Over the many years of work I’ve done within this industry, I’ve naturally amassed an impressive list of dos and don’ts regarding running a restaurant. I share with you here the 5 top things to avoid if you actually want customers to eat or drink at your establishment.
- Drink, then go to work
It was Friday night. Salamanca. Crowded, music pumping, we danced at Rektango (Tassie’s version of Dancing in the Dark) with the Latin beats of Chupacubra thick in the air. Finishing, as always, too soon at 7.30, we gathered our group to try a newish, classy spirit bar*.
That’s when the wheels fell off. At about eighty klicks per hour or thereabouts. Finding a table? Easy, not too crowded, we settle in. And wait, and wait. We order. A glass of bubbles, two glasses of white, and a cocktail. We wait. The bubbles come. Lonely. Twenty minutes later, I call a waiter, one of our crowd counting 4 –yes 4! – behind the bar, and including us, 23 in the room. Not a big ask. The waiter arrives, kneels beside me, and asks me what the problem is. The problem???
We crossed swords then, and entered into a stupid argument with the waiter admitting he’d been drinking – all afternoon. Great. Then a girl with attitude tried to tell us they’d lost the docket.
WTF? They lost the docket and couldn’t remember two glasses of white???
- Drink, at work
The next day, with two new best friends from Brisvegas, I show them into the same bar. Empty. Completely. A waiter, the ‘venue manager’ appears from a door and proceeds to serve my two friends a nip of expensive spirits. I am not imbibing. But wait! There are three glasses on the bar! And our waiter, in glorious pantomime, except it’s real, demonstrates to his customers just how booze of this caliber should be drunk!
Ah! Of course. The penny drops and a favourite saying of mine pops into my head – “A fish stinks from its head” and I think, ‘this is one very smelly fish’.
Where’s the owner? Probably under a vat of the finest with his mouth open and the tap on…
I had a client in Barcelona, Spain (not the bar in Salamanca, Hobart) who had bought a bar and three months later was haemorrhaging money, in dire need of help. As luck would have it, I was in Spain, and called in to have a look. My assessment? He had bought a bar because he loved to drink. More than anything. He “messed up” our jug of mojitos, and made us another. When I insisted he didn’t need to do that, his response? “Oh, it won’t go to waste!” and poured himself a large glass.
His business plan was fatally flawed, and a few sorry months later, he took my advice, finally, and exited. It had been a hard lesson.
(There’s a wonderful story in my book about a chef friend who had collapsed on the floor of his kitchen, dead drunk, while his poor wife dealt with 50 very angry customers on New Year’s Eve. She punished him three months later! As only women can do!)
- Argue with customers
Again, at said bar, when we, as a group grew increasingly fed up, the drunk waiter only added petrol to the fire by getting defensive and arguing. It spoilt the night, which was only saved by another young waiter who, with the diplomacy of someone much older and wiser, apologised and made good. We loved him.
- Lie to customers
Back at the classy bar, and the first story we were told, was they’d run out of white wine! Then, the truth came out, and they’d lost the docket. I have to tell you, bar owners: Who cares? We don’t care as long as we get a drink in a reasonable time. And don’t ever lie, because the truth, like oil, will always rise to the surface. Especially in troubled waters.
“A single lie discovered is enough to create contagious doubt over every other truth expressed. “ (Sorry, don’t know the origin, but I love it!)
- Tell the customers too much
As with item 4, above, too much information can be just as damaging as a lie. In fact, we, as patrons, don’t want to hear stories! We just want what we ordered, in a reasonable time. And if that doesn’t happen, apologise and make it good. It’s not hard!!!!
So tell me, foodie people, have you got some similar experiences of rogue waiters or hospitality people at loose on the public? Care to share your story? Be our guest!
And if you feel like some fun reading, my bookTheatre of War, lifts the lid on the industry and covers backstage – no holds barred. Sign up to get our email for a once a week dishing up of chefs’ tips, news, reviews, food and goss, and we’ll send you the first two chapters to see if you like it… free! Subscribe now.
Yes the losing the docket or forgetting your order is really annoying. Especially if you’re sat with friends and they all receive their meals and you don’t. Thankfully whenever that has happened to me the restaurant has apologised and not charged for drinks etc.