What happened to customer service?

Sooooo last week my partner P was coming back from a boys weekend away. Fishing, alcohol in hand at all times unless asleep, potato cakes and dim sims for breakfast, no showers etc etc. So after his long trek home I suggested going to The Rosstown hotel in Carnegie http://www.rosstown.com.au/

The feel of the place is a little bit beige. It’s a bistro but the menu is nice and there’s a great selection. Shortly after we sat down a fast talking staff member quickly greets us, hurriedly tells us the specials and then drops in “oh by the way because it’s a public holiday there’ll be a 10% surcharge on all food and drinks.” What? Maybe that’s why he was a fast talker. Wanted to to get THAT info out the way. I didn’t hide my surprise. 10% surcharge? Who the fuck does that? First time that’s ever happened to me when I’ve eaten out at a restaurant on a public holiday. I didn’t actually say all those things. I didn’t cuss at him. But I just don’t understand. Restaurants are often open on public holidays. Do we get penalised because you’re open open a public holiday? Are you more special then other restaurants that are open on a public holiday? Why do you get to be an asshole? Clearly we could have voted with our feet and just walked out. But P was tired. We were both hungry. So we sucked it up like two little bitches and did grumbled under our breaths about it. I assume that this was the exact reaction that the big wigs at The Rossy were expecting. “The customers might not like it but they won’t do anything about it. They’ll just sit there and take it.” And we did!

But it  did get me thinking about so many other restaurants I’ve been too lately and the people that work in the service industry who seem to have forgotten what customer service is all about. The customer! The guy that hurriedly went through his greeting, the specials and then dropped 10% surcharge grenade sounded like he should’ve been reading a disclaimer after an annoyingly loud advert. If he had been friendly, slowed down, shown a bit of his personality, then explained….maybe it would have been a little easier to digest. Maybe we wouldn’t have cared as much because he was such a likeable guy.

Now I’ve noticed this a lot. It’s not that they’re not nice and polite. I guess on paper they’re ticking all the boxes but that’s not customer service. I’ve been into restaurants many times where the wait staff appear genuinely friendly, look at you when they speak to you, have a conversation with you that doesn’t sound rehearsed (big tip for you) Adversely I’ve also encountered wait staff that smile, nod, take your order and do the bare minimum. I don’t actually mind this because at least there’s no pretense or insincerity. But something strange is going on with wait staff and the restaurants themselves and occur a little too often to ignore (for me anyway) So I bring to you now some of my favourite pet ‘restaurant’ hates. But before I begin I’d like to just add that I’ve done this job. For years I worked in restaurants so my thoughts on this is coming from knowing what’s it’s like on the other side.

Places that don’t allow bookings

This one’s short and to the point. We’ve all seen it. These are the restaurants that would rather have their customers line up outside and/or at the bar because they don’t take bookings. Is it to make the restaurant seem trendy? Perhaps. Surely they’re not thinking of the customer. However they get away with it because the food is generally well spoken about. To be fair, any restaurant has the right to run it the way they like and if people are willing to line up out the door like a bunch of lemmings then so be it. But with the amount of wonderfully sumptious cuisines that Melbourne restaurants has to offer, I for one will not be one of them.

Reasonably priced food and overpriced wine

This unfortunately is fairly common and the reason why I’ve avoided a few places. Most people I speak with when deciding on a restaurant will look at the menu and make their choice based on the food selection and pricing. The drinks menu can sometimes get overlooked. My advice is to look, because that’s where you get stung. I admit that sometimes wine is expensive because wine IS expensive. Fair enough, and it’s not like I’m expecting $6 glasses of wine to be available. But don’t charge $10 per glass for a bottle that’s $15 at Dan Murphy’s retail. Not to mention I’m almost certain that restaurants would get a bulk discount. Exorbitant drink prices in Melbourne is not a new thing. I hear this same complaint from any person I have spoken to that is not from Melbourne (but that’s a whole other story) Of course when you live in Melbourne and the drink prices slowly slowly creep up, many places think that is goes unnoticed. It does not. On the upside there are still many places (and I mean fine and casual dining restaurants alike) that think in terms of what they would like when they walk into a restaurant not how much money they can squeeze out of their customers. They actually want people to come back and recommend them to others.

The overly informative wait staff

I kinda see what their doing. Pricey food and drinks = pricey staff trying to woo us with pricey menu items such as  betel leaf and crying tiger beef or  impress us with their knowledge on aged spirits and wanky craft beers. However often staff spouting these facts and figures just sound a little bit too reheased. Example – a few months ago I went to Bar None in Camberwell for pre drinks before dinner. I don’t often go there. Really great vibe. Space is decked out well. It’s more of a cocktail bar though and I’m more of a beer/ wine drinker. Plus the drinks are expensive so maybe that’s why the staff are trying so hard to impress? When I’m not drinking beer or wine I love to start the evening with a dark rum, neat, no ice. I’ve had quite a few really nice ones. So easy to drink on it’s own. I saw a couple of familiar ones but thought I might ask the lovely and lively girl who came to us to take our order if there was any others she would recommend….Mistaaaaaaake. She planted herself next to us and continued to rattle off several of the different rums, how old they were and were they come from. I zoned out pretty quickly thinking, did I just ask something else? I just wanted her to pick.  Her:”This one’s lovely and very popular” Me: “Thank you I’ll take it.” See simple! But no this was not a simple drink order. When it came to my partner P asking her about the beers she did same thing. It sounded so rehearsed and formal. I think her sitting down with us was intended to show us the casualness and friendliness of the staff but the verbal ear bashing we got was completely the opposite and absolutely 100% not necessary. I’m sure some people might really appreciate that but read the signs! Read the people! Don’t just go all automated on us. That’s not customer service.

I also once went to this restaurant in Richmond called Botherambo in Richmond. Picked by friends who wanted to try it before a night out at the Corner Hotel. Menu looked so interesting but we did have a few questions about what we were eating. Our waiter was on auto pilot from the get go. No personality. Just a rehearsed speech that sounded like he had said it way too many times that night or that he had, in fact, rehearsed. Even when we had questions about the menu his responses seemed almost pre recorded.

I know I might be picking at relatively little things but what happened to people that just spoke to other people like people. Have a conversation with us. Don’t raise the prices on food and drink just so you can talk at us not to us. I don’t care if you don’t lay my napkin on my lap or have it curled up for me again when I get back from the loo. I don’t care if you don’t put one hand behind your back while you pour my wine and I certainly don’t care if you do or don’t need a notepad to write down our order. Maybe some people do want all those things when they go out for food. I strongly believe that in order to create a great experience for both the wait staff and the customer it always pays to just listen to what the customer is asking and what I’ve learned from doing this job in the past is that sometimes it pays BIG!

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