From time to time Sunday lunchtime seems to bring out the most venomous of complaints,all usually linked to people's own idea of what their meal should consist of.
We'd had a similar complaint last year from a party who'd made a forty five mile round trip to visit us for Sunday lunch without actually bothering to find out what was on offer first.Being of a vegetarian mindset was a bit of a problem given that the pub is in a rural farming area and with the Sunday lunch menu consisting of a predominately meat based menu of a traditional and non imaginative nature.All of which is clearly specified on the web site.The whole sorry business ended up on Tripadvisor in spectacular form.
Being on kitchen duties on the Sunday in question,it was late afternoon as I emerged just in time to see a youngish woman approach OCD boy.I could tell by the cut of her jib that all was not well.OCD boy isn't the best at dealing with complaints given his tendency to repeat back what the complainant has said with the result that a protracted conversation can continue for some time without any actual progression being made.Which often has the effect of magnifying and compounding the original problem .
I steamed over 'Is there a problem here?'
"Well yes,we've eaten here before but never on a Sunday and I'm afraid we were underwhelmed with the menu'
'Really?' I say 'we do serve a traditional Sunday lunch'
'Yes but that's nothing like what you serve during the week'
'No' I repeated 'we serve a limited menu on a Sunday-roasts and of course the usual starters and puds'
'Well I've brought all these people because we love your food and we didn't expect to only have a roast dinner for choice.'
'Well I'm sorry that's the case but it is specified on the web site,I'm sorry if its not what you expected but it is what we serve on Sundays'
'well that's really disappointing..don't you think that compromises your food offering??'
I glanced around the packed pub,over 100 plus diners pass through the doors every Sunday with many more being turned away every week.
'NO look round,can you see how busy we are?people love our roasts on a Sunday,we use very good local meat '(I'd like to know of anywhere else serving beef rib for 9.50).
At this point the woman seemed to accept what I was saying, I reiterated that it was a shame she hadn't checked out the on line menu first and to smooth things over I agreed to knock one of the meals off the bill as a gesture of goodwill.She took the bill and returned to the table.
*Have you been watching Russell Norman on The Restaurant man? Please refer to his excellent advice 'whilst nobody goes into the restaurant trade to make money,it is a problem of you don't make money'
(ie :why would we not offer what the majority of people want on a Sunday.)
At this point I returned to my original purpose-giving instructions for the rest of the afternoon.
Immediately, a chap in his early thirties from the problem table shouted over 'scuse me-we're waiting to pay the bill' He looked furious .
I headed over with the PDQ machine in my hand,he was already waving his credit card.
As I went to put the payment through the machine I was subjected the the most sustained and angry attack I've had the pleasure of fielding in the whole time we've been at the pub.The rest of the table looked slightly embarrassed but no one intervened as he vented his anger.He was going on and on about the meal being terrible.I stood my ground remained calm and told him 'look, as I've explained to your friend, I accept that the meal wasn't what you expected but it was not a terrible meal,its a traditional Sunday lunch using good quality local meats with everything freshly cooked today'
Its not often I'm lost for words but his comment that 'the vegetables were flung in some water and boiled' floored me momentarily.
He was like a flaming Rottweiller,after he'd slagged every aspect of the meal off for a good ten minutes whilst I stood there quietly with the PDQ machine in my hand,he finally rounded off with 'and the service WAS DISGUSTING'
'Oh really,what was the problem with service?'
I could hear the rest of the party muttering that there was no problem with the service,they were looking increasingly uncomfortable but not one of them tried to shut him up
'Yes there was, I'm waiting to pay the bill and you're standing over there CHATTING amongst yourselves'
At this point something snapped.
I calmly put the credit card on the table and pushed it slowly towards him.
'I don't want your money'
I turned and walked back over to the till and continued 'chatting'
The bill was £180.
The woman who made the original complaint came over to me and apologised for his behaviour and asked to pay.
I refused but in the end she ended up paying a portion of the bill.
As they got up to leave I made a point of going over and thanking them for coming, the knobster kept his head down,hopefully he'll have had some grief over it after he left.
Its not often I beal (well not more than once a week, but not usually in a work related situation)but much later as I began to relive the verbal attack I began to blab like a baby and could barely get the words out.
"Calm down' said Chef 'Why didn't you come and get me?'
'What difference would that have made?'
"I could have come out and twatted the bastard'
Which of course would have helped the situation ENORMOUSLY.
I'm still awaiting the whole sorry business to erupt on Tripadvisor and I'm pretty annoyed with myself for accepting any payment whatsoever as now there's the awful prospect that they MIGHT COME BACK.
And yes complainers do come back,that's when they become that most loathsome of customers: The Serial Complainer.
Fuckwittery of a more lighthearted nature was restored through last weekend.I thought I'd come across every conceivable complaint,but the general public never disappoint.
With the trend for arriving prior to opening time growing in popularity,last Saturday morning the slow conga around the beer garden had started around half an hour prior to opening and by ten to twelve a snake of around a dozen people were on their second circuit of the perimeter in the search for an alternative means of access,unnervingly brought up at the rear with what appeared to be a teenager clutching a teddy bear.
As I pushed open the door I managed to avoid flattening the throng queued up on the other side (why do they never expect the door to open outwards?) and being trampled underfoot in the stampede to the bar to be served first.There's a particular couple who win this race every week without fail,their seemingly frail outward appearance belying their apparent athletic prowess.They also manage to bag the table nearest to the fire before anyone else gets a look in.They seem to like order in their lives,you will know the sort of dullard who has their own glass (in this case a MUG) and if his favourite beer isn't available, there's hell on.In the same vein they only eat smoked salmon so even if its not on the menu we have make sure we've got some in.Its an easy order:Two smoked salmon,bowl of chips, a pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord,and a weak lime and soda(no ice).
Sometimes we don't even bother to write it down.
On this particular Saturday,in a break with tradition, for some reason the kitchen decided to plate the smoked salmon on rectangular shaped plates.As I went to put the plates down the chap raised his hand and shook his head slowly.
'I am sitting at a ROUND table,therefore I require a ROUND plate...'
For a moment I thought he was joking but then I noticed the wife was smirking as if it was obvious that a round table required a round plate.I stood there gobmacked for a minute before realising that they were indeed deadly serious.I glanced around wondering if there was a suitable rectangular table nearby that I could move them to.Sadly not.Unbelievably I took the plates back to the kitchen to get them replated on round plates.This news was not received with warmth in the confines of the already hotting up kitchen space.
'You're having a laugh' said Chef.
'Do I look like I'm laughing??"
I was just heading back through the door with the newly ROUND plated salmon when Chef called me back.'Hang on a sec you've forgotten this'
He was standing in front of the hot plate, arm outstretched with a medium frying pan in his hand.
'What's that for?'
'Its a round pan for you to whack them over their round heads with....'
NB I'm considering applying the same rationale to the customers; '`I'm sorry I can t serve you as your outfit doesn't match our soft furnishings..'
Presently, the couple who always order a bottle of house red and then leave it to 'breathe' on a hot radiator came in.They both ordered fish and chips and the requisite bottle of house red,which as usual was left to warm up on the radiator.Which reminds me of the couple a few weeks ago who asked us to microwave their bottle of red for 20 seconds to warm it up...and I'm not even joking.
Much later,when they came to pay the bill and as the usual enquiry 'have you enjoyed everything' was made,I was surprised by the response.
The wife leaned in towards me(at close range turned out to be a surprisingly whiskery specimen-must book an eye test) and whispered as if fearful anyone would hear.
"Well my husband enjoyed his but I didn't enjoy mine at all'
'Oh really ? what was the problem?"
'Well I really don't like fish and chips'
Which of course begs the question why the feck did you order them.
"You see I had to order them because there was nothing else on your menu that I like'
Erm,but you don't like fish and chips either..
'Out of interest what do you like?'
'I don't really like meat or fish,I like salads and vegetables '
'Well we do have some salads on the starter menu..'
'No. I wanted something hot today,so I had to order the fish and chips'
Well.Not quite Missus. Ordering food isn't compulsory...
'Yes last time we came we ordered the rib of beef and my husband ate it all as I don't like beef,and today he's eaten his own fish and mine too as I really don't like it'
Just before she left she grabbed my arm..'but don't worry dear..it wont stop us from coming back..'
Well.. knock yourself out Missus...
BEAM ME UP SCOTTIE, THERE'S NO INTELLIGENT LIFE DOWN HERE....