28 July 2014

The good and the bad of restaurant service in one weekend

| Emily Morris
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I went along to a restaurant for my husband’s annual work dinner on Friday night and was quite wowed by the service. Sure, the food was excellent, but that is certainly not uncommon around Canberra.

The thing that really shone was the service. There were 16 of us, which is never an easy number to manage. We had pre-ordered which would have made things easier on the staff, but everything came out at the same time and they were really knowledgable about what they were serving. Some of us had the degustation menu with wine matching and the waiter serving and talking through the wines really knew what he was talking about and obviously LOVED what he does. It was a pleasure being served really good food by people with smiles on their faces. We were dining at the Artisan in Narrabundah.

By contrast I went to another group meal on Saturday, with a group of girlfriends for our mid year christmas lunch. Almost two hours after we arrived, one of the party had to leave without mains being served. We had been asking after our food for about 30 minutes in the lead up to this. We were met with ‘we’re doing the best we can’. When our meals did finally arrive, they forgot to serve the sides and then seemed quite put out when we wanted to have the desserts from the set menu (which was $60 a pop). To add insult to injury, the bill then had to be questioned… twice as they had added items we hadn’t had and failed to adjust for the person who had to leave without eating. We found out later that the kitchen was a chef down and they had some staffing issues. I completely understand that and had they let us know when we sat down that there was a delay in the kitchen (and possibly not taken seatings in addition to bookings…?), perhaps served us with extra bread and generally kept us informed and managed expectations we would have been fine. We could have advised them if anyone needed to leave at a certain time and gone from there. The restaurant was Flint in Murrumbateman, which I mention with some hesitation as I do tend to think this was perhaps a one off, but it did make me wonder how others feel about this kind of service. Would you expect to be informed if there is a delay in service, or just expect to wait it out without knowing…? I really felt like a bit of expectation management could have saved the experience entirely. It was such a shame as the food was excellent.

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JessicaGlitter6:41 pm 31 Jul 14

If I was managing the restaurant I’d be telling the customers to expect a serious delay and keep my eye on it very carefully, so they’ve done well there. As there are often more waiters than chefs on a busy shift I’d consider removing someone from the floor (or shuffling people around) so that the chefs could have an assistant to help them keep up, even if it’s just someone to watch the toast. Sections can be expanded a little bit so everyone on the floor has to move 20% faster and do 20% more work, so service will struggle a little but if they know their sections and are well supervised, the staff can pull together at a time like this.

You can also deliberately slow down service, for example saying that the kitchen is understaffed and not accepting new orders for another 20 minutes but would you care to enjoy some drinks? If people sit sipping drinks for 20 minutes then order on time and get their food another 30 minutes after that, they’ve been managed, touched regularly and you’ve kept every promise you made them, so they are generally appreciative.

You always promise less than you intend to deliver.

Interestingly, it would be my first instinct as manager to go where the problem is and try to help, but it’s more important during crunch time that the manager be out front touching the customers than hands-on to solve the problem. It is also tempting to keep your best people on the floor because you’ll be short out there, but you actually need to take your best waiter off the floor to the kitchen because the chefs trust him and he knows the menu. It’s too dangerous in there for anything less than the best.

Flint In the Vines? That’s the restaurant someone on RA a few months ago referred to as “Clinton Devine’s”. Sounds like Clinton should start kicking a few butts out there.

I’ve been to both of those restaurants in entirely different circumstances but wit he same outcome. Artisan, fantastic experience, great food, service and wine (ask them for their other wine list).

Flint in the Vines, poor food, poor wine list!, poor service, never been back. That was a couple of years ago, unsure how they are still in business.

I have been to Flint in the Vines a few times and always had good service, could be a one off. I do agree they should have informed re chef down and offered some comps. It is a bit of an effort getting out there,

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