Although this is not my usual food post, but I feel that it is still very much food-related. It may sound like a bit of a rant, but I thought that I would share my experience today - about how poor communication and customer service can easily ruin a customer's experience.
So, earlier in the week, I had called up The Gallery at Fortnum & Mason to make a reservation for brunch, specifically quoting that I had a voucher as well. I was asked what sort of voucher it was, which I answered (the source, the value etc.), and was told to just bring it in on the day. It was almost halfway through another work week, and so this was a little perk to look forward to on the weekend. My dining partner, and best friend, was as usual having a tough week at work, and I was hoping that this would be a nice way to end his week on a happy note.
What could possibly go wrong, right?
I had arrived earlier and was seated at our table, whilst waiting for WK, who was running a few minutes late - typical man. The lady at reception requested for my voucher, which I handed over - no questions asked.
A few moments later, WK arrived, looking rather flustered from running - not the first time, but hey, I'll let him off again.
The waitress soon approached our table to take our orders, looking quite sullen and miserable.
"That must be one of the saddest waitresses that I have seen", WK stated after she had left.
"I know right, I thought that it was just me that noticed!", I added.
Our drinks arrived first, and we sipped away, without a care in mind - everything seemed normal.
We had ordered a starter of crab on toast to share between us. After the obligated photos, we slowly picked away and chatted as usual. When we had finished, our plates and cutlery were cleared - still, no one approached us to query the voucher.
So here we are now, practically halfway through our meal, and all of a sudden, the receptionist comes over and states that the voucher was not valid - or rather blatantly saying that I was at the 'wrong' restaurant.
"Oh, have you placed your orders already?", she asked.
This was more than half an hour after we were seated, and there was nothing that was brought up previously regarding the validity of the voucher.
I was obviously quite baffled by that statement, and told her to give me a few minutes whilst I searched for the email. After much frantic scrolling through my email and twitter feed, I reluctantly got out of my seat and walked over to reception and showed her the email and message, to prove that I indeed had NOT booked at the wrong restaurant. Having lived in London for over two years and being well acquainted with the restaurant scene, that sort of assumption was just not acceptable. For someone who is generally not very comfortable in conflicting situations, here I was now faced with two members of staff who were adamant that I had come to the wrong venue. By this time, I had totally lost my appetite and requested them to hold off our mains whilst I tried to make some calls. I frowned with disbelief as I made my way back to the table, obviously getting some strange looks from surrounding tables. Having failed to find a direct contact number, I sent out some messages, hoping for a quick response.
One of the receptionists/staff members then came over and said that our mains had already been plated and that they were about to bring them over.
Great - not only was I being accused of presenting an invalid voucher, but now here I was having to force-feed myself food when I had lost all desire to eat.
I had a dark and heavy cloud hanging over my head, as I tried to suppress my tears of frustration. WK watched over me with worried eyes, and tried his best to comfort me as usual - "It's okay, let's just eat, pay for the food and get out of here".
This was unbelievable - if I had been dining with someone else besides my best friend, I would have been even more embarrassed.
After reluctantly picking away at our food, my heart skipped a beat as my phone finally flashed.
I passed my phone over to the receptionist, who then handed it over to the manager who had finally come down to the restaurant.
Somehow and somewhere along the way, there had been some miscommunication (or rather NO communication) between certain parties.
We watched from our table as the conversation took place over the phone at the reception area. Eventually, we were approached by the restaurant manager, who initially appeared to be quite defensive - giving me names of who was to blame, which personally meant nothing to me. I then calmly and politely explained to him about how we felt about the experience - not so much about the voucher, but about how the situation was handled.
It would have been a different story if we had been informed about this from the very beginning - NOT whilst we were halfway through our meal. Because then we would have had the option to maybe investigate further and return another day, and possibly eat elsewhere in a more comfortable setting, and pay for a meal that I actually wanted to eat. As like any other foodie, I have an endless list of restaurants that I would like to visit, and to be honest, Fortnum & Mason, was never one of them, until I won this voucher. The voucher was a bit of a bonus, which I am grateful for it, but I believe that the whole situation was just handled very poorly - not something that I would have expected from such an establishment.
I eat out a lot, and personally I don't mind spending money on food, as long as I have been served good food with a smile. And sometimes, even great service could compensate for less than average food. A few more smiles and a bit of enthusiasm can certainly go a long way.
God knows how many emotions rushed through me during that experience - anger, frustration, confusion, embarrassment?
All I knew was that I could not wait to get out for some fresh air.
In the end, the manager sorted out our bill, and was kind enough to offer us a complimentary meal on our next visit, which we were grateful for.
Although we may give it a while to let this bitter taste disappear before returning - hopefully next time leaving with a more positive experience.
The Cheekster, signing out x