To help or hinder…

I faced a dilemma with this week’s review.  The café I went to review was not off to a good start:. slow (ie no) service.  There was no greeting at the door or at our table, no menus, no water and in fact no offer of drinks until about ten minutes later.  A waitress’ eyes even met mine yet no-one came over.  Later, when someone at our neighbouring table spilt coffee on himself, it appeared it was up to us and him to clean it up.

Conversely the owner who took our order was quite professional, friendly and prompt.

The coffee was good however the orange juice had remnants of celery and pineapple from previous fruits in the machine.  Had April been with me, this would not have ended well for her pineapple allergy.

Our cutlery was then brought over after they confirmed that we were the table that had ordered dishes X, Y and Z.  The waitstaff then proceeded to ask which of us had ordered each dish.  Plan your staff and which tables they serve.  One member of staff per table means that they know which table and which person ordered which dish.  These are all small issues but they add up.  And when you sort these out, it makes the difference between a laid-back or chaotic establishment versus a smoothly run one.

It was at this point that I noticed the latex glove on our waitress’ hand with some remnants of parsley or other herb on it and this combined with the experience so far actually started to make me quite mad.  We were in a café, not a friend’s home where such a thing would be excusable.  It has been months since we have had bad service during our exploits which could explain why I was in such shock.

The food was reasonable and delivered what it promised on the menu – it seemed fresh at least.

It was then that I started to wonder how I was going to approach this establishment.  For we started to chat to the owner (as customers, he did not know I was reviewing) who explained the beginnings of the café, their best-selling items, told us about the new waitstaff who had started today (remember the shy waitress who did not come over?) and offered us some of their custom made postcards.  He then promptly started to mop the spilt coffee next to us as soon as he noticed it.  Perhaps it was simply this man’s wait and kitchen staff letting him down and more training is required?

We certainly did not see patrons rushing through the door which is a pity as location and ambition wise, this establishment could be booming.  Croissants are baked on premises daily and it was obvious that the owner wants something to be proud of.

So let’s get one thing straight: SoS calls it as it sees it but in the end we are all people trying to survive and live our passions and I am not going to be responsible for driving away any number of patrons from an establishment which is the joy (let alone life-blood) of a young man who is trying hard to bring good food to the Sydney café scene.  The basics were there!  Sonoma bread, fresh albeit mixed juice, a funky interior, fresh croissants and some dishes that actually boasted some great flavours.  So instead of naming the café I will instead get in touch with the owner and refer him to this post.  He may get something or nothing from it.

Comments are welcome as I’d be interested to know what others think.


4 responses to “To help or hinder…

  1. I absolutely think you’re doing the right thing – as you said you could see that the elements were all there, there were just gaps which let the experience down and they were obviously not coming from the owner/management down. Ground level mistakes are easy to fix, it’s when problems are ingrained in the culture that a cafe or restaurant would be considered ‘bad’ in my books.
    I think directing the owner to your post and answering any of his questions would be an amazing thing to do, and the owner should be happy to accept the feedback and compliments on his work.

  2. Agreed – your approach is spot on, you have great reviews, great pictures and a genuine style. As a fellow small business owner it’s a very challenging climate and staff are always a challenge. Let’s turn it into a good story, hope you go back and name them again in a positive way. I promise to go and visit!

  3. Great post! I think it’s honourable that you are willing to still write about your experience but not name names. And, (sorry to say) I don’t normally read each of your posts all the way through – normally skim and look at the pics, but this one was a really compelling read! Happy Monday!

  4. Having been a business owner all my life (incl. some cafe’s) i can totally understand the pain of procuring good staff.
    If the owner were to read this and i could share one small piece of advice it would be to find that 1 person with enough integrity to help run the front of house (A manager if you will) I found advertising too hit and miss when you are trying to make a living. Go out for a few nice meals on your days off and ‘poach’ the best person you come across.
    Put them in charge and get back to making great food.

    I love the way you handled this situation.
    It proves your committed to sharing positive experiences with your audience (both client and owners) with the intent of making out eating more enjoyable.
    Perhaps he needs some special Worcestershire sauce to bring the clientele in 🙂

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