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Sunday, 19 April 2015

Bank Holiday Monday

Easter Bank Holiday Monday.
There was already a crowd gathering outside before we'd even opened the doors.I thought I'd pre empt the rush by opening up early and at least getting drinks served before the diners who'd actually booked arrived.
The couple who like their plates to reflect the shape of the table they sit at were one of the first through the door.The sight of the two of them has the effect of sucking the life force out of all of we who have the pleasure of serving them,taking on the demeanour and personailty of crumpled brown paper bags in their presence(or if you're over forty place a mirror flat on the table in front of you and peer down into it for a visual representation,I fleetingly considering posting a photo of myself doing this but it was just TOO frightening)..On this occasion (hooray) they'd decided to sit in the garden so I thought I'd better follow them out to make a note on the order of the shape of the table they'd chosen to sit at,just to avert any later drama.As I glanced over,quickly noting a round table, I heard my name being called.
'Biff,Biff!!'
I sighed wearily in anticipation of another protracted problem and headed over.
'Biff the table here is on uneven, churned up ground'
'Yes it is on crazy paving,not awfully level I'm afraid'
'But look this chair is wobbling terribly'
'Well lets just move it here..like so.. to this even bit of ground'
Beam.
'No thats not good enough,it's dangerous'
The voice in my head that keeps a running alternative and far more entertaining commentary on my daily life spoke: 'with a backside that size I don't think you've much to fear on that front missus,you'd have to be dropped from a height far greater than that of a garden chair before that one didn't bounce back'.She must have wondered why the edge of my mouth was twitching as I invited her to take a table inside due to all other outside ones now being occupied..
'No, we want to sit outside,can you move the table up to that top terrace please?'
The top terrace was already chokka so how in Gods name she imagined I could manually shoehorn another table into the already tight space and especially in view of the aforementioned not insignificant backside is an absolute mystery.Besides, having sustained a particularly painful rotator cuff injury(google it- the upshot of which is I can't get my top off without the aid of an appointment with Chef my Day Carer),I was keen to avoid a set back i.e. lugging an iron table across the garden was definitely not on my list of permitted activities.
'Im sorry there's just no space to do that'
Thankfully she spotted a couple about to vacate a table on safe ground and made a supermarket dash to bag the seats before anyone else could get there.Despite the backside she was surprisingly nimble on her feet,I trotted along behind and amended the check with the revised table shape hoping she'd stay put.People have a habit of moving two or three times when they're seated outside,theres always a table with a better view/in the sun/out of the sun/sheltered etc.It can cause havoc when taking out orders,its hard to serve food when the customers are intent on an alfresco game of musical chairs..I was reminded of the first Bank Holiday shortly after we'd arrived here,before we fully understood the practicalities and before we had introduced a foolproof system of allowing diners to sit outside and the chaotic food auction which ensued after they'd all been on the move two or three times.I was sobbing uncontrollably by the end of the afternoon.

Half an hour into service the large group arrived.
You can count on the walkers to give you an easy order,soups,sandwiches and the like, nothing expensive,which on Bank Holiday can get the kitchen out of the shit,despite bringing the average spend per head significantly down for the day.
There's generally always some item missing off the order with large groups,they don't listen when you're trying to establish what they'd like,I think its an intentional ploy to obtain gratis food.In this instance we were a bowl of soup short,despite the outside temperature hitting an unseasonal 15 degrees and them all sweating like pigs in blankets in their waterproofs, a steaming hot bowl of soup was the dish of the day with the group.It's doubtful this had anything to do with the price,as witnessed by the large number of tap waters on order ..
I returned to the kitchen to politely request the additional item, there's not usually much banter coming from the kitchen on a Bank holiday but a missed item on an order solicits at least some comment, on this particular Bank Holiday 'arsehole' was trending,interspersed with the occasional 'this is fucking ridiculous' as ever more checks were piled on.
As I took the soup out the noise level had increased to school dinner hall levels and after two attempts to identify who to deliver it to I decided the old spoon tap on the table was needed to command the attention of the party.
'Can I ask who ordered the extra soup please?'
A middle aged woman raised her hand,by the look of her face you would have thought I'd shat in her shoes,not tried to serve her dinner.
'Its not an extra soup,I haven't had my original one yet..'
I was about to tell her to keep her hair on but aborted that plan when I noticed she had clearly already done so,her facial features would have given Marcus Wareing's arms a run for their money,I doubt that face had ever had an introduction to a set of tweezers.

By 3 o'clock and 95 covers down,there was still no craic to be had from the kitchen,apart from a brief spell when my Day Carer expressed an urgent desire to ransack the knife drawer and head down to the local supermarket with a plan to wreak revenge for the unfeasible and impenetrable food packaging which renders even those with a high level of manually dexterity fumbling sausage fingered oafs.
ACCESS DENIED.
By this point we were resetting tables ready for the second wave of attack,I went to grab some napkins from the store cupboard located in the back corridor en route to the mens netty.As I pushed open the door I could see a mans legs straddled in the corner of the corridor,Reader, it looked exactly like he was relieving himself..I let out a small involuntary scream followed by:
'Oops sorry..'
Why I was apologising for him pissing in the corner on my floor when he was only seconds from the actual bog I have no idea.
He peered over his shoulder, slowly looked me up and down and gesturing with his head(hands otherwise engaged)in the direction of the bogs said:
'The gents is through there'
This is the first time I have been mistaken for a man.
I mumbled something incomprehensible and staggered back shellshocked into the bar minus the napkins and wondering if it was me who needed the acquaintance with the tweezer.As I said to my Day Carer later,I had no idea things were that bad.
Of course he wasn't actually pissing on the floor in my back corridor but the truth is actually equally unbelievable.He had balanced a very young baby on the shoulder height windowsill and was attempting to change the nappy in what was a very cramped and notoriously spidery space.
The baby change issue seems to be a constant theme,it even reared its head on Tripeadvisor recently.
*Huge sigh*
 Just then the middle aged couple sitting at Table 2 signalled for their bill.They had sat motionless,saying nothing throughout their meal,no conversation whatsoever,if they hadn't briefly broken the inactivity to eat I would have wondered how long they'd been dead.I heard the usual enquiry being made as to the enjoyment of the meal and was interested to hear that the table they were seated at was the 'noisiest possible table with the till next to it and coffee machine over yonder and people walking past all the time with food,it was an actual disgrace'
Theres only one answer to that comment isn't there?

IF YOU WANT PEACE AND QUIET DON'T GO OUT ON BANK HOLIDAYS.

A sea of glasses and empty crisp packets were piling up on the bar so I headed over to help clear the back log, making some progress before yet another large tray of empties would appear.Presently I clocked a regular walk through the door and in anticipation of his usual order went to reach for his special personal pint pot which he was given as a memento on his tour of the Coronation Street set in 1983 and which he had been using daily since then.
Not today though.
I'd used it as a vase to house some cheery daffodils plucked from the garden just that morning.
Regulars special pint pot makes a canny vase

They were sitting right in front of him on the bar.
In his personal treasured souvenir mug resplendent with Rovers Return emblem.
I frantically attempted to engage him in conversation and thus divert his gaze from the pot.
He must have been wondering why he was getting so much attention,especially in light of the fact that he's well known for having nee craic .Anyway he didn't flinch when I handed him his pint in a Timothy Taylor glass so I breathed a huge sigh of relief and strategically slid a small advertising blackboard in front of the daffs when he turned his back.
Jesus.
The queue at the bar had diminished slightly but was beginning to build up again when a couple of chaps asked to order some food.I was doing my best to get orders quickly and keep the bar area as free as possible.They asked for a couple of steak sandwiches.If I was sensible I would have left the order at that but always on the upsell I made the usual offer 'would you like some chips?"
The younger of the two made a quizzical look and then said very slowly and ponderously:
'What's the alternative?'
Quick as a flash I said
'Not have any chips??'
Can you imagine how impatient and rude that must have sounded??
I gave an involuntary nervous laugh and directed them to the only free table.
I had to spend the next 15 minutes grovelling to them in the hopes I could avert yet another Tripeadvisor assassination especially a one with me in the starring role....
The kitchen bell was ringing furiously signifying a pile up on the pass of food waiting to go out so I had the abandon the TA damage limitation and hope for the best..
During the mass food drop I had  noticed a party of five sitting in the conservatory that needed clearing so steamed over.
"Did you enjoy everything?'
'Yes but I struggled with the kipper, it was very bony"
This is a regular problem,we should really ditch them from the menu on Bank Holidays,but we're nothing if not optimistic..
'Oh Im sorry about that but ..well.. you know.. kippers are...'
I was cut short:
'Of course it's really NOT a Craster kipper"
'Isn't it?'
'No,kippers are from Grimsby,they're just smoked in Craster'
(Eh?)
'Actually,I beg to differ,in Grimsby they're herrings,its only when they're smoked they become kippers.'
(Haha trumped you!!)
In the light of my previous comment at the bar I had immediate second thoughts and decided I'd better retract a bit of that statement so as I cleared the plates away I told them I'd amend the board to 'Craster 'smoked' kippers'.
Sigh.
Twenty minutes later as the kipper police were leaving,the leader stopped me.
'You must be Biff..'
I scanned his face hoping for a glimmer of recognition,he obviously knew me but I had no clue whatsoever who the hell he was.I gave up.
'Yes I am yes,and you are???'
'We've exchanged a couple of emails recently'

OH GOD.

Three days beforehand I'd received a particularly arsey email.It seems theres a section of the population who have nothing better to do than to trawl the interwebs looking for errors, grammatical or otherwise on peoples web sites and firing off corrective emails.
Here's a copy of the email.

Dear Landlord,
I have just browsed your web site including details and menu for Christmas 2014.Should 2014 read 2015??? or has 'someone' forgotten to update their site???With your excellent reputation ,I suggest you check it forthwith to avoid looking a little foolish to say the least.
I used to live in (insert small village name) and have known the Inn since the early 70's AND seen it grow.Please don't spoil its good name..

Over to you....

There are two elements of this email which affront me:

1.The presumption that the person in charge is unquestionably a MAN.

2.Those last three fucking words..

Heres my reply:

Dear ......,
As our menus are seasonal,we don't update the menu with the coming years menu until nearer the time.When people enquire about Christmas,we direct them to the web site with a view to looking the previous years menu to give them an idea of what they can expect.This has worked well for us in the past in securing forward bookings.Im sorry you view us as foolish and indeed spoiling the good name of the pub which we have worked very hard to build over the last seven years(insert long list of achievements inc pointing out Guide books the pub previously wasnt in).
So given the current success we are enjoying we must be doing something right!!
Thanks for taking time out to ffer your feedback.
Kind regards
THE LANDLADY 

In actual fact I was aware the Christmas menu was still on line,updating it was one of a long list of outstanding jobs.However I was moderately pleased with my totally fabricated but reasonably plausible explanation for it being there,the down side being I'm now stuck with last years bastarding Christmas menus on the website and wondering how long would be a reasonable length of time to leave them before I dare change them without losing face or fear of a corrective email..
You will note however that I stopped short of signing off with 'over to you'
I received a further response which was notably more concise.

Dear Biff,
Thankyou for your forthright reply,I no way intimated that you were foolish..

At this point I decided to call it a day,my Day Carer already thinks I spend far too much time getting bogged down in inconsequential trivia and not enough concentrating on the job in hand,so I didn't bother to acknowledge or enter into any further dialogue,which proved a fatal mistake later as this clearly prompted the personal visit:

'Oh yes..did you enjoy everything?"
'It was...in-ter-est-ing.....'
Gulp.
'I don't do Tripadvisor..'
There is a God.
'SO you can expect an email from me... VERY SOON...Good day'

To be continued.....


(PS see what we have to put up with on a daily basis?..)













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Friday, 6 March 2015

Three scabby cabbages,a leek trench and a phantom deposit..

The Inspector from a well known guide book has been doing the rounds.
Personally,I can't think of a more sure fire way to take the pleasure out of eating than being forced to trough down three courses lunch and dinner every single day of your working life.A bit like the plethora of tragic and quite relentless food blogs which I've been reading lately which reference eating out 'for the sole purposes of the blog' not for the enjoyment of the experience.What a joyless task.
I digress,Inspectors are usually relatively easy to spot,not that a lone wolf diner is unusual, but one that's  neither suited and booted nor wearing zip off waterproof slacks and walking boots kind of sticks out like a sore thumb.Yes,I won't lie, a lone wolf garbed smart casual, drinking fizzy water and ordering three courses at lunchtime,sets alarm bells ringing.A pork and black pudding terrine,pheasant casserole and fulfilling his remit by cramming in a creme caramel(I could see the relief on his face when his beady eyes alighted on a stodge free option)FYI.
Oh yes and I've yet to meet an Inspector who doesn't finish off the meal with an espresso.
They don't disclose their identity until after they've finished and paid for their meal,at which point this one was well and truly rumbled by all of us.I played the game by gauging the brown nosing just right,enough to feign convincing surprise when he did his big reveal in the hand over of the business card at the end.
At this point they always ask for a chat with the chef.I usually keep them out front so that chef can beat a hasty retreat when the next check comes on but this chap was quite amiable,much nicer than the very first Inspector that ever came here who had the cheek to tell us that the best thing about the place was the food.
'well we should be ok then as thats what you're here to inspect..'
We were fortunate to get into the guide after that little outburst.
Anyway,on this occasion I thought I'd treat him to a little kitchen tour and a quick conversation.I even attempted to grill him him on a couple of possible local places that he might or might not have been to but no joy on that front,he wasn't giving anything away.He seemed to be at ease though and was quite chatty,things were going swimmingly until he happened to glance out of the kitchen window and notice the ravaged looking raised beds in the back garden.
'Oh I see you grow your own veg..'
'Oh yes..yes we.. do yes..' I agreed. I could just make out the whites of Chefs eyes growing ever larger and his mouth falling open over the shoulder and out of eyeshot of the Inspector as I ushered him out of the kitchen before he could attempt a closer inspection.

Abundant supply of home grown veg.
Three scabby cabbages and a leek trench does not a year round vegetable supply make ..
'I can't believe you told him that' said Chef 'FFS I'm not Jesus Bloody Christ..'
Which was clearly a covert reference to the seven loaves and fishes.
'I didn't tell him anything,he came here to inspect, which he did,he made an assumption based on his inspection which I for one am not about to correct him on'
Though admittedly I could have a red face when the guide eventually comes out and a stream of punters asking for tours of the vegetable plot arrives.

Later that day we received puzzling phone call.
I was relayed a rather garbled message about someone who had called to complain that she'd paid a deposit for a meal which she'd eaten the previous week,but on the occasion of the visit the pre paid deposit had not been deducted from the bill therefore resulting in her being overcharged to the tune of fifty quid.
This was baffling on three fronts:

1.It's not normal procedure for us to take a deposit.

2.On the rare occasion a deposit would be taken e.g. for a large private party,this would be noted in both the diary and on a deposit summary designed for that exact purpose and which on this occasion there was no record whatsoever.

3.Why did the person in question make no mention of having paid a deposit when attending for the meal`?

The situation required further investigation.
The table had been a party of six,had attended on a lunchtime and coincidentally despite it being two weeks previously I remembered the woman as she'd had what I'd diplomatically(yes I can do that) call an attitude.I remembered her complaining bitterly about the cold despite it being February and with both fires blazing and the central heating cranked up to full.I did try reminding her it was February.
I took a deep breath and gave her a quick ring to establish where,when and by whom the deposit was taken.
The story went that the person who took the booking 'asked her for a deposit' when she called to book and she'd paid by credit card over the phone.
Despite the fact that the person who'd taken the booking had meticulously noted the request for a particular table there was no mention of a deposit in the diary.
I attempted to explain that we don't take deposits for regular table bookings but this was falling on deaf ears.Finally I managed to ascertain that she had a credit card receipt from a month prior to the date of the meal.I took down a note of the date of the 'deposit' and told her I'd ring her back after Id investigated further and spoken to the member of staff who'd taken the booking and was currently away on holiday but back on Monday..
In the interim we went through all the credit card receipts for the day of the alleged deposit and found two receipts for fifty quid.One of the card receipts was a 'customer not present' receipt which kind of implied there might be some truth in her story.The other was just a regular receipt paid in person on the day.
We were all clueless as to what could have happened,so much so that I couldn't wait till Monday so rang the member of staff on holiday and asked her if she'd taken a deposit.
Definitely not.
The plot thickened.
We decided we'd have to ask for the receipt but with a busy weekend ahead I put it out of mind and planned to deal with it on the Monday as previously planned.
But someone else had other ideas.
On the Saturday morning as I was racing around emptying the ash out of the fire and with the hoover going full belt, I became aware of a persistent tapping at the window.

I groaned inwardly and cursed the fact that I hadn't closed the curtains the night before as I glanced up and recognised the early morning caller.
The last thing you want first thing on a Saturday morning is a disgruntled customer before the coffee machine's even had a chance to warm up.
I fiddled with door key in the lock, just for a bit, long enough to keep me happy but not long enough to upset her..
She was clutching a couple of sheets of A4 paper with what I could see were credit card receipts paper clipped to the top.
As I looked at the documentation I explained again that its not procedure for us to take deposits for regular table bookings and I couldn't understand why this would have been requested.I was surprised by her response that she was under the impression that as the weather was icy and snowy the girl had asked for a deposit to 'make sure she turned up'.
Were that the case and with the weather forecast up here,we'd be taking deposits full time..
Now its one thing to mistakenly think a deposit has been charged but its quite another to fabricate a complete story around this to provide evidence.
I took a look at the card receipt which indeed showed payment to us of fifty pounds.But thank the Lord it wasn't the 'cardholder not present' receipt,it was a regular payment.
I tried explaining this but wasn't getting through,she kept pointing out her bank statement and the fact that the payment had been taken from her account and paid to us.
I couldn't get her to understand that I wasn't disputing the payment but there was no way it had been done remotely over the phone.
'Can I just ask why you didn't mention paying the deposit when you came for the meal?'
Reader,brace yourselves for the answer:
'Well it was over a month before and Id forgotten about it,it was only when I got my bank statement and I noticed there was a fifty pound payment to you,so I must have paid a deposit'
WT flaming F.
Then she played the age card.
' I am nearly seventy you know,I can't be expected to remember everything which has happened over a month before'
She'd forgotten about it.
Forgotten about the bloody meal she'd had over a month before more like.
By now I'd wasted at least twenty minutes out of my already tight morning schedule and with little progress being made and the time creeping forward ever closer to midday.
Fuck it.
I opened the till drawer took out fifty quid and gave it to her.
Was she grateful I hear you ask.
Was she grateful..
As I passed the money over she smiled in a self impressed manner and advised me that it was a good job our mistake had come to light as a result of her meticulous book keeping.
Reader,old or not,I could have knocked her out..

The following week we had a further intrusion in the form of a visit from a Food Hygiene Inspector.Arriving just on the start of lunch service my protestations that we were really busy fell on deaf ears as she declared that was the 'best time for her to inspect and see the kitchen in full flow'.
Well at least it was best for someone.
Donning her pristine white coast and hat before tramping into the kitchen in her outdoor shoes which had just previously traversed the muddy garden path and left a comforting trail through the pub,I can confirm that Chef was not overjoyed at this sight.
On previous visits we'd been told that we'd never achieve a food hygiene rating five due to the nature of the structure of the kitchen,it being fairly ancient and having a lovely beamed ceiling.Hygiene Inpsectors don't like bare wood.Its not a wipe clean surface.
So in the absence of demolishing the structure and starting fresh we'd settled for four stars.
Pleasingly the previous inspection had mentioned that we could do with a new kitchen floor and as luck would have it we'd fulfilled this criteria only a couple of months beforehand so everything was looking particularly chipper and I was feeling it quite a fortuitous turn of events that the Inspector had turned up so timeously.
As she was writing her report and having made a few suggestions re the new food allergen laws which we'd explained we were dealing with verbally due to the menu changing daily,I thought I'd ask her if was everything was to her satisfaction.Receiving an answer in the affirmative I thought I'd point out that in keeping with the recommendations of the previous inspection we'd replaced the kitchen floor ( at great expense to ourselves)and this being the case would we not now qualify for the five star rating.
Please?
Beam.
There was a bit of coughing,a bit of shuffling and an 'erm well..I ..well I  um, well don't see why not'
Further beam.
'Would you like a coffee,before you leave? SUCH a cold day..'
I was even reminding myself of Sybil Fawlty.


Two weeks later the bloody five star food hygiene certificate arrived.
Reader,I was made up.
Chef was not amused.
'I wish you would just leave things alone'
'Aren't you pleased?'
'No not really.I was happy with four.The trouble now is keeping it.Now we've got five the only way is down.What's going to happen next year when the other bloke comes round and he downgrades us.?'
Sigh.
Methinks he may have mistaken it for a Michelin star....







Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A very curious case of One-upmanship.

People have no idea of good manners and etiquette anymore.
Yesterday lunchtime I happened to notice a youngish couple with a baby loitering next to a table in the bar and fingering one of the blankets over the back of the chairs.I presumed they were admiring it as they seemed to be stroking it in appreciation.Being a busy Saturday I didn't give it much further thought until 10 minutes later I noticed it was no longer draped over the back of the chair.
The Dentist was doing the bar,I asked her if she'd seen them move it,my first thought was that it had been lifted.
'Oh yes I remember that couple I think they're still here'
Further investigation revealed the husband still sitting at a table in the restaurant,and the seed of what had actually happened was planted in my brain.
I asked the Blonde to go and check out the Ladies bog..
Two minutes later my worst fears were confirmed.
'Biff you won't believe what I've just seen in there,that woman has taken your LAURA ASHLEY throw and spread it on the toilet floor,and Biff she's using it as a changing mat,the baby is lying on there legs akimbo bare shitty baby arse in full contact with the fabric!'
WTF.
The Dentist shook her head in disbelief.
'They asked me if we had baby change facilities and I explained that we only have one loo and there just isn't space for the unit,they must have taken matters into their own hands..'
We hung around near the bar to see what would happen when she exited the loo.
Two minutes later she reappeared baby slung over one arm and my expensive bit of soft furnishing over the other,which she then nonchalantly REPLACED on the chair without giving  a second thought to the next unfortunate customer who might have the bad luck to rest their persona on the soiled bit of kit..
As if it was NORMAL procedure.
I recounted the story later to Chef.
'You're having a laff aren't you?you should have added a cleaning charge to their bill its not a bloody creche its a pub and as such specialises in the sale of alcoholic drinks,babies aren't exactly our target market  FFS'
Thankfully the ferocity of his response was limited by the fact that he had no idea what I'd actually paid for the Laura Ashley blanket(s) otherwise all hell might have broken loose on two fronts.
I do like bit of quality though.
People no longer seem to want to take responsibility for themselves, every need has to be catered for by some outside influence, if things continue the way they're going it won't be long before everybody will be afraid to leave the house.
Personally, I always found the back seat of the car a perfectly acceptable emergency mobile change unit rather than someone else's expensive soft furnishings..
The incident reminded me of another outrageous disregard for accepted etiquette which happened a few weeks ago.
We had a couple in for Sunday lunch,which in itself was unnoteworthy given the fact that Sunday lunch service is always heaving,but what happens next beggars belief and is possibly the worst PR fail I've come across in a long time.
I was just loading the next lot of veg into the rechauffe basket when OBBH appeared.
'Biff you will not believe what that woman on table 2 has just said'
'What now??' (with half interest,Sunday lunch service is becoming a tad predictable if nothing else).
'I asked her if she'd enjoyed everything and she said well actually I didn't think much of the food and I know good food I've got a restaurant of my own'
The cheeky cow.
The statement in itself might not have caused offence had those last five or six words tagged on at the end been omitted.
I'm not stupid enough to think that everybody is going to like what we do or even that what we do is better than what everyone else is doing,and we all go into businesses, local and otherwise and sometimes don't rate the food, but to go into another local business when you're in the trade yourself and pass judgement on what they're doing,its just not cricket is it??
It's also the worst PR favour you could do yourself.The thing is not everybody likes the same thing or even wants to go to the same place every time they go out so having a variety of similar but different businesses locally is always a good thing as you can feed off each other.I'm not saying we sent people over to this particular business every week but customers do ask for recommendations or people call in asking if there is anywhere in the particular direction they're going,then yes we would and have in the past given directions to this place on a number of occasions.

BUT READER,ALL HELL WILL FREEZE OVER BEFORE I SEND A FURTHER PUNTER OVER THERE.  

'Is she still here?' I was already on my way out to tackle her in person,but too late she had gone.
A quick check in the reservations diary revealed the name under which the booking had been made.
A subsequent google search revealed the name of a local business owner.
Reader,isn't google image search the best tool to hit the internet since the dawn of the global information superhighway.
AHA! Gotcha!
'Yes thats her,definitely..'
Who the fuck did she think she was,thinking she could surrepticiously come into my pub make disrespectful throwaway comments whilst the whole time expecting to remain incognito?
Pffft.
Well,no stone unturned *bangs fist on table* no stone unturned I tell you..
By this time we were all giggling that she hadn't bargained on Christine Cagney's finely honed investigative skills and would have no idea that she'd been so quickly rumbled.
In a fortuitous twist of fate,further enquiries revealed that the perpetrator conveniently happened to be following the pub Twitter account.
A quick follow back and Hey Presto! a direct line of communication was established..
Reader,I composed a very polite and well thought out DM informing her that I regretted to hear there'd been a problem with her meal and normally I like to deal with complaints in person, etc etc…
There's nothing annoys a complainer more than when you're nice to them..
I showed the message to the Blonde.
'Biff, she will have shit herself when that popped into her inbox..'
'I know,its perfect isn't it?'
We sat back and purred like a couple of butcher's cats in anticipation of the reply which must surely come soon.
Two days later and with no response forthcoming we were becoming a bit bored with the situation.
I noticed her Twitter account had fallen inactive which we judged to be probably a bit of skullduggery on her part to make me think she hadn't received the DM.
A week later and still no response.

'Well.. all that effort was a complete waste of time wasn't it?' said Chef .. 'the simple question you should have been asking yourself is: would we have time to swan over to their restaurant and eat a leisurely lunch on a Sunday'
'Well,no of course not'
'I rest my case..she was probably annoyed that this place was so busy'
Hmmm.
'Well actually my efforts weren't wasted'
'How so?'
'Well she knows that I know that she came in here and cast rude social grenades..'
(this is all getting very Mapp and Lucia..isnt it?)

Two women slag each other off in quaint village

'and?'
'Well that bitch won't be darkening my door again will she?'

I'd call that a win.








Sunday, 21 December 2014

I'll eat shit as long as I can sit at the best table.

There seems to be a growing movement of diners who approach the acquisition of their chosen table with the military precision and forward planning akin to a crack SAS unit.Nothing will thwart them from their ultimate goal:capture of the prize seat, this will often involve a forward reconnaissance trip to the pub beforehand and several phone calls afterwards..
We first experienced this phenomenon a number of years ago when the the local council decided to fund a pensioners Christmas lunch for around thirty which was very quickly oversubscribed.The group were due to arrive at midday as the pub opened but at around 11.30 I happened to glance out of the window and noticed a bus pulling into the car park.There's nothing as annoying as customers who arrive before you're ready to open up.If the front door's locked they will circuit the building until they find another means of access,even on occasion entering via the kitchen door fighting their way through the fly screen.
I'm quite adept at putting on the most deadest pan of faces when responding to the usual:
'We couldn't get the door open'
with
'Thats because we're not open yet..'
Sigh.
Anyway we were rushing around trying to get things ship shape early so we could get the door open,conscious that we didn't want to let a party of frail pensioners shiver on the doorstep and risk hypothermia before they'd even had their gratis Christmas turkey.
At this point Chef appeared.
'Jesus Christ come and have a look at this' he was standing mouth agape staring out of the window toward the garden path.
There was a veritable stampede of elderly folk charging drown the garden path ,walking sticks aloft,a flash of Queen mother handbags and cauliflower perms.There was even a wheelchair that would have given Dame Tanni a run for her money..
'MY GOD.I'M SCARED..WE DONT HAVE TO OPEN THE DOOR YET DO WE??'
A disorderly queue formed at the door before the walking sticks were deployed into operation with a determined but impatient tapping on the door.
'We better open up before they put the window through' I shouted 'pass the keys…QUICK'
As I turned the key in the lock it suddenly occurred to me that there were around thirty clamouring pensioners rammed right up to the front door and DEAR GOD didn't the flaming door open outwards…
They could potentially go over like a pack of dominoes if a didn't get them to move back.
'STAND BACK' I shouted as loudly as I could 'I'M OPENING UP..'
I could hear shuffling outside and tentatively pushed open the door nervously, just in case.
As the door opened and I stepped outside to secure it on its daytime hook on the pub wall,I was almost trampled underfoot as a herd of nuns shoes and M&S slacks surged past me into the pub.
Ive never seen a set of seniors,some of them moderately infirm looking move with such speed and urgency..
Once inside there was  a further scramble as they each fought to secure the prime seats,the more able bodied fighting their way ahead and bagging seats for mates.
"Over  here Betty Ive kept you a seat!!' Several walking sticks were waved aloft to attract attention.
I  even saw a few minor scuffles break out.
With all the excitement the food seemed almost secondary.To be honest a fair few of them didn't eat much though we spotted quite a bit of turkey being wrapped up in napkins and tucked away in the lunchboxy Queen Mother handbags.
I was surprised given the agility of the field in the chair dash to be called over to a couple of participants and asked if I could CUT UP THEIR FOOD.



Anyway..
The other week I happened to take a call for a booking for seven people..
I was just about to put the phone down having extracted all the relevant information when the caller interrupted .
'One last thing..we'd like to be seated in the bar area'
"Im sorry I'm afraid our biggest table in the bar area only seats six people'
'Are you sure? We'd really like to sit in the bar area'
Expectant pause..
'Yes I'm sure..the table only seats six,I can sit you in one of the adjacent rooms'
I finally managed to get him off the phone but I could tell he wasn't happy.Something told me this wasn't the last id heard of this particular person.
Later that afternoon,after I'd just returned from my afternoon stroll with the pooch I caught the back end of a telephone conversation that made my ears prick up….
'Yes ok, I'll mark that down we, could do that for you'

I could sense trouble.They don't call me Christine Cagney for nothing (subtweet haha!!)
'What was that about?'
'Oh It was the seven booked tomorrow night,the guy said he was told he could sit in the bar area and he was just checking that it had been noted in the diary.'
Now.
Nothing gets my fucking goat more than punters playing the staff off against each other and GOD FORBID managing to gain the upper hand.

'WHAT?? But you know we don't have a table that accommodates seven people in the bar'
'I know but he said someone told him we'd put a chair on the end of a table..'
WTF.
THE BLOODY LIAR.
I seethed right through dinner service with the thought of the fucker dictating what goes on IN MY FLAMING PUB.

When the following evening arrived I WAS READY FOR HIM.
The chair was placed strategically on the end of the table in the main thoroughfare from the bar,it wasn't going to be pleasant for whoever drew the short straw and had to sit there with drinkers milling around behind,breathing beer fumes all over their braised beef.
And*cough* the odd member of staff inadvertently bumping onto it…
When they were all seated it transpired there were a couple of children on the table.For the next few minutes a plethora of children's games,cards and tablets were offloaded into the centre of the dining table.It was like a scene from Fenwicks toy fair on the last shopping Saturday before Christmas.
Finally they got around to looking at the menu..
I could hear mutterings.
'Is there a children's menu?"
Godamnit.
I delivered the stock answer.
'No but we are happy to offer smaller portions of the regular menu'
Beam.
There was more chuntering…then loudly in order to make himself heard over the top of the three currently playing versions of Old MacDonald Had a Farm
'I can't believe they don't even have a single sausage in the kitchen'
That did it.
I steamed over.
'Im sorry we don't have sausages on the menu today,so therefore there are none available in the fridge'
I had a little smirk to myself.
'Actually we quite often do have sausages,in fact they were on the menu only yesterday..'
How ironic.
Beam.
I left them for a further minute to mull over the menu.
By now time was getting on and it being a Friday night Chef was getting tetchy for the order conscious of the backlog which was already piling up.
'Are you ready to order?'
'Actually no,we're just going to leave it as theres nothing for the children.I mean my kids will eat ANYTHING but theres just nothing there at all that they can eat'
I glanced up at the menu,noting the lamb chops,the steak,the pasta dish,the cod,the very tasty soup,various salads,belly pork,not to mention the range of simple sandwiches(what the hell kid doesn't like BACON??)and wondered what the fuckl this lot DID eat.
Reader,brace yourself for the next comment.
'Do we have to pay for the drinks?'
Lets just think this one through.
So.
In addition to now having seven spare places on a Friday night and having already turned punters away,its now MY fault that you didn't like the menu and you'd like me to compensate you for the inconvenience by offering GRATIS drinks?
I toyed with the idea of telling them that if they'd put as much effort into finding out what was on the actual menu as they did researching the seating plan it would've saved everyone concerned a lot of wasted time and effort.
Instead I kept quiet and presented them with a drinks bill which was not received with warmth.
I consoled myself with the thought that the only place they'd get in at short notice on a Friday night was probably the one of the local Indian restaurants and pondered the likelihood of the kids eating curry when basic English fare was off limits…

Later on Postman Pat came in for dinner.
Popular fictional character

Not the actual Postman Pat if you get my drift but someone who bears an uncanny resemblance to the popular children's TV character.
Its worth noting at this point that if you are unfortunate enough to resemble some well known fictional character you might want to think twice about frequenting the same hostelry on a regular basis.Better to spread your custom around and thus avoid being tagged with an unwelcome moniker  similarly,persons who eat the same meal every time they visit may wish to ring the changes now and again to avoid becoming known by the name of their favoured dish.
EG:
'Postman Pat'
'Sausage man'
or even the unfortunate
'BLT on brown'
All existing customers of ours.
On the bright side if I ever lose my iPhone I comfort myself with the thought that the finder will make no sense whatsoever of the messages contained therein.
For example:
(From an off duty member of staff  doing a spot of shopping in Waitrose and happening to bump into a regular'
'BLT on brown heading your way Biff,ETA 10 mins'

SO.
Postman Pat always has plenty to say for himself.Probably because he has a chip on his shoulder because no one takes him seriously because he looks like Postman Pat..
Anyway.
He was troughing his way merrily through his meal so I thought I'd go over and put in an appearance just to nip any potential complaint in the bud.
Having inquired as to the enjoyment of the meal and having received an answer(well a nod to be exact-perfect timing his mouth was full)indicating the affirmative, I left fairly pleased and moderately surprised that the extra workload with the Christmas post hadn't dampened his mood.
I didn't give him much thought for the rest of the night.
Later as I was exchanging a few pleasantries with the kitchen staff, the Blonde burst through the kitchen door.
'Biff.I want to twat him'
'Who?'
'Postman Pat.He's just been on a massive rant about the wine list and how he can go to X and Y and drink lovely wine for £12 a bottle and he doesn't want to come here and drink South African Shiraz at 6 quid a glass when other places round here have far superior wine lists.And can I 'feed' this information to you Biff and can I tell you that you need to raise your game quick smart otherwise he won't be coming back soon'

'Ive told you before about holding customers at gunpoint and forcing red wine down their necks' said Chef helpfully.

Now recently we've employed an Italian kitchen porter who's family have been in the restaurant trade for many years and reader, the conversations I'm having with him regarding common guest relation problems are proving insightful to say the least..in fact Im picking up quite a few tips on how best to deal with difficult customers.
I was particularly impressed with his description of his fathers likely response to this particular situation.Imagine the following in raised tone and and with accompanying frenzied hand gesticulation:
'You wanna go to  X or Y then?? Well getta  the fucka outta here,in fact I call you a cab.RIGHT NOW'
Giggle.
At this point the conversation became a little silly partly because our new KP either wasn't aware of Postman Pats stunning resemblance to his fictional namesake or had no idea who Postman Pat was,therefore the following wisecrack from Chef delivered with the usual ascerbic wit, was lost in a cavernous void of misapprehension.

'He won't need a taxi,he's got his red van parked outside'

'He has a red van?Jesus Christ fancy driving after all that red wine.. The BASTARD'..

I should have been Italian..


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