Even With A Great Soufflé, This Restaurant Fell Flat On Its Face….

Last Friday Jayne and I ventured out for lunch to a local restaurant that has been on our radar for some time.

It was Valentines’ Day.

The restaurant is located in a local vineyard, near where we live, and had been highly recommended as a great place for a casual lunch, with atmosphere and ambient setting, and great food.

Firstly, let me frame up the situation:

Jayne and I don’t really dine out much locally.

And that’s mainly because where we live is quite remote. Our home is a reasonable distance from most major restaurants.

And because we both like to enjoy some wine with our food and our companionship, we tend to often just stay home and eat in.

Because good food and a dry lunch or dinner, in our opinion, often just doesn’t hit the mark.

And sometimes, the cab fare when dining out, can be more than the cost of the meal.

And that doesn’t make much sense either….

Anyway, back to our Valentines’ Day lunch…

Firstly, let me say this:

The soufflé was wonderful.

But the systems, and the customer service at the restaurant, were non-existent.

Well, maybe just the systems.

Our waitress was very pleasant.

She engaged with us, and we had conversation about her accent, and where in France she was from.

But, she never engaged US.

She never asked about us.

She never asked about who we were, where we were from, whether we lived nearby.

She never asked whether our meals were OK, whether we liked our wine [we had three glasses between us], or whether we would like to buy some of the wine, or try some other varietals that the vineyard had to offer.

[There was a cellar door style wine tasting counter in the restaurant].

And she never asked whether we were celebrating Valentines’ Day.

For all she knew, she wouldn’t have known whether or not we were gourmet travelers, or restaurant reviewers.

Because she really didn’t ENGAGE WITH us.

Now, that may not be her fault.

It’s probably the fault of management.

I believe that this has got to come down to the systems, or lack thereof, in place [or not in place] in this restaurant.

You see, there were no systems.

How do we know?

This was very obvious.

Firstly, our waitress missed some very obvious cues.

We mentioned to her when ordering our food, that we would share our starter, so that we would have some room for a dessert at the end.

But at the end, no dessert was ever offered.

And in fact, after finishing our main meals, we sat, and we sat, and we sat with our dirty plates in front of us for some considerable time, in fact for an inordinate amount of time, before they were finally cleared.

Now, let me frame this up again.

The restaurant was maybe one third full.

I’m remembering there were maybe twenty six other diners in the restaurant, occupying nine table.

And we had arrived towards the end of the lunchtime service, which meant that by the time that we had finished our meals, that all other diners were well and truly done.

Now here’s the weird thing….

And maybe things are done differently in the country.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we noticed a side room where an older man was working at a desk, with the connecting door to the restaurant wide open.

And as we stood there, before we were greeted by our French waitress, we noticed an older woman talking with one table of diners about an old dog in the restaurant.

During our lunch visit, this older woman later joined another table of diners for their lunch meal, and at one stage, the man from the side office also emerged to sit and eat at this table.

And then return to the side office.

When this table of diners finished their meal, they stood and chatted with the lady in the middle of the restaurant for some time, before finally paying their bill and departing.

In fact, the familiarity shown between the lady and those people she had dined with had me feeling more that they were related to each other, because their conversational postures were more characteristic of a family home event than a public restaurant.

After the departure of these diners, this woman then went over to stand and chat with the table of diners we had seen her with on our arrival.

But at no time did she engage with other diners.

From our observation, it appeared that this woman, and the older man in the side room, were owners of this restaurant and vineyard.

Well, that was our conclusion when, as we were walking out to our car following lunch, we watched this same woman drive out of the restaurant driveway, and then drive down the road 100 metres and then turn into the separate driveway of the home on the adjoining property.

And weirdly, just before, as we had stood at the front counter of the restaurant settling up for our meal, the older man had risen from his seat in the office, taken two steps toward us to the doorway, and then hesitated and returned to his desk?

It was all rather strange….

What are the lessons here?

Firstly, if you’re going to run a business, then RUN the business.

As a business.

Try and keep business and social separate.

Sure, be nice to your customers, but don’t be overly social at the expense of your other customers.

Secondly, don’t ignore your customers, because you never know just who they might or might not be.

Thirdly, treat every customer with the same amount of attention.

And fourthly, train your team members to do the exact same thing.

Will we revisit this restaurant?

Probably not.

Despite the great soufflé….

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