After seeing a trailer for a BBC tv programme last night I was inspired to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard). The programme in question was Michel Roux’s Service. This is an apprentice type reality tv programme which trains would be waiters to become quality front of house restaurant staff.
I am positive there is a need for training front of house staff to a reasonable standard here in the UK. I am not privileged enough to be able to frequent the quality Michelin-starred eating establishments, but I would expect good service wherever I eat out, particularly since they are helping to pocket my hard earned money. It’s not too much to ask is it?
Not so long ago I visited a bar and restaurant that had recently changed ownership. It had undergone a refurbishment programme and re-opened with a whole new identity and a brand new menu. It was highly recommended so we decided to give it a try.
We chose a Sunday to try the place out, against my better judgement about eating out on the Sabbath – after all, preparing and serving Sunday dinner for my family I consider to be my forté – we reserved our tabled and built the whole day’s activities around it.
We arrived a good fifteen minutes or so before our reservation time. Pretty much to time, the waitress called us over and showed us to our table. So far so good – tabled booked for 2:00pm – shown to our table at around 2:00pm.
We perused the menu. This is generally a performance in itself as my hubby always invariably forgets his reading glasses and I then have to proceed with my ‘audience with hubby and child’ story telling scenario.
I was impressed with what I saw. There were (amongst others) the usual suspects: roast Sunday dinner with choice of beef, pork or lamb; lasagne; a variety of steaks and of course children’s favourites (burger and chips; chicken nuggets, etc). We made our decision and awaited someone coming to take our order.
We waited and we waited and we waited.
After a further ten minutes or so I asked at the bar if we should place our food order with the bar staff. I was assured that someone would come to our table to take our order. I explained that we had been waiting for a long time, to which they apologised on behalf of the waiting staff and said they would find out what was going on.
Eventually someone did show up to take our order, from memory, it was a good three quarters of an hour after we had initially been shown to our table. However, being English, we did the usual smiling and displaying body language to indicate everything was all right with the world yet as soon as they left the table muttered “bloody ridiculous” “this is a joke” and other such finely articulated remarks. We did note there was no offer of an apology or explanation as to why we had been kept waiting.
The meal arrived quite promptly – not quickly enough for me to suspect it was a mere ‘warm-up’ but a reasonable length of time for us to not die of starvation. It comprised venison for me, gammon for hubby, and spaghetti bolognese for my daughter. There was a distinct lack of conversation when the waitress brought it out to us:
“Venison?” She passed the plate to me whilst mouthing something to one of her colleagues on the next table;
“Gammon?” She passed the plate to hubby – bit more chat to her chum.
Obviously I have to give credit where credit is due. She cleverly applied a process of elimination to deduce the last dish was for my daughter. This removed the need to speak at all for serving this dish! There was no “enjoy your meal” or other such pleasantry or interaction coming our way, but hey we were hungry we could live with that.
We did however, enjoy the food – it was nothing spectacular, but it was pleasant, warm and flavoursome.
My daughter then asked the inevitable after dinner question “can I have a pudding?” Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a problem, however, on this occasion, with our pre-paid plot in the cemetery looming ever closer, we could not be sure time was on our side.
I stacked the used dinner plates up in the centre of the table as indication that we were done and waited for them to be cleared away. We tried on several occasions to catch the eye of any waiting on staff and said “excuse me” on a number of occasions. Finally, the waitress came over to our table and asked
“Are these finished with?”
“No, we thought we’d have a mid-meal interval and arrange the crockery in a jaunty fashion to amuse ourselves whilst we digest our food” was what I wanted to say. “Yes thank you” was what came out.
We ordered a pudding for my daughter, she ate it, we paid and we left. We wanted to get on with the rest of our now very shortened afternoon. I am not asking for a silver service 5 star Michelin front of house experience, but I am asking for a little bit of respect, communication and civility.
I think I will try and watch ‘Michel Roux’s Service’ on the catch-up BBC i-player service. If nothing else it may irritate me enough to inspire a tv review rant?