Customer Service experiences in London cafes

This afternoon I had a meeting with my associate Susannah Fields and we decided to meet in a cafe in Covent Garden as all we wanted was a cup of tea and a cake. So having had a look at the website of Notes Cafe we thought that would be a convenient place to meet.

I arrived at 2.30pm and when I walked in it was unclear if you ordered at the till or it was table service. I saw some of the staff taking drinks to tables so I assumed it was table service. The cafe was quite busy and I found a table so sat there waiting for Susie to arrive. All the time I sat there, about ten minutes, none of the staff approached me either to take my order or to explain that you actually order at the counter. When Susie did arrive we had a look at the selection of cakes at the counter and were very disappointed to see that all they had were a few croissants and a sponge cake. We asked if they had any other cakes and they said that was it. We then decided that we would venture elsewhere for our tea and cake.

The staff at this establishment seemed pleasant enough however they had lost several opportunities for a sale. They were not proactive enough. If they had approached me whilst I was sitting down I may have ordered a drink as I was waiting for Susie. When we did look at the limited range of cakes they had on offer on their display counter this really did not entice us, as it did not look very appetising. However there was an opportunity for them to upsell to us here which they did not take advantage of. When we went to get our coats to leave they really were not bothered that we were walking out.

We then ventured a few yards up the road and stopped at Cafe La Roche. They had a counter displaying a vast array of cakes. When we approached the counter a female server was stood by the counter – we were not greeted or acknowledged. We made a comment of wanting to know what each of the cakes were as there were no labels. We asked the female server and reluctantly she went through them all. We decided we would give the cafe a go and sat down. As we sat down another customer was asking what the different cakes were. There were about 8 people in the restaurant all of whom were waiting for either their food or their order to be taken. After a few moments of waiting Susie asked the female server if she could take our order. She was given a grumpy reply indicating she would take it soon and waved her hand in the air gesturing to go away. She served a drink to another customer and then came over to take our order. Without eye contact, smile or greeting from her, we ordered although this lack of communication and to be frank rude attitude did not sit well with us. We then decided to cancel the order and go elsewhere.

What can I say communication is key – the basics of customer service were not being demonstrated here – result – lost sale, and another walk out!

We then decided that we would head towards Patisserie Valerie as they always have a good selection of cakes, or so we thought! When we arrived they were quite busy, and again it was unclear if it was table service. Customers in front of us were going straight in to the main restaurant and seating themselves, so Susie and I found a seat at the side and sat down. A few moments later one of the female servers then came from the main restaurant area and with a huff and a puff placed a sign saying “Wait here to be seated”.  The atmosphere in the restaurant was stressful and both male and female servers did not seem very hospitable – whatever happened to service with a smile?

I managed to get the attention of the male server and he took our order. When I asked for a Coffee Eclair he went to the front of the cafe to check the window display and then said there were none left. Susie then asked if there were any Chocolate Eclairs again to which he said no – fabulous opportunity for an upsell – you guessed it, it didn’t happen! So we settled for the tea and cake that I had ordered. A little later Suzie decided to get some ice cream, so she ordered this, and we waited, and waited, and waited. We then had to chase this up and the female server then placed it on our table and in doing so pushed it on to the table so it moved the other plates around which almost resulted in me having cake in my lap – luckily for her I prevented this. It then came time for us to pay the bill, and as we really didn’t have any confidence in the service efficiency here we decided to go up to the till to pay. In doing so the lady behind the till took the cash and then walked off – with no word of explanation. The man behind the till then said this is the take away till. So our lady went all the way to the other end of the restaurant to use a different till and then came back and handed us our change. Without a word of thanks or a courteous good bye she then went about her duties. Would you have left a tip?

So in having gone in to three London cafes our customer service experiences were poor to say the least. All three cafes lacked the fundamental skills of communicating with their customers, taking advantages of upselling their products and giving attentive service.

According to People 1st a dissatisfied customer will tell 9-10 people about their experience – well I think I may have just upped that statistic by posting on social media! What can I say I think I need to go in to all three cafes and deliver the WorldHost™ Principles of Customer Service course to them, then they could WOW me and I may even find examples of true GEMs there!

  1. Colin Ransom
    Colin Ransom says:

    Very poor indeed. Unfortunately this seems to be the standard in the centre of London and indeed elsewhere in this country now. I hope you gave them your card, Monica 😉