Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Bad Service - Winery / Restaurant

The settling was acres of vines set among a backdrop of gum trees and rolling hills.  The cafe restaurant was a quaint little setup of small tables and chairs under an alfresco patio, with a decent size dinning table inside by a cozy fire.  The owners were a lively easy going couple, full of quirks and fascinating, well traveled, stories.  The food was sublime!  The lady was a master chef.  The price was $25 per head which included entree, main and desert from a set menu.  Alcohol was on top of that which, of course, is standard. 

A picturesque scene and what would have, or could have, been a genuinely pleasurable experience...
except for the service.

1) Having two small children we made our booking for 5:30-6pm.  Entree was served after 7pm because the lady does the cooking all by herself and even tough we were the only customers that night it took her ages to prepare our meals.  During our wait the children became bored and restless and because there was a small dog inside the restaurant, the children were under the table, over the seats, here, there and everywhere playing with the dog.  The owners kept coming up to our table to tell my children to sit down and stop touching the furniture with their greasy fingers which made me feel like a bad parent, even though I consider myself a decent parent. The theme for the night was traditional Mexican and the meals were to die for.  So much flavour and large servings.  The owners got annoyed with us when we couldn't finish our meals (because we were wasting food).  When it was time pay our bill and leave the owners (mostly the woman) kept commenting on how our children had put greasy finger prints over the furniture, mirror, door nobs.  It wasn't a pleasant experience feeling as though my children were obnoxious and I wasn't keeping them in line.  At the same time I was wondering what they'd expected?  Children touch things, it's part of running a family friendly restaurant.  All up they did not give the impression of being child friendly and I found it ironic that they didn't mind the dog inside, which I thought was gross while we were eating, yet treated my children like filthy beasts

Since I saw this lady outside of her restaurant, helped her work on her website and considered her a friend, the next time I saw her she talked about having us back for dinner at her restaurant.  When she noticed I was reluctant she asked me if she gave the impression she didn't like my children.  I was honest and told her that is exactly the impression I got.  She said she thinks my children are lovely and we're welcome back anytime.

2) Some months later I was working on her website and the lady talked about how two families were coming to her restaurant and she thought we'd like to join them.  Thinking I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and give it another go, we arrived around 6:30 (not wanting to be too early like last time) and were told we wouldn't fit at the table inside and we'd have to sit outside - alfresco style.  That did irritate me a little because her primary reason for asking us to attend was to join the other families.  This time service was even more slow since the lady had extra mouths to cook for and worked alone.  At 7 one of the other mothers asked when dinner would be ready because she had small children who needed to be fed.  When told dinner would take a while she asked for boiling water to make 2 minute noodles for her children.  We sat outside by ourselves and as it got darker spiders came out of their hidey-holes and hung in corners above us.  I complained to hubby because the spiders were giving me the creeps and he complained to the man, who played host (while the wife cooked).  He said they don't eat much and that was that.  Entrees were served around 8pm.  They were small and my children didn't like or eat theirs.  The children were tired and restless and it wasn't fun sitting alone outside with the spiders, while the other families sat inside mingling and laughing and having fun.  At this stage I was voicing my annoyance to hubby saying I just want to get up and leave.  We ended up needing to put our youngest to bed because he was tired, so he was put to sleep in our car while we waited and waited for dinner.  Dinner was not served until after 8:30, dessert considerably later.  By then nothing was going to make me enjoy the night, even when the lady only charged us $12.50 per head for our boys because one didn't get to eat dinner.  I was in a foul mood when we left. 

Note: Coffee from the outside coffee machine was also extra though the owners didn't advise customers of this when telling them to help themselves to coffee, and just surprised them with a bill at the end of dinner.  I'd heard customers complaining about the extra unknown charges. 

3) Well over half a year later hubby came home one evening after having drinks with the winery owner  telling me they'd talked him in to us going over there for dinner again.  I was ropeable and wanted him to cancel, however, he couldn't bring himself to tell them no.  We found ourselves dinning there for a third time!  This time we dined outside with another family* with two children the same age as ours and it turned out to be more fun than usual because the children had friends to play with and we had a couple to talk to while waiting to be served.  Except at one point the man who ran the restaurant began yelling at my son, accusing him of going near some mushrooms at the base of a tree and breaking them.  He did lots of telling children off even when parents were taking care of the issue themselves - though I suppose it's to be expected of a childless couple who have no idea what it is to parent children.  Dinner, while tardy as usual, went as well as can be expected, except dessert - lamingtons made by another lady - were awful, dry and unappetising.  None of us finished them, my boys only taking a bite before deciding they didn't like them.  When the bill came we found that it was now $25 per head for entree and main only.  Those four dry tasteless lamingtons were $7.50each extra even when we hadn't liked or finished them!  This had never been disclosed to us prior to being offered dessert and whilst we commented on this they made no move to not charge us and we didn't bother to argue.  I made hubby promise to NEVER take us back there to eat again. 

4) About 2 years later, we had that same family* over to our house for nibbles and drinks and they got the idea that ordering some pizzas from the couple who ran the winery / restaurant would be a good idea.  I was skeptical and wanted no part of it.  They decided we would ask for takeaway pizza so we wouldn't have to dine there.  That afternoon we visited the husband and wife team and asked if they could do takeaway pizzas that we'd pick up at a designated time.  They were hesitant, wanting us to dine there instead but we were insistent, so they said they would make us six pizzas for $15each.  The husband offered us beer (the men) and wine (the women).  When the men were done with their beers he offered them one more each.  I made a point of asking him what the charge was (knowing they're renown for adding additional charges) and he said the drinks are on the house as it's news years eve.  My friend and I decided to also purchase a bottle of wine and the man told us we can pay for the bottle of wine when we collect the pizzas.  Later that night the men came home with the pizzas telling us the lady handed them over saying "I'm not doing that again, too much work and not worth it", plus the bill which I noticed was a lot more than it should have been.  We had been charged for the six drinks we'd been offered that afternoon!  I phoned the lady to complain about the bill, telling her her husband had said the drinks were on the house.  She said she knew nothing about that and when she'd asked him how many drinks we'd had he just told her "Six" so she billed us.  She wouldn't fetch the husband to have it clarified.  I forced my husband and my friend's husband to go back there and have words with them to which they did and reluctantly we were credited for the drinks.  At the same time the man offered for us to come over for news years celebrations, BYO drinks, nibbles supplied.  We declined.

It should be said they are a delightful couple and not malicious in anyway.  Their estate is lovely, quiet and peaceful and they also offer B&B accommodation.  All up it's a beautiful place with sublime food and hospitality.  They are trying to run a successful business and often the lady talked with me about how to achieve that.  On several occasions I'd advised that she have price lists on tables for coffee, beer, wine and spirits.  Let people know upfront the cost of things so they can make informed choices about what they wish to indulge in because receiving a bill with extra charges can really put customers off.  That type of negative experience can mean customers won't return.

As you can see by my experiences it was several little things, tardy service, telling off children, dog inside, spiders, awful desserts and additional charges without notice, that ruined these otherwise promising nights out.

What negative experience have you had that have put you off returning to a business?

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