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Nothing Like Good Customer Service

I have to admit, I've been feeling like I've lost my blog mojo for the past couple of weeks - that's what a surfeit of festivity can do to you. But a thoughtful article by Taccuino Spuntino (aka Russell Norman of Polpo and Polpetto) about how complaints should be dealt with prompted me to get back into the saddle. Do read it. It's reproduced from the latest Fire and Knives food quarterly.

I was particularly intrigued by what he said about Heston Blumenthal - specifically Russell had attended an industry Q&A where Blumenthal was asked whether he thought food or service was more important in a restaurant.

'Without missing a beat, he replied, “Service. Every time.” He explained that you can mess up the food in a restaurant but still turn the situation around with gracious service, by compensating the customer, offering alternatives, bringing treats and bending over backwards to make them happy. But no matter how brilliant the food is, if you give poor, rude, forgetful, amateur or arrogant service, you will lose that customer forever. They will never come back. I have to agree.'

Now the Fat Duck is considered by many as the Holy Grail of restaurants (although Noma has arguably stolen its crown). Unsurprisingly therefore, my husband and I have tried to visit for a meal, but thus far we have been unsuccessful - and not for the reasons you might think.

The first time I got through (trying for my 30th birthday), the reservations manager laughed at my presumption that there'd be any space, and then said she recognised my name and accused me of not honouring a previous booking**.

The second time we got through (trying for my 31st birthday), we actually got a table - under my husband's name I hasten to add. I was over the moon - I told everyone and anyone that we'd taken the day off especially, as we were going to the mother-loving Fat Duck for my birthday.

Then Fate dealt us a blow as volcanic ash from Iceland meant that a work trip to the US turned into a sort of purgatory for my husband, as he became stranded out there with no idea of when he would be able to get back - a member of the UK's "temporary exiles".

Now the Fat Duck has a stringent cancellation policy which says that parties of two must:

"give at least 72 'hours' notice' [sic]. In the event this is not honoured we will charge a fee of £150 per person".

So if I didn't inform them at least three days in advance, we would forfeit £300.

I didn't know what to do - we couldn't afford to throw away £300, but there was a slim chance my husband would get back in time, and securing the booking had meant a solid hour of pressing redial, so I canvassed the people of Twitter to ask them their opinion.

Most of them told me I'd be mad to give up such a golden ticket, and offered to be my dining companion if my husband didn't make it. I considered this, but then felt it wouldn't be right if the person across the table from me wasn't my other half. This wasn't meant to be a girly lunch or a friendly catch-up - it was meant to be the meal of a lifetime with a pricetag to match.

So on the Monday before our Friday reservation, I decided to ring the Fat Duck and explain my predicament. Of course, there is only one phone number, so I spent the next two hours pressing redial despite already having a booking. Eventually I got through, explained my situation and threw myself upon their mercy.

I said to the lady, "I wouldn't ask normally, but these are fairly exceptional circumstances, so is there any chance at all you could please give me an extra day's grace before I have to cancel ie till Wednesday - my husband's trying to get on the next available flight, but I won't know if he will actually make it before then".

She said to me, "Madam, there are no exceptions. We still have to fill our tables".

I responded slightly desperately, "No, please - could you ask your manager if there's any chance at all?". She put me on mute for a few minutes and then came back to me and said, "You can have four more hours".

Four more hours was pointless, as I'd only know if my husband was going to make it if he was able to get on a flight that evening.

So I asked if they would please postpone my booking to the next available date, thinking to myself that as I already had a reservation, they wouldn't mind doing this. I was told that this was out of the question and that if I cancelled I would go to "the back of the queue" and have to rebook in the same manner - ie by ringing exactly two months in advance of the day I wished to dine.

Frustrated and saddened, I asked for some advice from a friend, who told me I ought to contact Heston Blumenthal's PR directly. I emailed her and explained the situation and asked her if there was any chance she could either extend the grace period for me or postpone our reservation, given the unusual circumstances.

She didn't reply, and so the next day, with a heavy heart and 72 hours before my birthday lunch (after another hour of redialling), I cancelled our booking - I wasn't going without my husband and I was damned if I was going to hand over so much money for nothing.

Of course, then my husband was able to get on a flight that evening and was back home with me on the Wednesday night. We went to Launceston Place instead. They fit us in at the last minute. Now that's customer service.


Heston Blumenthal's PR never replied to my email, but a friend of mine was so indignant when she saw how crestfallen I was that she wrote to the Fat Duck (on paper and everything) to explain exactly what had happened, to express her disappointment as a previous diner herself and to ask them if they might offer to book me in again. Note that I didn't put her up to this, but she did show me a copy of the letter after she sent it.

Astonishingly they didn't bother replying to her, but they did email me (she'd included my details). This was what they said:

"I hope this email finds you well and you don’t mind me contacting you.

We have recently received a letter from your friend [X] who explains that you have found our reservations policy somewhat frustrating. [X] has asked us to contact you to make a reservation for you.

Firstly, please accept our apologies for any frustration and inconvenience caused. Our telephone lines are extremely busy at times and as we are only a very small restaurant with just 14 tables, we do become fully booked quite quickly.

I’m afraid that we cannot make any exceptions to our Reservations Policy. All bookings are taken by telephone only on 01628 580333. Reservations are taken two calendar months in advance.

We feel it would be unfair to our other guests if we were to make an exception to the policy.

We hope to see you at The Fat Duck in the future."

That was me told then. Bend over backwards, Heston? More like make me feel like a shyster nuisance.

So anyway, that experience of customer service before I even got through the door has completely put me off ever going to the Fat Duck.

I know ultimately I was asking them to do me a favour and they were within their rights to say no, but there are ways of letting people down gently, and saying "no can do" in a nice way.

The whole thing left me feeling shabbier than the time my husband tried to book the Ivy for my 25th birthday and they told him that they "didn't do lunch" (which was a lie, by the way).

"...if you give poor, rude, forgetful, amateur or arrogant service, you will lose that customer forever..."

Though, I have just booked Dinner by Heston, so clearly I'm a glutton for punishment. And it was dead easy to book, you know.

If I'm lucky, maybe the maitre d' will give me a wedgie.

** Edited to add: This accusation was wrong - read the last paragraph here

12/01/2011 - Looking forward to new TV series "Service" with Michel Roux Junior and Fred Sirieix starting tonight - see further "Why is service still so bad in the UK?" (BBC News)


OMG!! All that pain and hassle and finger exercise from pressing the redialing button. Surprising how impactful the article by Taccuino Spuntino has made. It has made me ponder a bit after reading it.
I am totally with you. After all that I will be put off going to fat duck. Their reservation policy has lost that humanity factor. Hope you did still have a good celebration though.
Mr Noodles said…
A bit piss poor on HB's part, and the reservations manager sounds like someone drunk on power - I might've told her to stick it if she accused me of not honouring a previous booking.

Whilst I might not like the whole deposit palaver, I can understand why high-end restaurants do it. That said then to show zero flexibility due to an act of God is shocking.

Shame on you, Heston. Not that I guess he gives a toss what I think.
Unknown said…
I know they are popular but it definitely sounds like the management has a stick up there. Also, being as they are THAT popular I am sure they would be able to have a cancellation list where you can grab a table if someone cancels last minute.

I'd love to go myself too but what a shame they are so awful at customer service.
meemalee said…
Kay, Mr Noodles, Deepa -

It's not his fault per se. I think the system needs sorting - I see you can now book the Fat Duck online which was not the case at the time.

I don't know whether the phone system has also been overhauled - when demand is that high, there should be a queue ie something that says "You are no 134 in line" so if you want to wait, you can and if you don't think it's worth it you can bail.

As it is, the times I tried you just got disjointed snippets of Alice in Wonderland as you waited - that is, if you got through at all.
Greedy Diva said…
Forget the Fat Duck, people - if you're going to Bray, try The Waterside Inn. (Actually, I've never been to the Fat Duck, it's probably fabulous, but I LOVED The Waterside Inn).
What an interesting post. Very sad and frustrating to hear about your experiences with the booking system and PR for The Fat Duck.
I was lucky to get a table last year after my friend had been on the phone all week for periods of an hr and a half on constant redial (painful! to say the least) She was trying to book for her 40th bday and it took so long to get a booking it ended up being a week later, on mine (lucky for me).
One of our party had gastritis and obviously couldn't make it, they didn't seem to care at all, didn't even give us an extra"sweet shop" bag to take away for our extra £150, when we asked.
I understand that such a small restaurant of that calibre needs to have strict booking rules but I have never heard of anywhere not having any flexibility what so ever. Would they have the same rules if an A celebrity sent the email/letters? No I don't think so.
Unknown said…
Vintage Macaroon, while I understand the cancellation policy, I would have been tempted to seriously kick off if they'd refused the take away sweet shop bag for someone that had in effect already paid for the dining experience, but had simply been ill and unable to attend. A very bad show on their behalf.
PDH said…
Self important Twunts... Facks me off, jumped up bus boys that's all they are at the fat duck!

With attitudes like that they do not deserve your business MiMi!
Julie said…
I have put a meal at the Fat Duck as one of my todo's this year and now am seriously wondering whether to bother.
If we do get there I am not sure I am going to want to spend time and hard earnt money on staff who could well treat me like that face to face.
Real shame
meemalee said…
@Greedy Diva - Yes, Waterside Inn is definitely still on my list :)

@Vintage Macaroon and @Donald Edwards - Tha's shocking! They wouldn't give you the sweetshop bag for your poorly friend but they did take £150? :(

@Pavel - My heart is set on Noma now :P

@Julie - Don't be put off by my experience - I just wanted to explain why I'd given up on the idea myself.
Becci said…
Especially bad considering they could easily get replacements for your table within a moment's notice (they have a waiting list as long as the stick up that reservation manager's jacksy)! Sounds like they're just ripping their customers off for £150 a pop.
PDH said…
I would love to go to Noma! I found this twigs and the shadow they cast reminded me of a dream I once had and I had to see how they could taste with the Sparrow I found, so I made a tartare with a tramps brain and it was delicious I dont think he is a chancer or nothink! :P
Anonymous said…
First world problems raised to an art form.
Rupert Parsons said…
Perhaps Heston's PR department are not advising him as well as they might?
A large part of eating out is the ambiance. If you are having a meal and feel that it is in spite of hostility or booking difficulties, then you are far less likely to recommend to others.
Being made to feel special costs nothing...
Anonymous said…
BUT, you have booked for Heston's New place? That kinda puts your outrage in its place doen't it
My God that is unbelievable.
Seems like he might be a bit too detached from the crux of his business otherwise he wouldn't have made the comment about customer service.Maybe its time he got back down and dirty and found out what the crack in his business really was,or take note of how the mighty have fallen..
Good luck with the wedgie!
Anonymous said…
Is it true that you were a previous no-show? You don't address this.
meemalee said…
@Anonymous 1 - My whole extended family is from Burma, barely scraping by. I send them money to help as much as I can, and I've sponsored several of them to come and train to be useful members of society in this country. I'm lucky enough to have done well enough myself that I can save up and eat in nice places occasionally. Don't turn this into a BBC Have Your Say board.

@Anonymous 2 - Did I not say I was a glutton for punishment? Anyway, I had an issue with the staff at one of his establishments, not with him.
Krista said…
So I have mixed thoughts about this. A restaurant is a business and especially when you're a small business with 14 tables, every table counts. They know you're coming and they go out and buy all the ingredients and get everything ready for you. They've spent money. They want to get it back. If you don't show up, they lose. They don't want to lose.

Two or three years ago, I had to cancel a class at The Make Lounge in Islington because I had to go to Chicago unexpectedly for work. I cancelled with what I felt was plenty of notice--maybe 48 hours? No dice. They kept my money. They were nice about it though and explained how they had already bought all the material for me. They did, however, make a suggestion that I think was missing here: They suggested I find my own replacement. Ultimately this failed--no one apparently wanted to learn how to knit a Christmas stocking--but I still at least had a chance.

So I guess my point is--if this was anywhere BUT the Fat Duck or any other place that anyone would gladly sign up for, I'd totally say the restaurant was in the right in charging you for not showing up. But surely, SURELY, some naive bugger out there was trying to call to get a same-day table. And here's the suspicious part of you think they actually let the table go free? I think not. For the same reason they charged you the cancellation fee because they are a business, they probably took a last minute booking because they're a business.

What actually bugs me more about your story is the restaurant denying you a booking the first time around because they said they recognized your name and you had cancelled before? (I'm assuming this isn't true.) That's pretty ridiculous. Even if you had cancelled before, I mean come on, someone could have died or been in an accident or had a baby or gotten stuck somewhere BECAUSE OF A VOLCANO or God knows what else. Odd. People don't cancel reservations because they are conspiring against restaurants.

Last question and then I'll shut up...could you have given the booking to someone else? Would that have worked? If so, was there a reason you didn't pursue it?
meemalee said…
@Rupert Parsons - Who knows. I only felt prompted to say something because I found what he'd said in the Q&A was so ironic.

@Northern Snippet - Thanks, I'll be wearing special pants.

@David - No, I was not a previous no-show and actually, I did address it - check the link "the first time" - as I'd written about it before, I didn't think I needed to spell it out again.
meemalee said…
@Krista - Hi Krista - thanks for your comment. Okay, will try to address your questions in turn.

(1) If I didn't show up, then yes - whoever they were, they'd be quite right to charge.

But that wasn't what happened here - I just asked if they'd give me one more day - they'd still have 48 hours' notice.

Perhaps that isn't long enough notice, in which case fair play to them, but this wasn't explained to me.

Bear in mind that I was overwrought as I was so worried about my husband being stuck in the US - they showed no sympathy and made no suggestions. They just repeated "no exceptions".

2) Yes, I'm sure there would have been people to fill the table at 48 hours' notice. As Becci points out above, they actually have a daily waiting list.

3) The restaurant didn't deny my first attempt to book (see the post I linked to). There was no room anyway - but they were rude and accused me of having just cancelled a reservation.

4) I asked around but no-one I knew was free to take the day off. I thought about offering it over Twitter to someone I didn't know, but then wasn't keen since if that person then didn't show up, I'd still get charged the full whack, since my credit card had secured the booking.
The Grubworm said…
It's a good post and the discussion afterwards covers most of what I would say. But one thing i think missing from HB's answer (and the question ), that becomes clear from your experience is that more than the service, it's who you employ that really matters.

If, like HB, you have many other commitments, it's crucial to get the right sort of people, people who share the ethos of making the customer (or potential customer) the priority.

It's people who make great service (and food) not the service itself. You can have the most enlightened policy in the world in place, but if you have the wrong ego-err-person answering the phones/serving the food then you might as well tear it up and throw it out the window.
dreamalittle said…
Wow, that is unbelievable - to verbally rude is bad enough but to put it in writing!?!
meemalee said…
@The Grubworm - You're totally right. The person on the end of the phoneline is the first contact you have with the restaurant - doesn't matter how wonderful it is - so you need someone with a little empathy.

I don't mind if someone says no to me if it's done gently.

@dreamalittle - That part did baffle me a little. Funny how an email with so many words for sorry can still come across as a F*ck Off.

Everyone else - it's not outrage or indignation that prompted me to write about this. Just the irony of what Heston said considering I received so little sympathy from his staff at a time when I was already feeling vulnerable.

Hope I don't come across as whiney or self-pitying, but if I do, apologies, I'm not usually like this.
One last thought,on re reading,Im amazed they didn't respond to your friends handwritten letter personally.I mean once someone goes to the trouble of putting pen to paper there is no option but to offer the same courtesy.As far as she is concerned (I know you will have informed her but thats not the point)her letter was ignored.How rude.
bron said…
I am so sorry to hear what a horrible time you had of it. We went last year, and it was one of the most amazing evenings ever. Truly sensational. It seems a terrible thing to me that you missed out on that - and then had to put up with such dire service as well.

Hope Dinner works perfectly!
meemalee said…
@Northern Snippet - Yes, she's still ticked off about that!

@bron - Thanks re Dinner :)

Most people I know who've been to the Fat Duck have loved it so much so I'm quietly gutted, but I really couldn't face trying to book again.
Gina K said…
We had a COMPLETELY different experience! My husband forgot to book "two months in advance" for a special birthday meal for me. He rang & got (appropriately) short shrift and was told to ring back. WHich he did, at weekly intervals. Within a couple of calls, he was called back to say they'd got a table for us. We went, had the meal of a lifetime, with supreme service. We're not "names" & will never be able to afford to go there again, but because he was polite and cheerful, they were lovely to us. This is a small restaurant, remember, where all bookings count. Viva Heston!
I completely agree with you that service is the most important part of a restaurant meal. When I was looking back at the meals I wrote about in 2010, it was the ones that came with exemplary service that stood out and made me smile to remember them (and fortunately, really great service is often paired with good food).

And there were several restaurants that served up great, sometimes fantastic food, but the service was slow/indifferent/just plain bad that I might as well have been eating ashes for all the pleasure I took in the food.

Being made to feel welcome is essential, which is where laughing at someone because they phoned up to make a booking is a big fat FAIL.

And even if you were the woman who had cancelled before, so what? As your ash cloud problem demonstrated, sometimes people do have to cancel bookings. It's a meal at a restaurant, not an audience with the Pope. Little perspective, restaurant diary manager.

And from a business POV I can't understand why they didn't at least offer to move your booking back - even if it meant moving you back to a date in 2 months.

Wouldn't have been ideal for you, but it would've left you with the impression that they would like you to come and eat there. Whereas the impression they've left you with is that they couldn't give a toss. Did no one remember that a happy customer (or nearly customer) tells one person, an unhappy customer tells everyone?
Thea said…
What a good post, and one that proves that it easy to say all the right things about customer service but actually much harder to train your staff to treat customers with respect.

I think the thing that would annoy me is the apparent rudeness of their approach. I don't disput their right to a bookings policy or their right to stick to it but manners and compassion would make the experience much more palatable.
meemalee said…
@Gina K - Thanks for your comment - I'm glad your experience was different and that you had a lovely time. Viva Heston indeed.

I have to point out though that I'm not a "name" either, and we'd saved up for this meal.

I'm also not massively keen on your implication that the reason they weren't "lovely" to me was because I wasn't "polite and cheerful". I was.

@Ginandcrumpets - Popularity breeds complacency I guess. I really did think they might be nice enough to offer to rebook me at the next available date :(

@Thea - You've said what I wanted to say but much more succinctly :)
Deanna said…
Crikey, this is a tough one.
What a nightmare-ish system (which is your point.)
I would love, love, love to go to the Fat Duck, but I would never go anywhere where I had to wait that long to even speak to someone on the phone, when it may not even result in a booking.
Just being devil's avocado for a minute.
I have heard that there is a precarious balance between the creative and the business side.Taking their running costs into account, apparently if they don't fill every table at every service, there is a chance that they could go under. Imagine that happened several times a year for 'good reasons'?
Can you imagine what that would do to Heston's reputation? Well it would kill it. DEAD. All those hours away from his young family, all that work, all that training, all those experiments, years of 12 hr days.Perhaps they think it's not worth taking that chance.
(though what happened to you was definitely a real shame and a bit shitty.)
Bloody Nora!
They could have just got replacements with a click of a finger! For godsake!Instead of the time it took them to speak to you, write to you they could have gotten 14 tables filled!

It is very frustrating when people cancel, but when you are THE FAT DUCK you will always get people coming esp if they say their phone lines are very busy.

I hate it when businesses stick to rules and can not make any exceptions, its like dealing with the bloody traffic wardens!

Glad you went to Lauceston Place instead!

(Bloody good read this post is) xxx
meemalee said…
@Deanna - No need to play Devil's advocate - I realise that probably is the case, but in the end my upset wasn't really about not getting a table.

I was mainly bothered by the way they spoke and wrote to me, like I was an oik who was trying to pull a fast one.

@Fernandez & Leluu - I know - they could have spent that time saying "no can do" in a nice way rather than a dismissive way.

As I said earlier, there's such a thing as letting people down gently.
Unknown said…
Sorry but there's nowhere that could be worth parting with my hard earned AND being treated like that.

I know they're small and in high demand. I'vebeen in the business so I know about no-shows and failed bookins, I know I'm not a 'name' - but I am a customer and deserve at least the courtesy of being treated as such.
Anonymous said…
Personally I have no real urge to visit The Fat Duck. I know several people who have been and the experience is "It's a great show but the food is rather tasteless." When I eat, yes it's great to have food presented amazingly but it has to taste good. I eat to enjoy the flavour, if i want a show I'll go to the theatre first. The reservations issue give the Fat Duck the pretencious image that puts people off fine dining. Ask the Staff at Le Gavroche, Galvin La Chapelle and Bentleys about service.
I have to say I'm not a fan of Mr B at all - if he really cared about customer service he'd ensure his staff were well trained - they obviously aren't in any way.
I really, REALLY hate it when jumped up little people take out their sad lives wielding a bit of power like this. Seriously, how sad - they are a glorified diary secretary not king of the world. Blooming heck. I bet they go home to Lean Cuisine's for one.
I'm sorry you missed out on a trip the The Fat Duck with your husband, and while I can see it from the restaurant's point of view, I can also see that the volcano was a situation that was out of control, would another day really have killed them? Their waiting list is enormous so they could have easily filled the table in 2 days.
meemalee said…
@R - I'm sure the dining experience is lovely, but I'd rather put my finger in an automatic pencil sharpener than dial their reservation number again.

@simonjury - See, I've only ever heard good things about the food, save from one friend who's prone to exaggeration :)

You've pinpointed a bigger issue though - the image of fine dining being inaccessible and exclusive.

It's not a money issue but almost a class issue - "not for the likes of you".

@I heart cupcakes - I guess we can only speculate as to whether or not they could have filled the table.

And you have to kind of admire people who stick to the rules even when an Act of God comes into play.

But there's no excuse for rudeness.


What it boils down to is this:

1st Time

They laughed at me trying to book.

They wrongly accused me of cancelling a previous booking.

They expressed disbelief that more than one person could have my name (which is kinda offensive in itself).

2nd Time

They were unsympathetic and rude on the phone.

The restaurant's PR failed to reply to my email.

They failed to reply to my friend's letter.

They instead sent me an email which was a (polite) "get lost".

Both times

Their telephone system is shit.

For that type of demand, there should be a queue telling you how many are in front of you.

And if you already have a booking, you should be able to phone a different number.
chumbles said…
Hmmm. That's one place I will never go to; I find HB's insanity illuminating and interesting, but I don't think I'd want to eat it. As for telephone queues you are right; give the punter the information and they can make the decision. And you're also right about letting people down lightly... I have a policy with anywhere like that - I tell them about it, I tell my friends about it and I never ever go back. Life's too short.

As for those who appear to have trolled into your comments with the objective of making snide comments, they can piss off straight away. Don't rise to their bait - they're like trolls that lurk under the bridge waiting to spew their bile and bad humour (like in the Grauniad) making objectionable comments on the basis of prejudices founded in some kind of alternate reality. What's worst of all is when they do it anonymously. Cowards. [By the way, thanks for giving me the opportunity of my first serious rant of the year!]
The Ample Cook said…
I have read all of the comments and whilst I understand that they are running a business, SURELY, if they are SO poplular can they just not phone someone from the waiting list and therefore avoid the situation of having empty covers?

Have I made it over simple or am I just a moron?
Deanna said…
I bloody well hope someone from The Fat Duck is reading all of this!....
meemalee said…
@chumbles - Thank you and you're very welcome :)

@The Ample Cook - You'd think that would be the case. Maybe we're both morons.

@Deanna - I doubt it. They've ignored me before, so I expect they'll ignore this.
Mat Follas said…
I've had a front of house who laughed at people trying to book next day in summer ... the person has left my employment, partly as a result

I think they need to think of a better way to take bookings and cancels, maybe a dedicated email for cancels and one day a month accept calls for bookings

Deposits ... returning them is expensive ... not sure what the right answer is ... it costs time and money for the restaurant to find replacement but not sure £150 is a fair reflection ... £20 maybe more reasonable. I now charge £10/head as non-refundable deposit for groups as no-shows do have a large impact on a restaurant business ... basically there is a contract between the customer and restaurant that you will be dining with them so they have hired staff and purchased ingredients etc to accomodate this

jmho ...
Food Urchin said…
As Heston's better looking and more talented half-brother Preston, I would formally like to invite you to MY new restaurant called The Slim Pigeon. I can guarantee that the food AND the service will be amazing (but you might have to do the washing up cos we're kind of low on staff at the moment......well I can't afford them)
@alinstone said…
I've been thinking about this more, and quietly simmering about other similar experiences of my own from businesses with supposedly epic customer service (John Lewis in my case). The truth is that an operation's customer service is only as strong as its weakest link - be that someone with attitude in FoH or in a call centre. Sad when such a huge effort gets put in elsewhere, only to be let down by an a*** with the wrong attitude. Sure there's a lesson in there somewhere. ;-)
@alinstone said…
Although it sounds as if you have been let down by a copmbination of bad attitude and an absurdly inflexible booking process. Anyone from HB contacted you about this yet?
meemalee said…
@Mat Follas - Thanks, it's nice to hear the restaurateur's point of view.

Yes, a dedicated email/number for those who have already booked can't be asking too much, can it?

And even half the deposit would be less of a bitter pill to swallow.

And the Fat Duck would have no problem finding a replacement for a Friday - the first time I tried to book, they told me they had a daily list of reserves and actually put me on it.

@Food Urchin - Dear Preston, thank you for the lovely offer. I would gladly come to the Slim Pigeon - and I'm a dab hand with a Marigold.

@alinstone - I really think it's complacency. The only times I've really had an issue with service was from Michelin starred restaurants.

And no - no-one has contacted me.
meemalee said…
If Noma can do it ...

Unlike the Fat Duck, Noma has separate contact details for dealing with existing reservations
That's disgraceful of a restaurant. The ash cloud wasn't your fault and they should have given you extra time.

I suppose you have won in the end though as you're a blogger. It's certainly put me off ever eating there.
Roisin Muldoon said…
That story is shocking. I think what would have irritated me the most was the hoity-toity attitude! I can understand the reservations line being very busy and the restaurant being in demand and all, but there is no excuse for making anyone feel they have to beg for a table. It's ludicrous! The extraordinarily poor customer service you received DOES reflect badly on Heston. His name is on the restaurant and it's his reputation - if neither his staff or his PR people can be decent enough to respond to you with manners then he is choosing the wrong people to work for him.
Lisa Cookwitch said…
I wonder if it would be worth printing this post out and giving it directly to Heston when you next see him? He may well be totally ignorant of how things are being dealt - or not dealt - with.

That bloody ash cloud was such a dreadful thing for so many people, it's not like you did it on purpose!
meemalee said…
@Dining in Tavistock - Not sure about winning, but thank you

@Roisin Muldoon - I guess the buck does stop with him. But I get the impression that a fair few chefs have no idea what's going on around them.

@Lisa - "When I next see him" - bless you, you make it sound so easy, but it's a good idea :)

Hilariously, I found out later that Heston himself got stranded by the ashcloud
I meant look at all these people who have seen your post. If half of them decide because of the post that they aren't going to eat there ever, this little bit of rudeness will have cost them some money.

Maybe not millions but still..