Service in the UK is a huge pet hate of mine. To put it bluntly, it is woeful. And no, I haven’t been to every establishment in the London hospitality industry, however it is a common assumption (and one with story-telling truth behind it), that the service over here is notoriously bad. From the way employees – whose wages your custom is paying for – speak to you, to their lack of professionalism, to the way they dress, I have been surprised, outraged, and just darn gobsmacked at the way customers are treated here.
This post is inspired by a fairly dissapointing experience I had last week at a Jamie Oliver establishment – yes, THE Jamie Oliver. He has two restaurants called Union Jacks, situated in London. The concept behind them is combining traditional British food and pizzas! While my experctations were high (I loved the Naked Chef as much as the next person), I felt personally let down when our pizzas turned out to be bland and uneventful. However, I am no food critique, so I let that pass – it did the job and filled my stomach. But the service reallly was the final straw for me. For one, the waitresses were dressed like they had just rolled out of bed. They had matching branded shirts, but one was wearing it with a short skirt and stockings with holes in them and another with it tied up into a knot at the back (showing off her ‘muffin top’!) I’m all about being casual, but this was downright scruffy. Secondly, most had their hair down! Our particular waitress had long, frizzy hair which I could just imagine falling easily into our food. Then, when she took our order, she sat down next to me (what the?!) and basically told me – didn’t ask – she wouldn’t bring out my starter before my main because everyone who didn’t have one would watch me eat it. So I ended up inhaling my prawn cocktail (literally only a teaspoon of shrimp on a forest of lettuce), while my main got cold – nice.
Wow – that was more of a rant than a critique. But it was a very infuriating, and definitley not cheap, experience! And believe me when I say it hasn’t been the first – ever ordered coffees at a ‘counter service’ establishment, and you have to wait for them to make the drinks, before you can pay? So you have to stand there, staring at them make your coffee and complete your order. Then you can almost watch your coffees start cooling down while you pay! I don’t know if it is because I have worked in proud, professional cafes back home, but the golden rule was NEVER leave your customer standing at the counter. Take the money and sit them down. That way you can batch make coffees, and serve them nice and hot to all those who have ordered – simple.
Cliché as it may sound, the best service I have had in London town so far is from a New Zealand owned cafe. ‘Sacred’ epitomises the New Zealand Cafe experience and brings it to life throughout six locations around the city. After a gruelling 9am – 9pm drinking session on Australia Day the night before, the quiet, escapism Sacred offered was one I welcomed with open arms. We wanted to visit the flagship cafe, so took a stomach-churning tube ride into the heart of London on Sunday. Tucked away on the famous Carnaby Street, Sacred stood as a haven away from the loud noises of the city. We were surprised it was open as many cafes shut on Sundays – had to be owned by kiwis.
With a basic, yet mouth-watering menu on offer, I went with the toasted bagel with avocado, tomato and sour cream – plus a side of bacon of course. My suffering boyfriend bought the huge sausage roll slice, which “tasted like home.” After ordering with a very friendly staff member, (and told to take a seat!) we ventured down to a den-like basement level, with a New Zealand themed decor, dim lights and incense – paradise for us hung-over kiwis. Then came the coffee – delicious, hot, not too milky and served with a smile. It was surprising how much we appreciated having satisfying coffee to drink while waiting for our
Then came the food – again served with friendliness, politeness and professionalism – it tasted pretty darn good too.
So I left Sacred happy with what we paid, the food we paid for and the service we received. That’s all I ever ask for. This post turned into a bit of a rant, but one I’m sure many of you could understand. When you are prepared to spend your hard-earned cash in a service-based establishment, you expect be treated with an intent to attract your return custom. As I have such an issue with bad service, I will probably complain about it again down the line. But I am glad to have a clear idea as to the service my future cafe staff will offer my future customers.