A Bad Taste in My Mouth

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Ever had an experience that left a 'bad' taste in your mouth?

Now, I mean this both metaphorically and literally.

Some context...

My friend and I decided to book a lunch at a local cafe/bistro. It was just after the restrictions started to lift.  Like most people, we'd not been out for lunch for months and months.

We could have met for lunch if we wanted to sit outside but the weather had just been too unpredictable, so we waited. Once we could meet inside, we waited a week or so and then booked up. The cafe we chose was large and spacious and we'd eaten there many times. However it was always a self service scenario until the pandemic. 

The arrangement was this:

  • Book a table
  • Give your name and details on arrival, for 'track and trace' purposes. 
  • Wear a mask whenever you're not at your table.
  • The serving staff will take your order at your table and deliver to your table
  • You pay at the table before your meal arrives.

So you might be thinking okay, this sounds about right.

Mmm, well we arrived at the booked time wearing our masks. We gave our name and details. We were given a menu and told we could sit anywhere...(cue a vague wave of the server's arm around the bistro)

We chose a table and decided on food. We waited, and we waited and we waited.  After 20 minutes we called over a server (we had been unable to attract attention as they kept looking away and walking back to the kitchen quickly)

On asking the server if we could order she just said "you're in a queue in the kitchen" and walked away...no 'sorry', no explanation and absolutely no interest in us as customers.

Then, after 30 minutes of sitting there, we finally managed to attract the attention of another server. She was polite and apologised and said she could take our order then and there. The food finally arrived 40 minutes after we sat down. It was below average and certainly well below their 'normal' standard. Because of our experience with ordering, we decided against a dessert and just left.

My friend had planned to bring her old school friend to the place when she next visits, but decided that she definitely won't now.

So what is my point?

Customer service is my point!

Yes, there's a pandemic.

Yes, things aren't operating as they normally do.

Yes, staff in restaurants are having to adjust to a new method of working.

BUT and it's a BIG BUT in my book...you cannot suddenly let all customer service standards slide south because you are operating differently.  If you are happy to take someone's money then you need the service to be top notch. If you need more staff to man a 'table service' instead of 'self service' then use more staff. If you need to organise serving tables differently to ensure no customer is forgotten, then do it. If your staff can't handle the pressure of a new way of working then use someone else.

DO NOT hack off your customers at any cost. These are the customers who have returned after restrictions have lifted. They are your loyal customers and you need to keep them.  Yes, we all need to make some allowances but not with customer service. That's a no no in my book. The customer's you may have just p****d-off are the ones who are going to help you get back on your feet. The one's whose patronage you need right now. They are your advocates...they bring you new customers with their recommendations. 

DO NOT use the pandemic as an excuse for bad customer service.


What could the bistro have done differently?

They could have explained that things were a bit behind in the kitchen and apologised.

They could have followed us to our table of choice, taken a drinks order then and logged our time of arrival for the allocated server(see below)

They could have allocated a specific server to our table.

Actually...they could have used their restaurant staff to train their bistro staff so everyone knew how to conduct table service. (Because they have an award winning restaurant on site!)

So many easy things to rectify the situation.

Please don't fall into the same trap.  Plan how you will operate if it's different from your usual way.

Train your staff in the new ways and ensure they all understand that customer service is everyone's concern.

Let's all give customer service the priority it demands!


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