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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

This may upset minority groups.

NB:I like children,I have a few of my own.
Ive been noticing lately that people are becoming very intolerant.
We seem to have had an influx of militant mothers.Mothers who expect the same facilities within a pub environment as would be enjoyed at Jungle Jacks Wacky world of fun..
Increasingly parents are bringing oversized pushchairs into the pub expecting there to be adequate parking spots beside the table.Last Sunday a group arrived with several small children.One of whom was in a mahoosive pushchair with inflatable wheels.In the light of recent issues with similar contraptions Id already briefed the staff to tell people that we welcome children but don't have space for pushchairs.This was explained but the couple were particularly determined saying the child was sleeping and taking the carrier off the wheels would wake him(God Forbid).The pushchair was wheeled up one set of steps,through a very busy bar then down another to access the table.The gent on the adjacent table was eating his dinner and had to stand up so that the complicated three point turn parking manoeuvre could be achieved.I'll be surprised if he wasn't annoyed effectively blocked in his own private parking space behind the table.
Im sure this will fit.

A couple of minutes later news filtered back to the kitchen that the older children were playing on games consoles with the music on a high volume.I went out to assess the situation on pretext of fetching a bottle of red.Parent or not,nobody wants to sit eating their Sunday lunch with a background riff of 'Old Macdonald had a farm' playing on a continuous loop.Its a sorry state of affairs when a 23 year old student has to tell a 'responsible' parent that the music might in fact not be to the taste of the other diners.'If they want to bring their electronic child minders with them at least have the decency to fit them with farking headphones' said Chef intuitively.
Shockingly,we don't have a baby change facility within our loos.This isn't because we want to discourage families,its because there is no space in the toilet to install one.Lately this seems to be a major problem.When we explain the non existence of this facility,some mothers look at you with disgust and on one occasion a mother actually said to me 'you are joking aren't you?' then in an act of obvious protestation proceeded the change her baby on the floor of the dining room with other people around her troughing on their roast dinners..and don't think this is a one off.It may surprise you to hear that we've had soiled nappies tied up in bags and left under tables also.
Similarly our disabled facilities aren't good.Actually they are poor to non existent,but given that the building is on the side of a hill with steep steps down from the car park and all areas on different levels,theres not a lot we can do about it other than demolish.Often people ring ahead and ask about wheelchair accessibility.We have to tell them that access is difficult but possible for anyone determined enough to try.With four steps down into the ladies loo you ight want to limit your liquid intake though..Some people approach this as a challenge,so surprisingly we often welcome visitors in wheelchairs.
Last week a couple came for lunch,the chap in a wheelchair.Unaided he got his chair up into the raised dining area but as it happened the table was too low for him to get his legs comfortably underneath.They decided to sit at a bar table next to the fire.There was an almighty thud as the wheelchair descended the step back down to the bar at a much higher speed than he intended.The front wheels of the chair were wedged firmly against the bar with the back wheels tightly up against the step.He shuffled in the seat,then looked over at his girlfriend."Im stuck' he said.I was behind the bar effectively stuck also with no means of exit other then over the bar top,which was thankfully an option. The Cynical One looked over at me with her 'what shall i do face'.I glanced at the girlfriend,she nodded encouragingly and sat calmly allowing him the chance to extricate himself.I was superglued to the spot not sure what to do.I asked him if he wanted any help.'No' (much shuffling) 'if I can just manage to get a grip'..The bar shuddered as the weight of the chair was forced back and forth in a effort to free the wheels.Eventually he managed to flip the front wheels up and get some purchase on the back,freeing himself. 'Im out!' he shouted triumphantly over to the girlfriend who beamed back at him, then at me.The Cynical One( in direct contravention of her name and repuation) was nearly in tears.

So I was thinking about able bodied people and how they expect every need to be catered for on their own terms with the onus on other people(ie us) to take responsibility for them and yet others who face massive challenges every day can approach the whole thing with refreshing optimism,taking responsibility for and mostly sorting themselves out.
Some disabilities however,aren't immediately obvious.I recently employed someone with OCD. Ive joked on occasion that I have OCD as Im quite manic about hygiene and people breathing on edibles,but actual OCD is an altogether different  challenge and one I don't really understand fully.
I wasn't aware that this lad had the condition,but it became obvious fairly quickly.Its very inhibiting,even debilitating when every action you take is governed by rules and order.For example a fresh task cant be started until another is fully completed. Flexibility and prioritisation are not in the vocabulary of the average OCD sufferer.Just imagine you're restocking the fridge or polishing a tray of glasses and a customer walks in to the bar expecting a drink and you'll probably get the picture.
Sadly they won't.
Frustratingly,this particular individuals' OCD also manifests itself in the unusual act of repeating back instructions or information three times.So a simple sentence can be a long and excruciatingly drawn out exchange.
Heres an example:
'Can you clear table 3 please'
'You want me to clear table 3?'
'Yes table 3'
'You want me to clear table 3 now?'
'Yes clear table 3 now'(or sometimes i might cut short the repeat by saying at this point 'Its ok I'll do it', which pleasingly confuses the hell out of him..'
'Ok ill clear table 3 now then'
As you can see this can be at best inconvenient and worst damned annoying.Last Saturday this unfortunate routine wreaked havoc.
I was over by the bar and noticed an altercation kicking off next to the till.A diner was quite clearly irate and having a go at OCD lad.I dashed over.
'CAN YOU TELL ME IS IT PROTOCOL IN THIS PLACE TO BRING OVER A BILL BEFORE THE CUSTOMER HAS ASKED FOR IT?'
'No its not' I say, 'Im sorry that happened..its not protocol to do that'
Then addressing the lad in question:
'Did you not see my niece was in floods of tears when you approached the table to give me the bill?'
Well.You can imagine what happened next.
He repeated the statement back to the guy who then repeated back in the style of the above example.
HE MADE HIM REPEAT THE STATEMENT THREE TIMES with each repeat giving further weight and distress to the fact that the niece was crying.
When the third and final repetition was completed and closure achieved,OCD boy let out an involuntary nervous giggle of satisfaction.
At which point the situation escalated,the diner giving full vent to his fury: 'and now you're laughing at me...you didn't even speak to us when we came in you didn't even lift your head just kept on pouring those drinks at the bar and ignored us'
I intervened.'Look Im really sorry this has happened,but there was no intent to upset you, I apologise for the service today which has clearly been unacceptable'
The chap stormed off back to the table.He was fizzing,I followed him and apologised again.I even tried to butter him up with a free meal,which he didn't take up.

Much later I asked why the bill had been taken over when it hadn't been requested.
'Well I saw him get his wallet out of his pocket'
'You saw him get his wallet out of his pocket?'
'Yes I saw him get his wallet out so I presumed he wanted the bill'
'You saw him get his wallet out so you presumed he wanted the bill????'
'Yes he got his wallet out so I got the bill ready and took it over'(volume increasing)

'Its annoying isn't it?'
'What is"
'When someone makes you repeat back information that you've clearly already heard'
'Well...yes I suppose it is'
'Can you stop doing it'
'Can I stop doing it?"

Deafening silence and an ever so slowly and ironically raised eyebrow.

'C.....Ill try'
'Good'





Sunday, 10 February 2013

NEWS FLASH:WE DO NOT HAVE A MICHELIN STAR

Just when I thought I'd covered every conceivable complaint scenario yet another has popped its ugly head above the parapet.
Im trying not to look at Tw*tadvisor but I think I've noticed a pattern.
It seems to me that the majority of outlets serving bog standard food get very few defamatory reviews,whereas places that do 'better' food seem to prompt the occasional terrible review, indeed sometimes provoking a viciously scathing report.
There seem to be three types of complainer:

1.The Pro Complainer:-this unsavoury individual will do anything within his power to be difficult thus obtaining a discount or even gratis meal.DO NOT I repeat DO NOT accommodate his demands otherwise you may enjoy the pleasure of a return visit,thus incurring further loss.

2.The Genuine Complainer:-this is self explanatory-if you've made a mistake OWN UP and try to rectify the damage.

3.The Unrealistic Diner:-this is the most annoying and trickiest to deal with as the complaint is not valid as you haven't actually done anything wrong other than fail to provide what they thought you should which is highly subjective anyway as actually its up to you set your standard-not the customer.Its also the most common type of complaint and is most likely to flare up on an internet review site.

Sadly there are a lot of diners with unrealistic expectations.These may relate to the ambience,food,the barman's face or even the fecking table they've been allocated.
We recently entertained a perfect example within this category.
Their initial request 'can you get the Chef to knock us up some sausages' was sadly unfulfilled due to there being no sausages on the menu,therefore shockingly none available in the meat fridge.Unfortunately the inability to cater to this request coloured the rest of the visit..
From then onwards EVERYTHING was a problem- from the menu being written on a board to the sorry lack of the prized straw required to enable them to inhale their fizzy drinks more speedily producing the required wired effect, fuelling maximum disruption or alternatively exit via their cute little noses.
Conversely, the children were modicums of decorum.
Within earshot of the next table(whom we happened to know and who later related a detailed account)Pater was heard to say begrudgingly  'Im not paying 35 notes for Sunday dinner'
All four had chosen roast beef(advertised pink on the menu) and when the almost empty plates were cleared,he asked to see the Chef as the beef was 'almost walking off the plate never mind pink'.
An audience with Chef Sunday lunchtime isn't on the cards given the locust like descent of hungry diners fighting for tables in the traditional weekly meat and roast tattie binge.
The Blonde was instructed to make them aware that the way the beef was presented was the way we serve it every week,hence why it was noted on the menu.They were also advised that if they had mentioned their dissatisfaction prior to devouring the whole flaming lot save for one sorry slice we would have been happy to exchange for an alternative.
The response to this information was:
'never mind the Chef-I want to speak to the owner'
To which the Blonde replied politely:
'The Chef is the owner'
And then(following much harrumphing due to being momentarily flummoxed)
'well the issue isn't the way you serve the beef,the issue is Im not paying for it....'
Which he didn't.
This was followed up by the expected unrestrained outpouring of vitriolic verbal diarrhoea on a well known review site.The account of events bore little resemblance to the exchange that actually took place.
Particularly nauseating was the alleged comment 'what the Chef says goes'
Interestingly the couple on the next table who witnessed the whole debacle commented on how patient the Blonde had been with them and how well she handled the situation.
Which in fact was an absolute waste of her time and effort given the vigour of the negative review.
'Might as well have told them to feck orf' said Chef..

Against my better judgement Ive left a brief but fitting management response:
'Im sorry you didn't enjoy your meal but as was explained on the day it wasn't possible for the Chef to 'knock you up some sausages'..
As Chef always says 'simple is best'


Last Saturday night we had a further table which fell within this third category.
A deafening klaxon sounded as they shoved their coats at me then looked horrified as I draped them artfully over the backs of their seats.They sat down and informed us haughtily that they wanted the proper menu-not the blackboard specials..(you know that menu that we keep under wraps as we don't want to sell anything from it..)
Overcoming this hurdle we eventually managed to extricate an order from them.They ate everything they ordered but to be honest I wasn't feeling the love or any of the usual jollity associated with your average Saturday night diner.
I braced meself for the complaint which must surely come soon.
As they paid the bill I asked if they'd enjoyed everything.
'Yes it was....  fine'
In the restaurant trade 'fine' is a euphemism for 'not really but i don't want to make a scene, Ill just vent my anger later on a public forum'
Hmmm.I thought I'd try and deal, a bit of damage limitation doesn't come in wrong sometimes.
'You can be honest' I say 'was there a problem'
'Well no,not really'...'Its just we EXPECTED MORE FROM MICHELIN STARRED FOOD'

Gulp.

'But we don't have a Michelin star..'
'What??But our friends told us you have a star'
Their faces were an angry shade of baboon bum red,the mans lip was quivering slightly,revealing a scrap of watercress wedged pleasingly between his front teeth.. I valiantly rested the urge to repeat one of Chefs favourites 'are you keeping that bit for later?' made a mental note to purchase some toothpicks,suppressed a giggle and continued.

'Well Im sorry but we don't have a Michelin star and never have done and theres actually no chance we'll ever get one with the menu we offer.Thats not what we do'
'I can see that now.We expected a Michelin starred meal so obviously we are disappointed'
'Well I'm sorry you were misinformed by your friends,very sorry indeed..'
I could see the type of food you want when you're just going out for your tea would be a bitter disappointment compared to the gastronomic delights of a M * dinner.
They were both shaking their heads as they went to the door.As they departed the woman pointed at the Michelin sticker on the window
'I don't think you should be displaying that do you?its very misleading to your customers'
Twinkle,twinkle little star,how I wonder where you are...

So you see attracting a complaint is very easy indeed, anything-from the sorry lack of an off menu sausage to the absence of an unearned Michelin star can result in culinary disgrace.

Which brings me to this week.
We managed to get ourselves included in a list of Good pubs.
This involved a trip down sarf to the awards lunch.
'I wonder if there'll be anyone else travelling down by truck' said Chef
'I doubt it' I say 'especially not one with the remnants of the Christmas tree in the back..'
 Chef was not keen to attend.
'You owe me one for this-you know I don't like being out of me comfort zone..'
Nearing the venue as we passed this place,the truck inexplicably veered over towards the carefully manicured driveway.
'We could just pop in here for lunch instead' said Chef hopefully..
On arrival Chef gazed longingly at the heavily laden trayfuls of his favourite beverage so often in short supply in fancier places.All gratis but sadly none to be quaffed due to his ill informed decision to drive.
After luncheon the awards ceremony commenced with a count down of the pubs culminating in the announcement of the top position.
We had already spared our embarrassment by priming the other guests at the table that we'd be first out.
Surprisingly,we weren't first out.The first named pub was cited as having just undergone a 1.7 million investment programme.
Chef looked worried : 'Do you think they realise we have an outside netty???'
We kept our heads down and tried not to look shifty..
When our name was announced there was a small frisson of excitement around the table,I think someone may even have inadvertently screamed.The next few minutes were a bit of a blur-in the excitement neither of us could remember what position we'd come.I only found out later when someone posted the list on Twitter.
We managed to retain our composure until lunch was over after which-we made a sharp exit through the pouring rain with the recently received award doubling up as a rain hat,enjoying a brief but very enjoyable Fools and Horses style celebration once in the comfort of the truck  ..



Always worth a watch..

As we made our way back to the ranch Chef was unusually pensive.
'Are you planning to display that when we get back?'Pointing at the framed award.
'Of course I am - why wouldn't I?'
'Well don't you think raising peoples expectations unnecessarily is just asking for trouble??Look what happened last Saturday with those Michelin fuckwits..Far better to keep a low profile.''
Hmmmm.
'Well I suppose we did come away with more than we thought we would...'
'Thats true' said Chef 'I didn't expect to get a party bag...'

TOP TIP:If you fancy a Michelin starred dining extravaganza buy yourself said guide and make sure you book into somewhere that has one.Easy innit? 








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