News filtered back to the kitchen that trouble was brewing long before the order was even taken.
Mr and Mrs Angry asked to be seated in the small garden room and were dismayed to see that two(the larger ones) of the three tables had already been reserved.
'Oh' said Mrs A 'I thought you couldn't reserved tables here?'
Sensing her disquiet it was suggested she might prefer an alternative table inside the pub.
'No, its too dark in there,we'll stay here'
To cut a long story short two lemonades and two steak sandwiches were ordered,then subsequently sent back to the kitchen as they were too rare.The steaks were redone(well done) sent again,eaten,then the bill was paid and they left.
Later that afternoon I received a very irate phone call from this lady remonstrating about her dining experience.
These were her main issues and my responses:
1.The table was too shiny and had obviously been polished with FURNITURE POLISH.This is a Health and Safety issue and is very dangerous as drinks could 'slide off the table into peoples laps'.
The table is over 100 years old,an old Britannia bar table made in Sunderland and lovingly polished by a succession of landlords,resulting in the attractive deep mahogany patina.The table has supported many drinks over the years,very few of which have slid off by themselves.
|Dangerously polished table exhibiting potential slip hazard.|
2.The steak sandwich was raw and this is 'very bad practice as a pregnant woman might eat it'.
( Last time she came the steak sandwiches were lovely and were all cut up into little slices,about a year ago..)
All of our steaks are Eblex standard and are locally sourced from a small independent supplier, many of which come from his own farm.We could buy cheaper but prefer to support the local economy and enjoy a better quality product.We sell hundreds of these sandwiches,our standard is to serve them medium rare,unless diners specify otherwise.
As such they pose no health risk.
(we have been here 4 years and have NEVER 'cut the steaks up into small pieces' therefore it must be at least five years since she last visited)
3.The plate was cold.
The plate was cold as the sandwich is served with a salad accompaniment,were the plate hot ones salad would be limp and wilted, giving cause for complaint
4.The bread roll was cold.
The inside of the bread roll is toasted, the outside is not.That's just the standard, though if any diner were to request we toast both sides we would be happy to oblige.
5.There was no more than a teaspoon full of fried onions on the steak
The fried onions are not the main component of the sandwich and as such no valid complaint can be made over the quantity,the steak is 6oz as specified on the menu.Had more onions been requested then these would have been forthcoming.
6.There was a disabled person having difficulty negotiating the unsatisfactory access,with staff offering assistance otherwise she would have asked for a discount on the meal.
The Inn was built around 1740 and retains many original features.Being built into a hillside there are many levels and steps to negotiate which does not make access ideal for less able customers.Our staff always make this information available over the telephone for diners who check ahead,they always also offer assistance if necessary.As it happened this particular customer had been spoken to on the phone and was happy to deal with any difficulties he might experience.I was pleased the staff had been helping him.
7.She did not experience £19.40 worth of enjoyment.
This is a tricky one.How does one quantify in monetary terms enjoyment value?
To be perfectly honest we're in the business of selling steak sarnies,not enjoyment.Though admittedly, hopefully enjoyment would be a side product of the eating experience.
I've been giving this a lot of thought and am considering introducing an AA Gill type guide on our menus.
Its proving almost as complicated as the Duckworth-Lewis method,its so bloody subjective,I mean, enjoyment of a steak sandwich for a committed omnivore is on a completely different scale to that of committable vegan...
I've managed to come up with a potential rating system though:
* (0-20 pounds sterling) find a fiver in an old jacket pocket at the back of the wardrobe
** (20-30 pounds sterling) drop the bandit
*** (30-50 pounds sterling)modest win on the premium bonds
**** (50-75 pounds sterling)unexpected windfall from an unknown relative
***** (100+ pounds sterling)100-1 outsider comes in on the geegees.
I spent over half an hour on the telephone apologising that Mrs A hadn't enjoyed her dining experience and attempting to placate her, at the end of which she demanded a 'written response' otherwise she would report us to Environmental Health,and also Visit Northumbria as it was 'disgraceful that visitors to the area be subjected to our food'.(I was a bit bamboozled by this,does that mean its OK to subject local people to it??)
Now normally with any genuine compliant,I would offer a refund or in some cases a gift voucher.The tone of this telephone call however was confrontational and threatening.
Chef was of the opinion that we should not be intimidated by threats therefore we mulled our response over the weekend.
On the Monday morning we received a phone call from our local Environmental Health Officer advising us that they'd been contacted by Mrs A about the 'raw' steak.Chef was informed that Mrs A had been advised that there was 'no risk'.The lady from food services told him that they were obliged to inform the food outlet when they receive a complaint,valid or no.The EHO commented to Chef that Mrs A was incredibly irate..
Next day a letter arrived by recorded delivery headed thus:
'Supply of Goods and Services Act 1983'
'I demand a refund within 7 days due to the goods being unsatisfactory'
The seven day period has expired.I wonder what the next move will be.Lets hope it doesnt make the local press..
Chef says she hasn't a leg to stand on as shes consumed the evidence...
Is there any other business where customers can consume the goods then express dissatisfaction??I mean imagine if she purchased the very same steaks herself from the same butcher,rustled up a tasty tea for her and the hubby,then went back the next day and asked for a refund because the 'enjoyment value' wasnt attained??
Its just not going to happen is it?
Next day the sun was shining brightly,the garden was packed and our usual number of covers increased two fold.As a consequence Chef was up the wall, with fifteen checks on the board.Further diners continued to appear.We had to advise all new orders that there would be a wait for food of around 40 mins.
At this point a certain well known sports person tipped up and was duly advised of the wait.He enquired if there would be a similar wait if he had a couple of cold starters.
Of course there wouldn't be.
Presently, the cold starters were sent,following which an exceptionally angry lady loudly mouthed off that she had ordered first and we were offering preferential treatment just because he was famous,and it was an absolute disgrace.She was sitting on the table directly next to sports person who obviously took everything in without comment.We all cringed in unison.
Now, well known sports person pays us a visit every week and on two occasions over the past couple of months has been turned away as we haven't had a table for him.On his intial first visit a couple of years ago he also went away empty handed when the particular barman working became starstruck and was momentarily superglued to the floor and unable to move.I was quite annoyed at the time.So actually Im surpised he returns at all,especially with no grudge borne.
Chef is very strong about everyone's money being the same.
It must be awful being famous.
By the way The barman is now working in London as a photographer,I hope he's overcome his nervous disposition..
In other news, I helped out at the fortnightly quiz over at the pub last week.
We provide a few tasty treats for the quiz people,sandwiches and the ubiquitous triple cooked chips(though I'm loathe to call them so on the menu).
Anyhoo,I was approached at the bar by a brusque chap with a dozy looking Labrador(not the farting one).
'Are we getting sandwiches tonight??'
Chap 'Well,where are they???'
Self:'We'll be putting them out in the interval'
Chap(voice audibly raised in annoyance)'well,we're up to round five now'
At this point he raised his palms upward in Jesus type pose(but not a genuflecting one), eyebrows raised and gesturing in disgust.
I resisted the desire to sarcastically retort:
'Bless me Fadder fur oi haf sinned...'
He then approached the quiz master who compliantly called a break.
The coal man at the bar,a man of few words, smiled a knowing smile 'some of these lot don't come for the quiz,only for the sarnies...',then smirked and went back to his Southern Comfort and Lemonade.
The sarnies were duly despatched.I stepped aside and witnessed the stampede to the table with Rude Chap heading the pack.Twenty minutes later I noticed he was still grazing on a small personal buffet of sandwiches which he'd placed in the middle of his table.
As I cleared the plates, Rude Chap anticipated my approach,picking up his plate and proferring it with arms stretched over his head in a flag like manner with his back to me..
Dear Reader,you must know that I walked away and left him sitting there with the plate in mid air..
He was first to leave, almost before the quiz was over,his parting shot a brief:
'there weren't enough sandwiches tonight'
This is fundamentally wrong.How can there not be enough sandwiches when they're bleeping free??????
Complimentary sarnies are a privilege, not a right and as such may be withdrawn by the management at any time.
Next week I plan to vary the offering by providing a small bowl of olives and a ramekin of plain crisps(preferably past their best before date)....
Its the least I can do.
PS.Our steak sarnies are the Biz.