the event - at XMAS time! - for approximately 40 people should be held, around June each year! It was the subject of countless staff meetings, with much lobbying of staff done by the more unscrupulous ‘team’ members! It was the most controversial topic of discussion EVER! Rita won twice with her proposals/organisation, and absolutely loved our Xmas meals on both occasions, but it was difficult to maintain the rage!)

The result is that the other (unsuccessful, although they don’t know it at that stage) venues have a large booking pencilled in till someone at the restaurant takes the time to do a ring-around and verify all bookings. If this doesn’t happen, it could be that the restaurant doesn’t find out about the lack of booking until the actual night of the function! The restaurant have probably knocked back other more definite bookings in favour of the first one booked, in the mistaken assumption that they have secured a booking which will cover all their bills for that night – purchasing ingredients, staff wages, electricity, cleaning, insurance etc.

At my current workplace (the Frog), I am impressed with the system of booking (accommodation) online. You go onto our (secure) website which takes you through the required steps, including submitting your credit card details (which get verified instantly). We don’t take ANY payment out of that account. When you physically arrive at the Frog, we check you in and you pay in whatever way you want (either card or cash). If we have the need to use them, we have your credit card details, but we never use them. An automated email response is immediately sent to the customer the instant we receive, open and deal with the booking, acknowledging receipt of the booking and detailing exactly what they have been booked for. All terms and conditions are spelled out in black and white at the outset.

You pay when you check in, whether you’re happy about the accommodation, or service you received, or not. You still intend using the product (accommodation) so you need to pay for it. Why can’t it be the same for eating out at a function? Why not pay up BEFORE the meal? The enjoyment of the meal is a moot point – you still partook of the meal – ie used the product - so the fact that ingredients actually got used, staff actually bought it to you, the power was working and lights were on, etc, all happened, whether you liked the food or not.

So – bloody good on whoever has taken the radical step of charging the thoughtless customer who hasn’t had the courtesy to call up and notify of late withdrawls! And my heartiest congratulations to those restaurants who manage to succeed in pleasing ALL guests at their functions!
Posted on by Rita


Anonymous said...

I organise the work Xmas lunch. It's simple. Firstly get an idea of numbers and where they'd like to dine. Contact prospective restaurant to discuss dates / times / menu. Make booking on understanding that I will contact 4 weeks prior to the date to confirm all details. (It's not uncommon for people to leave work, but their spot is usually taken up by a newbie anyway.) Distribute menu to colleagues 4 weeks ahead and ask for confirmation that they're attending. Contact restaurant to confirm numbers. Redistribute menu 1 week out, and then the day before. Take orders that morning, fax through by 10am. Collect money and pay before everyone gets seated. People sort their own drinks out at the bar - no tab. Some restaurants appreciate this system more than others, and often throw in free garlic bread. It's not rocket science, but it's not without flaw either.

Rita said...

Sounds like you are the ideal function planner, Anon! Sounds SO straightforward when you do it like that! Restaurant owners must LOVE you! Where is this year's Xmas meal, just out of curiosity?

Anonymous said...

Our Xmas work lunch planning is similar to Anon above except it's usually a fixed menu and people pay several weeks before the day - no pay - no go. Have done Ball & Chain, Prossers & others in this way and it works well.

Hazel said...

It is a tough one, I book alot of functions for work, and people do drive me insane, as I'm trying my best to let hotels and restaurants know ahead of time, but still won't confirm with me an RSVP. Or they say yes and are a no show. Grrr.

Xmas party for work this year will be a pot-luck BBQ at a park. A bit easier and cheaper!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Roger Drummond famous for punching an ex premier of Tas in the nose infront of the Taxi rank at the Hobart Airport ? - The Premier and his political adviser had just returned from an interstate trip and Roger biffed him?

Or is my memory playing tricks ...


Rita said...

Hmmm CR - I can't remember if I have actually heard that one before, but as he was a larger than life kind of guy, it doesn't surprise me one iota!

Anonymous said...

I'm Anon1 checking back in again. Did the confirmation call this morning only to find our booking had dropped off! Luckily the restaurant hadn't made any other bookings and could slot us back in. **wipes sweat off brow** Could have been a disaster!

Anonymous said...

Angassi lease not renewed because landlord wants to sell freehold and easier to do without tennent perhaps? 4 of the 8 accom units already sold, dive shop on the market?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

GUESTS have chartered helicopters specially to eat there and food critics around Australia rave about Angasi, but the Bay of Fires' iconic restaurant will shut its doors next month.

Local businesses and commerce groups fear the closure will cause Binalong Bay tourist numbers to plummet.

Chef and owner Thomas Dicker said the restaurant, renown for its modern Australian seafood cuisine, was closing because the landlord had not renewed the lease on their waterfront premises.

Angasi opened six years ago and was run by Mr Dicker, Darren Lewis and his wife Anita.

"Our landlord didn't renew our lease. It's unexplainable for us," Mr Dicker said.

"The East Coast thrives off us; they use us in all of their promotional stuff."

St Helens and District Chamber of Commerce co-chairperson Kathie Davies said the closure would hurt the town's tourism trade.

"If people do get to Binalong Bay now, what are they going to do?" she said.

Ms Davies said any new business would have to be able to withstand the town's seasonal trade.

"It would have to be a drawcard in its own right, like Angasi, and not just rely on visitors passing through," she said.

"You can't expect a business to open every day of the year there, it simply won't work.

"If you could have something like Angasi [again] that would be terrific. But it's going to be big boots to fill."

The Bay of Fires Dive store next to Angasi is also shutting its shop.

Proprietor Peter Paulsen decided not to renew his lease a few months ago because he wanted to run his business from home.

Mr Paulsen said the closure of Angasi was a major blow to the town.

"Angasi certainly set a whole new standard for the East Coast," he said.

"When you see ... people flying in by helicopter to eat there, you know it's something special."

Mr Paulsen said any new business would have to meet the benchmark set by Angasi if it was going to be successful.

"The sad thing is, I think we may end up with a lesser product on that site," he said.

Landlord Marion Thorn would not comment on reasons for not renewing Angasi's lease.

"There was (a particular reason) but I'd prefer not to discuss it," she said.

"We're confident that we will be filling the space."

Now that the initial shock has worn off, Mr Dicker says he is excited about his future restaurant endeavours.

He is set to open a restaurant in Devonport, in mid-January.

"It's right on the Mersey Bluff where the old surf club used to be. It's part of an $8 million council redevelopment," Mr Dicker said.

Darren and Anita Lewis are off to Scamander, where the Pelican Sands site is now being transformed into a new cafe and restaurant.

Brand Tasmania executive director Robert Heazlewood said the tourism industry in nearby St Helens was growing quickly and he predicted an entrepreneur would soon see an opportunity in Binalong Bay.

"If the operators of Angasi were able to do it, I'm sure somebody else will step up and see an opportunity there," he said.

"It might be left of field, it might not be a restaurant.

"But it's a beautiful spot and in the end it comes down to an entrepreneur or business person seeing an opportunity that works for them."

Anonymous said...

thanks anon but youve just posted on what the merc has already said. Are you saying that this is the last word or are you saying that there is more to this story?

Anonymous said...

There is ALOT more to this story.
Trust me.

Anonymous said...

"We're confident that we will be filling the space."

Gee, really? Well if I had a property worth 1mill + next to a beach that got voted the worlds best, I could probably find a tenant too.

"There was (a particular reason) but I'd prefer not to discuss it," she said.


Anonymous said...

pay your rent on time and all will be well......

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

pay your rent on time. How about six years of rent from a good tennant.this industry is bedevilled by pedantic landlords chucking hissy fits if the rent is a day late because they insist on the rent on a given date, if the bank takes a day longer to process it because say its a weekend or a public holiday, then its probable to end up with a solicitors letter. On the other hand try getting them to fix something.

Ive lost count of the number of businesses that have shut down due to leasing problems. All businesses have temporary cash flow problems, I say talk it over with your tenant, reach an agreement, and then if its broken have a go, but don't be so quick to shoot the devil you know for the one you dont.

Anonymous said...

sorry but when did it become the lessors responsibility to underwrite the fiscal responsibility and obligations of the lessee?
too many small businesses expect that other parties will underwrite their risk and accountabilities
and hospitality operators are renown for it
great, you are an industry player, but please put your own balls on the line and your own money. match your rhetoric with some convictions and maybe lease arrangements can be mediated

Anonymous said...

I think the tenant does put his own balls on the line when he spends all of his money on the fitout or buying of the business and its upkeep, not to mention the long hours.
So I would say both parties are at risk, and for those landlords who stretch themselves thin with their other projects and investments, it should not be the tennants problem when the landlord has no cash or time to fix up the property, or decides not to renew a lease when their best mate wants the space or the other hundred reasons you here about.
And no in the hard light of day it is not the lessors responsibility to underwrite the tennants business in the same way a bank underwrites the landlord. Mind you love to see the face on a few lessors faces if the banks treated you the same way. Sorry but you were late with two payments last year so the bank has decided not to renew your mortgage, were giving it to somebody we think will be more suited, now sod off and thanks you have one month to role off into the sunset, its in the contract, no point arguing, have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Would there be short odds on some of these posters having some sort of business relationship with Angasi? Is this the place to discuss?

Anonymous said...

Just proves we live in a Very Small State - everyone knows everyone else's business and often make it up if they don't !

I am sure that legal letters would be flying thick and fast - if the lease contained options then security of occupancy may have prevented this situation ???

Often the only thing a business has to sell is a lease and a name. The name they register and own but the lease is often overlooked.


Susannah said...

Silly me, I thought all these posts were going to be about managing bookings for office christmas functions!

Managing co-workers is a thankless task, as Rita observed. Making half a dozen bookings in June/july is forgivable, but failing to cancel all but the successful within a few weeks is not forgivable.

My office found an ideal site two christmases ago, and are planning to return this december for the third time in a row. We booked ages ago, and this time we only had to make one booking, so we aren't likely to piss anyone off!

I had lunch at Angassi a few years ago (in winter). Delightful. Had often hoped to return and have dinner, but looks like I've missed the chance.


Anonymous said...

Yep CR, Roger punched Robin G.

He was indeed larger than life!

Anonymous said...

joining the dots, could it be that both partners had lined up other opportunities (as mentioned in the mercury article) and had decided to sell their business with a new term on the lease. the freehold owner must have got wind of these plans and not renewed. it seems rather coincidental for both partners to have new businesses all ready to go so soon after learning their lease wasn't being renewed.
sounds like they were gazumped.

Victor said...

Rita - Suwan Thai has that booking policy that applies to booking of 6 or more. If on that day, the number is less, then that table will have to pay for the no-show at $10 per head no show. The customer is notified of the policy at the time the booking is made so there is no surprises.

Anonymous said...

Anon1 here, back onto the Christmas function. Ours went off without hitch yesterday. We have a few new employees and the restaurant were able to accommodate with only 24 hours notice for additional 3 seats. Food was fabulous with generous portions. Garlic pizza came out at the agreed time, main meals came out together, staff were friendly, polite and helpful. We appreciated them, and they appreciated us organising the money before meals were served! I like going to a different place every year, but we'll probably go back next year.