Well that’s ironic…

You may recall an earlier blog post about poor service at a branch of Bella Italia that I experienced. I did fill in the web feedback form, and Tragus the company that owns Bella Italia did respond with a really nice letter and some vouchers for use at any of the restaurants that Tragus own.

We had already decided that we wouldn’t go back to Bella Italia and so on a recent shopping trip to Cribbs Causeway we chose Café Rouge.

We arrived before 1pm and the place was very busy, but there were still some free tables. Cafe Rouge is one of the many eating places available in the food area at Cribbs. When Cribbs opened it was full of fast food places with lots of tables. A few years ago, the food area was redeveloped and fast food establishments, well not replaced, were supplemented with a range of restaurants including Carluccio’s, Cafe Rouge and others. This made it a much more attractive environment for eating out than before. Having said that remember it is a shopping mall, and so not quite a real alternative to a “normal” restaurant.

We were greeted well and shown to a table. We sat down and waited a short while before some menus were dropped off on our table. They were literally dropped on the table and before we could even say thank you and possibly order some drinks the waiter disappeared into the throng of the other tables. We were a little surprised, a little put out, but well they were busy… We didn’t worry so much, he would be back in a couple of minutes.

Ten minutes later we needed to get up and find a waiter. Despite trying to catch the attention of the waiting staff, we had to go and find one to take our order.

Now our order wasn’t too complicated, two dishes, one was the Paysanne Salad, the other was the Goat’s Cheese Salad. So we didn’t expect any problems.

We did feel we had been waiting for a while, and after twenty minutes, we noticed that the next door table had not only ordered well after we had, but now had their food, we got up again to ask where are food was.

After another ten minutes, I was getting quite annoyed, so for the third time we got up and asked to speak to the manager. Now she did listen, immediately offered us our meal for free, which we accepted. Within a couple of minutes our food arrived.

I do find it ironic that having received vouchers as compensation for poor service that when using them at a different restaurant expecting good service, it was actually worse! At least we didn’t need to use the vouchers.

Now that’s not what I call service!

Bella Italia

Maybe I am just getting old, or maybe I am getting more demanding, or maybe I just expect politeness and respect. We recently made a visit to Bella Italia at Cribbs, it’s somewhere we go quite often and in the past have had really nice meals and excellent service.

Our most recent visit though the lack of service, has really put us off visiting again. I did complain to head office and they did send a response, which I was satisfied with.

The main thrust of my complaint was that we as customers were seen as an inconvenience and were getting in the way of people doing their jobs. One example was that we weren’t shown to the table we had booked, but told it “was over there”. It wasn’t as though the place was busy, in fact quite the opposite it was virtually empty. It would have taken less than 30 seconds to escort us to our table, not much effort, but as a result a much nicer experience for us.

Here’s another example, as we waited for our food, by this time there were more people in the restaurant, the place started to fill with smoke from the grill. It wasn’t very pleasant as you might imagine.

As there was more smoke, people who hadn’t ordered started to get up and leave.One of the waiting staff did come and give us an explanation, what she said was “they had to leave the back door open as they were having a delivery, and this was blowing smoke through the restaurant”.

For me this isn’t good enough. The explanation implies that to happens often, so why not schedule deliveries earlier in the day, rather than over the peak lunchtime period? Also rather than leave the door open, why not have a member of staff at the door, who will open as and when needed to reduce the amount of smoke. You know why that didn’t happen? As it was easier to prop the door open!

Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference. I should point out that there were other things that we weren’t happy with during our visit including some quite dangerous serving of hot drinks, that culminated with me filling in the web feedback form when we got home.

More importantly it has made us decide that we probably won’t go there again, which says a lot.

Told you Soho Coffee Co

Two years ago I wrote up about a visit to a branch of the Soho Coffee Co.

Back then I asked

Let me ask you a question, is it really so difficult in this day and age, for a coffee shop to take coffee orders and then make the coffee?

I also said

Recently I went to the Soho Coffee Co and was frankly appalled by the level of incompetency shown by the six staff behind the counter in undertaking the coffee making and serving process.

I finished off by stating

Anyway as a result it will be sometime (if ever) I go back to the Soho Coffee Co.

Well, here we are two years later and I have never gone back to that branch of the Soho Coffee Co.

Just shows the importance of decent customer service and efficient serving. I have visited many coffee places close to that branch, but have not been back.

So what of other Soho Coffee Co branches, well I did visit one once at a motorway services, but only the once. I do recall that service was okay, but not fantastic!

The thing is for me, I know the staff are poorly paid and overworked, but from what I can see the problem is not staff, but management and the management of systems. If some coffee places can get it right, why can’t all of them get the little things just right.

Soho Coffee Co, so, so…

Let me ask you a question, is it really so difficult in this day and age, for a coffee shop to take coffee orders and then make the coffee?

Also can they ensure that the whole order is fulfilled and that it arrives all roughly at the same time?

Really, a serious question!

It’s not as though we don’t have lots of coffee shops and chains which can’t work out or observe the simple process of taking an order for a coffee, getting payment for the coffee, making the coffee and serving the coffee.

Recently I went to the Soho Coffee Co and was frankly appalled by the level of incompetency shown by the six staff behind the counter in undertaking the coffee making and serving process.

Soho Coffee Co, so, so…

It’s not as though the place was busy, well it got busy because of the incompetence! As a result prospective customers were walking away – they were losing business.

So what happened to me then?

Well I went to the counter and ordered an americano, a babycino and an egg and mushroom bloomer.

The bloke on the till marked the cups and handed them over to the barista and then took my money!

Typical coffee ordering process in the UK (and I suspect the US as well). I do recall how things are done in Italy though, there you place your order at the till, pay your money and  then you go to the barista, wait in line if need be, hand over your receipt/order and then the barista, makes your coffee and serves it to you. Simple, easy and as you will see avoids the problems I had at the Soho Coffee Co.

So there I was waiting, there were people in front of me and people behind me.

There seemed to be a huge amount of activity behind the counter, but very little coffee coming out.

So the barista firstly announced two cappuccinos which  nobody seemed to own.

They then announced an americano, which the couple about two people behind me promptly said was theirs… Well it could have been, who knew, but I had a feeling it was mine. So we discussed and I took ownership of the coffee. Their americano and cappuccino came next, so no hard feelings there.

However no sign of the babycino, so I am waiting.

They then  place a babycino on the counter, go to take it, when a woman in front of me takes it, as she has been waiting for hers for her child for ages…

They then ask me what I had ordered, I tell them (again).

The babycino arrives, only to be given to the bloke behind me!

They then ask me what I had ordered, I tell them (again).

Eventually my babycino arrives, nobody else tries to take it, so I now have the babycino and an americano (which is now going cold).

I look questioningly at the barista about my breakfast order, she looks vacant, I tell her about it, she then blames the printer! So now I have to wait once more as they cook my breakfast order.

So what was a simple process of ordering coffee and food, which should have taken only a few minutes, took nearly fifteen minutes!

So what was the cause of the problems.

It appeared to be a lack of a system for taking coffee orders.

The teller on the till would mark the (paper) cups and then place them by the espresso machine in no particular order, so that as the barista made the coffee, it could and would not be in the order in which the coffee was ordered.

Without any way of connecting the coffee cups to the customers, as coffee was placed on the counter, any customer could just take it either thinking it was theirs (in all innocence) or even just pretend it was theirs – I think that is what may have happened to my breakfast order!

Anyway as a result it will be sometime (if ever) I go back to the Soho Coffee Co. It’s not so much a problem with the chain, just the staff at this particular outlet, who did not have a robust enough system to serve customers quickly and efficiently and importantly with the correct orders.