Friday, 10 February 2012

Let Them Eat Bread

A few months ago we wanted to have a major decade-related family birthday celebration, but our favourite caff couldn't accommodate a party of nine, so we chose another local one, also Michelin-starred. I will call it The Gannet, for that was not its name.

Last week there was an exchange of emails:

Me to The Gannet
Will you please take our names off your mailing list. We shall not be visiting The Gannet again.

The Gannet to me:
Yes, of course we will remove you from our mailing list, right away. I am so sorry to hear that you won't be visiting The Gannet again, may I please ask why?

Me to The Gannet:
Well, yes, as you ask, I will tell you.
Last year my wife and I booked a birthday dinner for nine family members. We had some email correspondence with you beforehand, and consulted all the guests so that we were able to tell you exactly what everyone wanted for each of the three courses. We also ordered the wine and, to facilitate the service, provided name cards and a table plan. It was an enjoyable evening, and we had no complaints about the dinner or the service.
However, we had asked if there could be a few black olives and some amuse-gueules on the table when we sat down, and in your reply you wrote:
"...With regard to the amuse [sic] and black olives unfortunately they are neither things that we offer. We do however offer our chef's freshly baked bread, which at the moment is a warm fruit bread served with chestnut honey and butter. This is served to you once you are seated."
In other words, "...It's not what you want that matters, but what we intend to give you"; some such observation was made to me by several friends who heard the story. It was a very small thing that we were asking; the fact that, given more than a week's notice, you could not be bothered to get a jar of olives and put them in a couple of bowls shows an inflexibility and lack of eagerness to please quite unacceptable in any restaurant, let alone one of the top rank, and a customer proposing to spend five hundred pounds on a meal might well be dissatisfied.
As for the amuse-gueules, if your chef is unwilling to make them, or has never heard of them, so be it, but warm fruit bread and honey is no alternative.
Had we not already gone to some trouble in asking our guests (some of whom were coming from overseas) to order in advance from your menu, we would have cancelled the booking and gone elsewhere. As it was we merely resolved not to come again, and it was only recently, when I noticed your newsletters piling up in my junk mail folder, that I thought of asking to be removed from your mailing list.

The Gannet to me
Thank you for the feedback. We’re glad that you enjoyed the overwhelming majority of your experience at The Gannet.
We do not usually serve an amuse bouche or olives at The Gannet, it is out of keeping with the offering for which we have become renowned. Our pre-meal offering is complimentary and very well-received. We were offering our warm bread, chestnut honey and butter as an alternative to olives, and something more in-keeping with The Gannet's British philosophy and values. Had we known your predilection for black olives, we would, of course, have supplied them.
We’re disappointed you weren’t able to embrace The Gannet experience in its totality. The Gannet is purposefully an informal, relaxed restaurant. We remain committed to serving excellent local produce to a community passionate about food served with imagination and flair. As a kitchen, service team, family and business, we work incredibly hard to ensure visitors to The Gannet enjoy their experience, it is a commitment unrelated to the lining of our guests’ pockets.
It’s a shame the absence of an amuse bouche left you so down in the mouth and that you no longer wish to receive our newsletter especially as it continues to put a smile on the faces of those that receive it.
Me to The Gannet
Thank you for your email explaining why you were unwilling to give us what we had asked for.
To say that a few olives are "out of keeping" with your British philosophy and values is fatuous; if you reject everything foreign then you should not have "crème fraîche" on your menu. Merely leaving off the accents is not enough: you should call it "sour cream"'.
We do not have what you call a "predilection" for olives: we asked for them because one of our guests was an eight-year-old girl who lives in Spain and loves them; it had occurred to me that they would keep her amused while we had our pre-dinner gin. I did not think it would be necessary to explain this, imagining that a simple request for such a trivial thing would be enough.The absence of any hint of apology, and the patronising and generally arrogant tone of your response, makes me certain that our decision not to "embrace The Gannet experience in its totality" was a wise one.

I am not a complainer by nature, and am normally sympathetic towards the failings of those whose task it is to please the public. But here was a perfect example of the wrong way to handle a complaint, and I could not let this incompetent idiot get away with it.
Of course, it really wasn't worth the bother of writing at that length, or indeed at all. However, this exchange began last weekend, when I was snowed in and there was nothing much on TV.



Froog said...

You managed to cow them into silence so soon? I would have anticipated at least another one or two irrelevant, overlong, and irritating replies full of 'cut & pasted' promotional cliches.

If the name is not yet taken, I rather fancy opening up a restaurant called The Gannet (slogan: "Quality in quantity!). I fear this post will have rendered the name unusable in England for decades, though. Well done.

Tony said...

What a splendid idea! Let's set up a joint venture somewhere equidistant from our respective places of residence. Say, Ashgabat (Turkmenistan).

Froog said...

Ah, Ashgabat - a name full of romance! Pity it sounds like a choking expulsion of phlegm.

I knew a girl from Ashgabat once...

Tony said...

I'm not sure I believe you, Froog, but if it is true I am sure you will never forget her gzchokas.

Froog said...

Ha - I remember that post from my early peregrinations through your archive.

Did you just make that word up? The only three Google returns for it are all from OMF. Very impressive! Something beyond a mere 'Googlewhack'.

Tony said...

Yes, I did. Also styush, but in this case I got it wrong, and my uncle Golibit Inikat put me right and I had to apologise, as you will see in the comments to that 2004 post.