I'll start by saying the food was still excellent. Sadly in Melbourne where there are so many dining options especially at this price point, good food is not enough. We were a table of 7 adults and 1 child. I don't think we were particularly demanding at least I hope not.
We had brought in a fruit juice for my 2 year old niece that we had bought earlier and completely forgot that we'd be dining soon after. We relinquished it graciously and immediately upon request with no fuss and let them have it when we were told we couldn't bring outside beverages even for a child who is picky about food and drink. My parents were restaurateurs before they retired so we understood their viewpoint and respected it.
Naturally we had a discussion about it round the table as to whether flexibility should be shown (not as if we brought in all our own drinks and didn't buy any from them) and we generally agreed that if they let one person keep their juice it would set a precedent so although the flexibility for the child would have been appreciated, we could see it from their perspective and happy to comply with their wishes. As a side note, we did order plenty of beers, a bottle of wine, a mocktail and teas and coffees too.
Our waiter, whom I later found out is called Nicholas was efficient enough if not the warmest initially. It was a busy service and they were understaffed so it took a while to orders food and drinks and our drinks order took a long time to arrive. Te meal took a long time to get started. No real apologies or explanations given for delays. We came to the conclusion that they were understaffed ourselves.
Nicholas was stretched across multiple tables but as other people finished up he became more attentive to us so we appreciated he was trying his best. We found the other wait staff who occasionally served us to look harrassed and unfriendly. Requests for extra butter and milk for a coffee (which we had ordered but wasn't brought to us with the coffee) were met but with no warmth. We felt we were being unreasonably demanding.
Our bill came to just under $600 so I feel it was a significant amount but given the lack of good service we did not wish to tip. But our change was not returned to us and there was about $15 outstanding. So we waited and waited and eventually my mum and cousin went to the front desk to enquire about the change and to pick up the juice that had been taken away and the rest of us picked up our belongings and made a move to leave. Surely it's not right to automatically assume change is a tip?
As I walked past the cash desk (I was the last of our party to leave) and my mum had just finished the conversation with the duty manager about wanting her change and she had take in out of the till, I saw the duty manager roll her eyes and shake her head in a silent exchange with a party of two diners who were waiting to be seated.
Once we'd left the restaurant I felt very disgruntled as I felt we'd had a poor experience overall and what I'd just witnessed was the icing on the cake. True unprofessionalism. I'm a true believer that if a person doesn't the resilience, professionalism and interpersonal skills for hospitality they really should find another role because not only are they miserable in their job and not feeling any job satisfaction, they make life miserable for others who have to experience their service.
I felt so frustrated I actually turned round and went back into the restaurant as I wanted to let it be known that it hadn't been a good experience. I had really wanted it to be good as my family were visiting and I wanted to show them the joys of Melbourne. Luckily we've had some great meals during their time here and it's been this one that has been poor.
I confronted the duty manager and she explained that the roll of the eyes and the shake of the head was not regarding my mum's request for her change and the juice we'd brought in but that she was communicating to the other diners who were friends of her's. She also apologised that I felt this way and conceded it had been an understaffed shift so if there weren't many smiles it was because of the pressure of the work. Well of course that makes it ok then! It's fine to take out stress on paying customers! It's also acceptable to communicate silently to other diners when dealing with a present customer especially when they are your friends.My sarcasm indicates that I feel the apology and explanation were not genuine but I appreciate and acknowledge that at least I received an apology and explanation even if I had to instigate the conversation. At least on face value, an apology was given.
I appreciate just how difficult hospitality work is and that when things like team members not showing up or rostering done incorrectly or just when it's unexpectedly busy it is stressful for staff members. I grew up with parents owning a restaurant. But I also think those pressures come with the job and unfortunately it means having to disguise that stress and having to work harder and still treat the customers as if they're the most important people because they're still paying the same price and expecting the same level of service and the fact that the service is understaffed really shouldn't be an excuse. I work in recruitment and I know that receiving my salary means I have to be able to manage the stressful circumstances that come with my job such as candidates not showing up or requests for staff that are difficult to comply with and still ensure the candidate ad my stakeholders receive a good service regardless of how many positions I am recruiting for or whether my team members are absent and I have to help out with their workload too.
I rarely write negative reviews because I feel an empathy and sympathy for restaurateurs, hospitality staff, chefs and kitchen staff. I know just how hard it is to work in such an industry and that the financial rewards aren't necessarily in proportion to the physical hard work and emotional roller coaster that comes with trying to meet people's demands and expectations, Therefore the majority of my reviews try to see the positive in my dining experiences. In this case the overwhelming positive was the faultless food but sadly man does not dine on bread alone. It's a real shame my first review of 2015 and my 431st review overall is the worst I've ever written. I hope this isn't a sign of things to come!
If you're reading this and think I've been unfair or unreasonable I'd love to hear from you as I like to think objectively and take on board new perspectives.