Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bad Hair Day

We're all human, we have bad hair days, bad moods, lazy can't-be-bothered days. But when a much-loved restaurant has a bad night, it can be truly miserable. Such was my experience at the Choux Shop recently.

Usually Choux is a shining example of how everything can go right in restaurant-land.

Sadly on this occasion the usual gold-star service let them down. It began with a phone that wasn't answered and was followed by terribly slow drinks orders, a gin and tonic served with mostly melted ice, and waitresses who had lost their normal sparkling manner.

I love Choux, but the staff were clearly having a bad night. Perhaps something had gone wrong, as sometimes happens. Perhaps someone hadn't shown up for their shift. Perhaps someone was ill. Perhaps there'd been a blazing row in the kitchen. Or perhaps something terribly tragic that is none of our business had affected everyone's mood. Most likely we'll never know.

Choux. A great restaurant - but human after all.



Hobart Restaurant Veteran said...

G.W. - Perhaps you should step into the choux's of Hobart's restaurant fraternity and do a night on the floor or at the stove.
Perhaps it would be a good idea for all diners to do a stint of 'Restaurant National Service' and see how hard it can be.
Every restaurant has its bad days and more to the point a bad customer will only make it worse.
A quick one G.W., did you make a booking or have you succumbed to Hobarts latest epademic, 'I don't know how to use a phoneaphopia'? Perhaps they were short staffed or just busy? Maybe all the customers walked in at once?
It is pleasing to see G.W. that you do however rcognise that we are after all, only human

Anonymous said...

Hobart Restaurant Veteran, Basil Fawlty couldn't have put it better. Try getting professional before you put the punter's cash in your till.

Anonymous said...

As GW pointed out, it was a once off. She's pointed out the faults and she has rebutted each fault with what she usually experiences and provides possible explanation. If you were managing a restaurant wouldn't you appreciate feedback that is constructive rather then someone saying "The service was sh*t, I wouldn't recomend this place to anyone blh blah blah"?

I know what I would prefere

Stephen said...

My reading of GW's article was that Choux is normally really great, but it had an off night, just like everyone does. GW didn't slam the restaurant but bent over backward to theorise (and empathise) about the things that might have gone wrong. In fact the title says it all.

Nothing to get uptight over.

Stephen said...

Vaguely on point, I've also noticed a downward change in happiness/service levels at Kaos.

Of course, two instances don't make an epidemic (except at Raincheck!), but GW's article got me theorising that maybe some nasty management stuff is happening behind the scenes. Perhaps employment contracts are being negotiated for the new financial year??

Hobart restaurant veteran said...

Dear All - I think that I have some latitude to vent my spleen. I work in the Industry and I am a customer so I see both sides of the coin. Fair enough? Most people who are in the Industry don't do it for the money and aren't just after customer dollars. There are many passionate people who work incredibly long and unsocial hours to try and give memorable dining experiences in what can sometimes be described as trying environments. It is easier to criticise than complement. There are many behind the scenes issues for restaurants and in an overcrowed market such as Hobart there are few diners at the top end of the market that support restaurants the calibre of Choux, Lebrina, et al. Maybe if positive comments were written then the industry would be bouyed and have a slower attrition rate of 'good waiter and chefs' leaving for other careers. I am not getting uptight but perhaps you should look at it from the side of those who do work in restaurants and truly empathise. The restaurant is aware of the criticism and knows full well of what happened that night. I am not a party to their operation but merely an outsider looking in who can empathise with a small but dedicated crew striving for a sucessful business. One last thought to those not in the Industry. Would it hurt you to be written about on a blog called 'Hobart Customer Bitch'?

Stephen said...

So Veteran, what happened at Choux that night? Enquiring minds would like to know.

On the broader topic, I think that the reviews and comments here help the industry. As a direct result of this blog, I've broadened the range of restaurants I dine at and increased the frequency that I dine out.

Some restaurants have since become favourites and get my business every week or two. For instance, in the absence of this blog I would never have dreamed of trying a Japanese restaurant in Moonah, but because of this blog I did, and since then plenty of my $$$ have passed through its till.

That said, I don't object to you venting your spleen, but it'd be especially interesting if you would add something specific to the debate - like your favourite venue, style etc. Maybe commenting on what's missing from the Hobart scene.

I'd honestly like to hear an expert talking about the industry in specific terms.

Hobart restaurant veteran said...

Evening All - Firstly to clear the air. I would never condier myself an expert. Experts claim to know everything about their chosen field. I am just a worker who happens to be passionate about their Industry and sees a critic as someone who criticises because they how but they can't. Anyway enough.

Stephen, I have no idea as to what happened at Choux that night as I was cooking in my own kitchen a long way away. I am merely speculating, which some my consider foolish but I do know something about the vagrancies of restaurant life.

I am heartened that G.W.'s Blog has inspired many to find new and interesting dining experiences and to help small (and often struggling) businesses to achieve some success.

As far as my favourite Hobart restaurant goes, well it depends on my mood.
Marque IV fo a special night or dinner to impress.
Francisco's for great value and tasty tapa.
Lebrina - Hobart's closest thing to a gastro temple.
Any one of the outer lying Vineyard Restaurants, Home Hill, Moorilla, etc for great relaxed dining.
Fluerty's in Birches Bay - a great new cafe addition
Sirens - inspired vegetarian and beautiful people.
And of course Choux for possibly Hobart's best wine list and excellent food and service.

Unfortunately I do not dine out as much as I would like to due to my occupation.

My favourite style? European. Southern French, Spanish, Italian and some Middle Eastern. They suit our climate and our wines.

What could be done to improve the Industry?
1. Stem the tide of great professionals leaving the industry. How this is done is anyones guess, but would you work Saturday nights for $14.00 with a smile on you face?

2. Customers must pay more for food and wine. The average profitability of an Australian restaurant is 2%. How many are making a loss?

# Too many restaurants with many being run by pipe dream amatuers who think it is a great and easy business to get into. Think again.

4.Training, training, training. But should we look at who is delivering the training, bueracrats or professionals with relevant experience.

5. Perception of the Industry. New job seekers look at 40 hrs per week in a call centre for $45K versus 60 hrs in a kitchen for $35K. There are not that many passionate people around anymore.

What else is missing from the scene? High and low end dining options. There are a lot of big, bulk standard operations around Hobart that are full almost every night but they are generic and run to a formula. More choice with less restaurants. Why does Hobart need eight Indian restaurants when we don't have a decent Italian bistro?

Dining ettiquette needs to be improved across the board. If this happens then maybe service will improve.

I hope this has answered some of your questions Stephen but if you would like an opinion on any other matter feel free to blog!

Anonymous said...

some thoughts

it is still a customer sevice industry?

being passionate about food does not give anyone (chef, staff etc) to be tempremental, elitist wankers.

patrons are not always well behaved to be sure.

veteran - settle.

Hobart restaurant veteran said...

Sorry if you think I am being a tempremental and elitist w#@*!r. I had no intention of this. I am not just passionate about food but all aspects of the industry. Customer service is still our number one priority as an industry (although some operators surely put profit first)but maybe a comprimise should be reached. If restuarants can get bad reveiws or negative press (deserved or undeserved) then perhaps we could do the same for those few diners that spoil a good night out and make life hard for floor staff. On the contrary we could also celebrate those who dine out and are wonderful customers to entertain. Impracticle I know but fair? If not then patrons may have to settle for more bad service or restauranters could unite and black ban them.

A thought. If someone walked into your house, insulted your spouse, told you your decor was crap, questioned your integrity, got drunk and damaged your property would you be upset?

99% of diners are fantastic but the 1% that aren't can make life hell. We only want diners to enjoy our hospitality as much as we enjoy their company.

Think about it.

Garrulous gourmet said...

I have to agree with Hobart Restaurant Veteran on a few issues, however no matter how unjust some of these previous bloggers critisisms may be, the reality is that your reputation is only as good as the last experience your customers have had in your establishment. Also, its tough making a cracker in this game when there isn't the population to support as many dining choices as ther are in Hobart, especially in the higher end of the market. Drive down any of the strips on a chilly Mon or Tues night & you'll see many an empty table in the more 'serious' restaurants.
If we really value the effort that some brave restaurateurs & chefs make, then we should start by patronising them more frequently & if we dont, we'll get the restaurants that we deserve. One positive suggetion could be to establish a meaningful & respectful dialogue between a restaurant that you patonise. This would give both parties an understanding of the expectations of the diner & of the host. Not unlike the live music scene, if we dont go out & enjoy them & communicate what it is we want & are prepared to pay for, innovative bands will just fade away & all we'll have left is another tired rendition of 'Khe Sahn'.

Anonymous said...

How stupid we customers have been. We should have known all along. It's our fault. We expect good food and service; turn up without begging - er booking - a table; get drunk and fall down; pay too little and don't dine out often enough. We insult these hard working food artists by failing to appreciate them. We are fools and deserve to be served shit.

inverted colon said...

Hobart restaurant veteran said he or she knows a little about the vagrancies of restaurant life.
I say keep the vagrants moving. Too many of them are running restaurants, while they should be scouring rubbish bins.

Ot is this the same thing in Hobart?

Life can be full of vagaries.

Anonymous said...

Common decency is all that we ask for Anonymous. How many times have you sat in a restaurant and thought - 'I wonder if the staff here have families, have had a good day, have already worked 14 hours?' Probably not that many.

Society really has made us all rather impersonable hasn't it?

Sorry Hobart for starting this cat fight.

Hobart restaurant veteran said...

Sorry, the last anon was Hobart Restaurant Veteran.

Intestinal Fortitude said...

Dear Inverted Colon,

Is your colon inverted or is your head stuck somewhere it shouldn't be?

inverted colon said...

Dear intestinal fortitude, thankyou for your concern over my physical situation. You refer to my head, singular. Does this mean I'm not a Hobart restaurateur?

Anonymous said...

How the passions runs deep! I find it curious that there are so many dissatisfied & frustrated patrons in Hobart! The level of outrage directed toward Hob. Rest. Vet. for just trying to show his or her take on the situation, is frankly a little disturbing. H.R.V. to me, is not an apologist for the shortcoming of the hospitality industry at all. Its just dawned on me that there must be quite a few of you out there who share the misguided & sad view that it is your right to take out your petty frustrations on hospitality staff. What must go through your mind? Car wont start. Running late. Relationship crisis. Overdue bills. Righto, I'll book a table & get some payback! How tragic! Save your money & the time of these people & go to the Mc-drivethrough, or queue at the All YOU CAN EAT BAR, your type are not welcome. But dont take my word for it, go to the stained apron website for a real perspective on what some hosp. staff think of customers like you.

hobart restaurant veteran said...

Merci Anon. How about we all have a group hug and get on with enjoying food wine and life.

Stephen said...

I can report that I tried Island Cafe in Elizabeth Street (opposite Bridges Brothers) for breakfast. Friendly staff (goth-girl included - I love the goth look), and nice house conversion surrounds.

Cooked breakfast $13 - scrambled eggs (a trifle damp for my tastes), generous fried mushrooms, fried tomato, generous chevapcici and lots of perfectly crispy bacon. Served with two thick slices of (I think) sour dough toast.

Very chocolaty hot chocolates served in tall mugs. A nice touch was that the marshmallows were pre-coated in the chocolate base before being plonked into the drink, yum.

No newspapers upstairs where we sat though - probably best to bring your own.

Oh, they seem to be proud of their coffee making prowess. I wasn't in the mood to try it (opted for another hot chocolate!!), but maybe some of the coffee connoisseurs who read Georgie's blog might give it a try.

Happy to recommend it to y'all.

After that breakfast my next stop was Paddy Palins to buy some hiking boots - got to work off those cooked breakfasts!

Anonymous said...

Stephen, put those new hiking boots on, face south, and just keep walking ....

Anonymous said...

Merci, HRV. Pretentious, vous?

Anonymous said...

AS an individual that does work with in the industry and also into getting amongst the industry I can understand GW's frustration, I to had an unenviable experience at the choux shop, similiar problems, non attentive staff, food not up to expectations and just a general uninviting vibe, but I also understand that we are all indeed human. THat means both hospitality workers and patrons, I know that I have had nights where I could hve been far more enjoyable to be around,both as a worker and as a patron- always polite and respectful but perhaps not the most pleasant person in the building. I think the most important thing in this industry is respect, not only for the patron but for yourself as an employee, of your food, of your knowledge of everything that combines to make an experience. I also agree with comments about trying to keep professionals within the industry, it is tough, and it is underpaid to a degree, and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) it is overun by individuals that are not doing it as their sole occupation, there is not as much passion as there should be. I think maybe it is important to remember that with people's support and peoples positive feed back Hobart's restaurants can improve and are improving, like everything in this wonderful city of ours it just takes a little time and patience!

Hobart Restaurant Veteran said...

I agree wholeheartedly. After all it is only in our best interests to look after the industry. But I don't think we should target the poeple who are not in hospitality as their career. Without those workers we would have no industry.

Pretentious, non. Respectful, oui.

Garrulous Gourmet said...

Thank you to The HRB's site for my own at times misguided meanderings, but I would appreciate some feedback to my own blogspot for some 'counter-point', with apologies to Michael Duffy & also no 'right-wing-lite' connotations, I promise?!
please go to for another perspective.

Tassie_gal said...

I find it interesting to see the varying points of view on what was in my opinion initially an innocent comment about service.
I personally admire anyone who chooses to work in the hospitality industry - I dont have the patience.
This topic is obviously one very close to various peoples hearts, and one which people appear to be vocal about.
Its just a pity some people dont know how to have a constructive adult conversation without name calling.
I'm going to sit here and watch and maybe learn something about human nature.

Stephen said...

Garrulous, I visited your blog - I so want to try your sour dough recipe. Have a hankering for some right this minute.

PS: can you turn on 'Other' or 'Anonymous' posting? I started a reply to your Pear Ridge note, but your blog is set up to only allow other bloggers (or at least blog account holders) to comment. Entirely up to you of course!

PPS: Apologies to Georgie for using her valuable pixels to talk to another blogger, but there doesn't seem to be a way to email a blogger direct.

Garrulous Gourmet said...

G'day Stephen, I have changed the settings as requested. Cheers GG.
(Sorry again HRB!)

Anonymous said...

seems you have some competition with some actual knowledge better lift your game bitch.

Stephen said...

seems you have some competition with some actual knowledge better lift your game bitch.

How incredibly obnoxious on two counts, first, the venomous and sanctimonious form of address; and second, the implication that only someone in the trade is allowed to have an opinion about the food and service at a restaurant. In fact, anon's sentiment is quite revealing - he believes that the customers don't count, after all, what would they know?

I enjoy Georgie's writing style, the content of her reviews and appreciate the knowledge she displays. Georgie hasn't led me wrong yet.

hobart restaurant veteran said...

I agree Stephen. And just what game should Miss Weston have to lift? Competition, no. Another point of veiw, yes.

P.S. Go back to school and learn proper grammer.

Garrulous Gourmet said...

I agree with Stephen & HRV's sentiments. I love HRB's blog. Its the reason I started my own, after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Anon, you were a little nasty with you comment. Don't you think that the exchange of view's is as enriching as the differences that they highlight? Isn't that the point? By all means contribute, but show some form. GG

batemans boy said...

totally agree with stephen, hrv and gg why would you express that kind of opinion! i'm stuck for words. keep up the great work georgie have only been in the state for a few months and would have been lost without your blog keep up the great work!

Christina said...

Gosh. Controversy. I'll definately have to try to think twice before commenting, and make sure my grammer is correct. I've been following all the action on Georgies site lately. Better than any soapie! But we must be pretty over it by now. Since I discovered Georgies blog, I've eagerly anticipated each new comment. I'd hate it if she stopped. She's doing what I do amongst just my group of friends. Talking about the great and not so great gastronomic experiences in Tasmania. Keep up the great work Georgie. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, customers and industry alike. I'm sure many great restaurants would love it if they didn't have to worry about "those bloody customers".
Waiting impatiently for your next blog,

Anonymous said...

hrb where r you? we miss and need you!

hrv said...

G.W.- I hope you are on holiday and not ignoring us?

Christina said...

Georgie. Where are you??? Please come back.

Andrew James said...

hey when are you gonna write another review?