Having been involved in hospitality for a decade, I certainly do. But I’ve been reticent to write about them for fear of backlash, which we know happens. And very fearful about putting those who maliciously condemn you in their place. You run the risk of more bogus bad reviews and of deterring new customers because they side with the reviewer, or just think, ‘why take the risk of going there?’
Of course, we don’t all see things in the same way and I recall once in my 4-star, 2-rosette restaurant visiting a couple’s table to ask if everything was alright. I had been eating with my wife, but had spoken and bantered with several regulars that evening before I got to their table and could see that they had both had the same main course.
‘No’, the lady said. ‘It was awful, I didn’t enjoy it all’. In what way I asked but before she could speak her husband (I assume her husband as they were both wearing wedding rings), jumped in and said, ‘mine was wonderful!’ ‘Well mine wasn’t’, she said. I’ve been around long enough to not get involved in my own domestics, let alone other peoples, so I discretely said I was sorry to hear she hadn’t enjoyed it and exited. A few days later there was a damning review which suggested I had made it worse and should go back to Hades where I belonged.
All I said in the reply was that I was sorry she felt like that and that the vast majority of our customers liked what we did.
I think that episode can probably be explained by something that was nothing to do with us or the food. It was not a try on; but they happen, and I’ll tell you about the most blatant one I experienced before I move on to the terrible treatment of staff at the Hobgoblin in Bristol.
It was a Saturday and my wife had come out of hospital that day, so I wasn’t going to be in the restaurant late, but felt I owed it to our guests in the hotel and diners in the restaurant to be there. A booked group of four arrived late and insisted on having coats hung on their chairs, not putting them in the cloak cupboard. I’ve been around a long time and my antennae twitched. I said to the restaurant manager, ‘keep an eye on them, they will be trouble’. He thought I was being over the top.
Shortly into the starters one of the women called a waitress over and said she didn’t like her starter. The restaurant manager changed it free of charge despite her admitting there was nothing wrong with it, she just didn’t like it - the other lady was happy with the same starter.
When I went to the table, knowing what had happened, I asked if the replacement was OK, she said ‘yes’, but that she didn’t like the restaurant manager’s attitude. I apologised and said I’d talk to him and did, but only to repeat be careful.
When he next went to the table she said how pleased she was to see him again and that his boss needed to learn customer management! Not long after I was behind the bar when she came back from the loos. She stopped and started stroking my hand, which was resting on the bar, and told me how good my restaurant could be and that she understood catering and could help me! I wouldn’t have let her wash the dishes! If she had stroked my hand once more I’d have threatened to sue her for sexual harassment.
I said I wasn’t staying late and at about nine, I did a final round of the tables including speaking to folk I knew on the next table to the difficult table. They wished my wife well and I left.
Half an hour later they asked the restaurant manager if I was still there and when he said no, they said not to worry.
A few weeks later I ran into the people sat next to the difficult table in town, who told me that after I’d left one of the men on the other table said, ‘we’re not going to get away with it in here.’ My mind pictured the coats on their chairs, ready to don them, argue and run! But they had paid, albeit for 4 nor 5 starters!
And so, to the Hobgoblin in Bristol and the review by Chloe which was reported in the Morning Advertiser. My heart goes out to the staff and I take my hat off to the owner Jeff Ayliffe for his reply on TripAdvisor. I’ve experienced similar things, not in the hotel but in my pub, where we had a very strict no swearing policy. I once banned someone for telling a girl behind the bar that it was part of her job to be sworn at!
It is an offence to serve someone who is drunk and in refusing to serve Chloe, the staff were right. Her attempts at intimidating them are sadly not uncommon. But you can lose your licence by serving somebody who is obviously drunk. The problem is that if you do refuse, they can kick-off and it create an incident. Sometimes it can be better to serve them and say, ‘just the one’, and more often than not they know they are less than sober and move on.
We would call time at midnight on Friday and Saturday with no admission or readmission after 11, so the last hour had to be nicotine free! One night we had complaints from neighbours about the noise in the street, it was people banging on the door and shouting because we wouldn’t let them in.
It is all part of the fun of being a landlord, but power to you James for both your stance and your review. You’ve obviously got some good staff. Keep it up and if I lived nearer I’d be in for a pint or two as a regular.