We had some lovely people in last week and they asked us to share our story. I have updated our About Us page but watch this space! I will be posting a more regular blog from now on to share details of our area, the providores we use, our people and our customers…..
I have taken some flack at times for introducing our reservations policy and requiring a credit card number for confirmation of bookings. I wish customers would see that I do not like having to do this. It is time consuming and to a point, quite humiliating. However, as a small business, we have to protect our own interests. If tables do not show up, or even show up with less people, then we loose business. We have introduced this as a direct result of inconsiderate people who have left us high and dry on several occasions.
This article from the SMH is not a new discussion (http://www.smh.com.au/business/retail/fedup-restaurants-have-banned-more-than-3000-noshows-from-booking-20160308-gnday2.html) . Hopefully, by reading this, potential diners gain a better understanding of how small business restaurants run. And please also consider, that in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, there are lots of people walking past who could potentially fill a no-show or late cancellation. In the little town of Kangaroo Valley, we do not have this benefit. If we turn people away or tell them on the phone that we are booked, then we do not get a great deal of people walking in after 7.00pm to fill no-show tables.
I always want to question people who complain about my bookings policy. How would they like it if they turned up and I did not have their table available for them?? This is the questions I asked in my response to a high profile employment consultant who left a bad review on TripAdvisor. (see our tripadvisor list here)
Rant over (for the moment!) As I have previously said, good customer service, is dependent being on a good customer!
How long is a blog post supposed to be? Probably not this long! I hope you read this to the end and I hope it makes sense. I think I have a bit of a rant. My blog is a response to this SMH article:
Over the Easter weekend I took credit cards for confirmation of bookings and made it clear to customers what our cancellation policy is: cancellation or notice of change before 5.30pm or $20 no show fee per person.
When I rang one man to confirm and get his credit card number the day before his long weekend booking, he said he would ring back with his number as he was not at that time in a position to provide it. When he rang back and spoke with one of my staff, he informed us that he had changed his mind and would not be coming as he had read “recent reviews” online and was disgusted by the comments about our restaurant.
I keep a fairly close eye on online reviews and comments and I manage our website, Facebook page, emails and other social media and was curious about which reviews he had read. I had not seen any recent negative reviews about service and all the ones that I had seen, I had already responded to. I endeavour to be polite when I respond to reviews – even though sometimes I don’t feel that way, but even my response will be judged by other readers – potential customers – without them even seeing my restaurant or meeting me.
I am all for the on line reviews and I appreciate that Trip advisor provides an option to respond, which I have not found as available on other sites like eatability. In saying this, the response does not show up on the mobile sites unless readers click into further pages so sometimes, readers will not even see my response.
Well, as a business owner, I was curious to know which “recent reviews” the man had seen so I rang him. I rang him as a business owner who wanted to be able to respond to the online reviews and balance the point of view of that reviewer. He ended up coming for dinner after reading my management responses on these sites.
The man told me about the reviews he had seen on Trip advisor, eatability and urban spoon. Well, the two reviews on eatability and Tripadvior and another on urbanspoon from October 2013 are the same party. They got upset and wrote multiple reviews on multiple sites. Unfortunately, the eatability site does enable business responses.
Another instance was when I responded to a review on urbanspoon about a tough steak and the reviewer responded by email that he had mistaken our restaurant and that he had meant another – but as yet he has not removed the review??
One other time we had a negative and very general and non-specific review. It did not mention when they had eaten or what they had. I messaged the reviewer – who was a first time reviewer – and asked for more details about their experience. I had no response. If they had had a bad experience, I would like to know why, when they had eaten (time of day and date) and more specifics. After three weeks and still no response from them, I appealed to Tripadvisor for it to be removed as I was sure it was a disgruntled person who had been left a note on their car windscreen about not parking across my driveway when there are two businesses and a residence that use it. Trip advisor did remove it.
What does get my goat about online reviews?? That most of the bad reviews are from rude customers. They don’t book so they hide behind their anonymity without giving the business the chance to respond and correct any of their criticisms.
Pros of online reviews? I do like to use the reviews to improve our business. If we have consistent negative reviews, then there may indeed be a problem that needs to be addresses. Having been a teacher in my previous life, there are performance evaluations that provide regular feedback. This is common in big business too. But in small businesses, there is little feedback and little operators such as restaurants can just plod along doing what they do year after year. Reviews provide a kind of evaluation upon which small businesses can improve their product and service. (In saying that, a business cannot be all things to all people so sometimes. A business may listen to suggestions/comments/advice/criticism but does not need or cannot take it on and implement it.)
Suggestions for review sites, reviewers and readers
1. Reviewers should see their opportunity to write as a chance to help a business and that industry as a whole to improve in areas in which they are lacking rather than being spiteful.
2. Review sites ask for specific details: the date of visit, service (breakfast, lunch, dinner), type of visit (family, couple, group, friends, business, solo). When I have submitted reviews, they ask some of these questions but these details should be made available for viewers – or at least to the businesses. With these details a business can made improvements such as to assess if it is an individual staff who may be inadequate, to identify specific problems with product or service or a wider issue which would indicate poor management or training.
3. Readers should take reviews with a “grain of salt” –an idiom which means to view something with skepticism – both positive and negative reviews. The positive ones could be from friends or paid, the negative ones could be people who are being spiteful or vengeful – often as the article states, having not even eaten at a venue. Read the reviews and if they are all bad, don’t visit a place and expect perfection. If they are all good, don’t visit a place and expect perfection. Have your own experience and make your own decision – and then offer your own review.
4. Readers – like any student is taught to assess the validity of a website, readers should click on the reviewer’s details. If they have rated twenty restaurants 5 star, then they probably only review the places they like. If they have only one review and it’s really bad, it may be a case of spite? If they have dozens of reviews and they vary in their ratings and comments, then that reviewer is probably fair and offers a realistic view of the place.
5. Reviewers – get it right! Don’t post photos or comments about a restaurant on the wrong restaurant’s page/listing. Doing this can make a big difference to a business and makes you look silly.
And now I diverge: In the Facebook comments after the SMH posted this article (link above) , a reader posted a comment. “Having worked in the industry for a long time, I noticed that the worst customers were the ones most likely to whinge online, whether or not they had a genuine problem. There is an art to dining out, and Australians are woefully bad at it. Good service is often linked to good customer behaviour. If you consistently get bad service, look within, it is probably you that is creating the conditions of negativity. If you have a food intolerance or allergy and don’t ring at least 48 hours in advance, don’t expect many, or indeed any, culinary options to be available to you, organise yourself and refrain from taking it out on the staff. Restaurants & cafes are not playgrounds, control your kids or leave them at home…it is an opportunity to teach them good social etiquette rather than social boganism.”
Honey – you must have read my mind!! I could not have said it better myself! Especially the part about being a good customer. I am tired of the theory “the customer is always right”! The customer is not always right. Sometimes, the customer is not nice and I would like to send them away. Sometimes the customer is rude and demanding.
If you come to a small country town that has three restaurants and a pub all year round, do not be upset when you cannot get a table at 7.30pm on the Easter long weekend when the town has an influx of more than 4 times the number of tourists and visitors!! Book in advance just like others did and you will be able to get a table. A restaurant, despite the number of seats or floor space, can only serve a certain number of customers at any one point in time. We don’t like having to turn people away. That is a loss of income. But if we have 30 people booked between 7.00 and 8.00pm, and you come in at 645pm for a table of ten people, there is not much chance you will be served. Bookings preferred means just that – we prefer that people book and we will give preferential service to tables that are booked. That does not mean that you will be given bad service, but if there is only one item left and a booked table and a walk in table both want it, then the booked table will have preference. If there are two staff on and two tables booked and you arrive unannounced at the same time, if you are lucky enough to get a table, you will have to wait for service until the booked table has been seated and settled.
Phoning at 6.45 on a Saturday night and asking, “Is it necessary to book for tonight?” I will answer “yes”. Then asking for a table for 6 people at 7.30pm will probably not get the response for which you were looking. Making a reservation is not about having a table waiting for you. It is about providing a restaurant with notice so they can cater accordingly by having an appropriate amount of food prepared and having an appropriate amount of staff on shift. The majority of complaints come from tables who have not booked which can lead to a limited number of meal selections or poor service for everyone in the restaurant. This is not necessarily the fault of the restaurant! So I will finish by agreeing with the comment: Good service is often linked to good customer behaviour.
So, a bit long, but if you have a comment, please post it to this blog. Or drop in to Bistro One46 and discuss it with me over a free coffee!
(Free coffee offer only valid until End May 2014. No take away.)
One Gold Award winner at the South Coast Tourism Awards made mention of online reviews. They suggested that with the way of technology and online reviews, it makes us all work a bit harder. There is no opportunity for a “bad day” although we all have them. People ask what effect shows like Master Chef have had on restaurants? They have given the everyday customer the chance to “judge” restaurants. Some may say that they do not have the credentials to do this, however, it takes us back to the first point in this article. People. Customers. What do THEY want? They know what they want and that is what they are judging on. Tourism businesses cannot ignore this trend of consumer assessment. It actually makes it easier to provide customers with what they want as they are telling us.
To respond or not respond?
Undoubtedly, the tourism and hospitality sector employs a lot of workers in Kangaroo Valley and the South Coast. Through the Shoalhaven Business Enterprise online report (Shoalhaven at a Glance: Demographics and Business Statistics), retail and accommodation and food services are two of the top 8 major employment categories in the Shoalhaven.
Rob Pollock, who holds an OAM for his contribution to Tourism on the South Coast also announced something that made an impression on me: “Tourism is everybody’s business and is vital to us all.” Tourism is vital to Kangaroo Valley. With the small permanent population that we have, many businesses rely on tourists and visitors. Their experiences and memory of Kangaroo Valley will come from each interaction they have with every person they contact before and during their time in Kangaroo Valley. Visitors come here for relaxation, recreation and to experience the natural beauty. They will remember their experiences and time here based on their interactions with people. Even if they do not speak with anyone in the valley, a smile will welcome them and they will remember that well after they leave.
Bob Pollock also said that the biggest draw card for tourists and visitors to the South Coast is the natural and diverse beauty that is not overdeveloped. Kangaroo Valley is the epitome of this. Even after three and a half years here, I catch my breath at the sights that we are blessed with each day and season. I am sure many of us take it for granted, but this is what we can share with visitors.
This links to a point that was made about the dependency that small businesses, particularly in tourism and hospitality, have on each other. The Kangaroo Valley Tourism Association is our local Tourism body who aims to support and build this reliance between tourism businesses in Kangaroo Valley. It provides a network for building each other up. There are many people in Kangaroo Valley who have a lot of passion for this unique place and community. So many individuals and groups who work in so many ways to make Kangaroo Valley what it is – a unique, beautiful place that we are all proud to share. To all those people, we thank you.
This was a blog/local paper article that I wrote last year. It is the first part of 3 and leads into a final article on service and reviews.
Kangaroo Valley was well represented recently in the South Coast Tourism Awards for Excellence. The awards covered hundreds of businesses across a huge area from the Illawarra to the Eurobodalla area. Barrengarry Farm Cottages, owned by Gai and Barry Faulkes won the GOLD award for their tourist accommodation in the unique accommodation category. Crystal Creek Meadows was inducted into the Hall of Fame for having achieved GOLD awards three times in the past for Awards for Excellence. Bistro One46, owned by Nicole and Gerald Poelzl, received the SILVER award in the Tourism Restaurant category.
Bistro One46 owners also attended the Restaurant Caterer Association (RCA) Savour Awards as finalists in the New Restaurant category. This was won by Wharf Rd in Nowra. We were privileged to be in company with restaurants with impeccable reputations.
At the RCA awards, Bob Baldwin, then Shadow Minister for Tourism, presented the “Three Ps of Hospitality” which are: People Product & Passion.
People refers to the customers and staff of a business. It is elemental to focus on what the customer wants and to have staff who are trained to give the service necessary to fulfil this. At Bistro One46, our customers are more than simply consumers. They are friends who we are glad to welcome back, be it weekly, seasonally or annually. For us, this personal relationship with customers is one of the things that makes working in hospitality & tourism enjoyable.
As well as focusing on the customer, businesses also need to appreciate their staff, because they are the “front” of the business. Without staff to greet customers appropriately and to serve customers professionally and courteously, there is no hospitality. Staff refers to the team – every person who works in a business – even if they do not interact with the customers. We employ about ten staff, most of whom are local. Our customers appreciate that our staff are local – often asking unusual questions – eg. what is this thistle that I rubbed against or where to visit in Kangaroo Valley.
Restaurants are more than just a meal, though what is served on the plate is paramount to their success. This is the Product. We use fresh, seasonal produce that is sourced locally where feasible. We are lucky in Kangaroo Valley to have suppliers who deliver regularly and help us source good produce. Building a small business in a small town, it is important to have a good rapport with suppliers. We enjoy and appreciate the support that we have from other small businesses in Kangaroo Valley and around. In a small community it is important to support each other in any way we can.
The thing that ties all this together is Passion. Gerald has been a chef for twenty years and still enjoys serving meals that are cooked with love. Meals that customers love for their freshness and flavour. Our passion, and the reason we chose to stay in Kangaroo Valley after the Bowling Club closed, is our fondness for the rare beauty of the valley as well as the community. We intentionally open early in the week to provide a restaurant service for people who live here as well as to support the accommodation providers – to provide choice for their guests visiting the valley mid-week. We are delighted to be a part of what Kangaroo Valley has to offer – both locals and tourists alike. We have some great businesses in Kangaroo Valley who are competitive with any of the current award winners. We hope in future years we will see more local businesses represented in the awards.
Anniversaries are exciting to me. I enjoy presenting many of our diners with a sparkler for any anniversary dinner they share with us – be it one, six or fifty-six! I think it is important to celebrate anniversaries – and to reflect on the year gone past. In reflection, I am thankful that I am in a job (for starters) and one that I enjoy. I enjoy meeting people and hopefully adding to their experience of Kangaroo Valley – my home of only four years, but a place of which I am very fond!
I am thankful for my customers – one timers and my (ir)regulars. I call them my (ir)regulars as we have many customers who visit us frequently, yet irregularly, or others when they come to the valley for weekends or school holidays or locals who go out once or twice a year. It’s nice to catch up with people – even if it is only once a year. It’s nice to see the children of these families growing up over the last four years. It’s nice to share births, birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations with our guests.
This weekend, we will have been opened for two years. We have enjoyed the company of many people from a variety of backgrounds, from Kangaroo Valley and all around the world!
This time of reflection is also a chance for me to express our thanks to our many loyal customers, some of whom I am happy to call friends. Thank you for your custom, your feedback and your time. We look forward to sharing many more anniversaries- both yours and ours- with you at Bistro One46.
We have enjoyed catching up with lots of old friends and customers these school holidays. Thanks for coming in to Bistro One46!
I have recently had to charge a group for two guests who did not turn up on the night. I was questioned and told “That’s not fiar!” I do not like to have to do this really, however, why should we lose money because they couldn’t be bothered to call me before dinner service – or before they arrived at all! One couple had to return to Sydney at midday that day. A little courtesy would have been appreciated. I had taken the credit card less than 48 hours when I confirmed the numbers from the lady who had booked . I had told her that the credit card would be used for “security” if there was no notice of a change to the reservation. Unfortunately, that lady was the guest who could not come and her friends were left short on the reservation. Maybe I was not clear what “security” meant – was it my fault for not spelling out that I would charge the card if any or all of the party did not turn up? Did she expect me to hire body guards? I do not know, however, I trust there is no ambiguity an more.
I hope I am not breeching any copy laws here, yet, I wanted to share with you a blog in which Carey Jones says all and more than I could. We have added a page to our website with a few details about our bookings policy and this is an interesting blog I came across in my research. Should Restaurants Charge No-Show Fees? http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/04/should-restaurants-charge-no-show-fees.html
“We’ve all had to cancel a dinner reservation. Life happens. And a courteous diner will call in advance and give the restaurant reasonable notice.” All I am asking for is “reasonable notice” for which I would expect a phone call before the beginning of the service for which the reservation was made. If you have booked a dinner at 7.00 for dinner, please call me before 5.30pm when we open for dinner. This means that I can rearrange tables and allocate tables accordingly before customers arrive. If I have to be moving tables and rearranging tables when there are customers in the restaurant, it makes the restaurant look disorganised and unprofessional, which is not how we want to be viewed.
We are not a big restaurant with waiting lists well into the next year, however, with three restaurants in our little town that has many tourists on weekends, Saturday nights do often book out. We appreciate some notice of cancellation not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of the people who we have had to turned away without dinner.
Bookings are preferred so we can have food and staff on hand to provide the service that we desire to offer our guests. All we ask is that if you have a change to the booking, please let us know as soon as possible – at least before that service starts.
A BLOG FOR WORLD RESPONSIBLE TOURISM DAY and NATIONAL RECYCLING WEEK! November 2013
Unfortunately, World Responsible Tourism Day has come around all too quickly and we (the local businesses and Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association) were unable to organise a specific event this year. So thinking about days like World Responsible Tourism Day and World Environment Day, what are they really for? Are they a solitary day on which to act responsibly towards our environment – that one day of the year that you will remember to sort the waste properly. No. They are a day to raise awareness, from people who consider the environment in their everyday lives and occupations, to people who might not always think about it.
Having been a teacher in my “previous life” and now a mum of two young boys, environmental considerations and education are just a part of everyday life for a younger generation. Like us, most families would have two or more bins – general waste and recycling. But special days to promote and remind people about everyday actions to help sustain a healthy environment are important.
At Bistro One46 our daily routines and procedures are established to consider ways to reduce, reuse and recycle and generally, to consider how we can have as little impact on the environment as possible. These are a list of some of the practices that we do:
Recycle all paper material, glass, plastic and metal. When recycling products, we also make sure they are rinsed, cut up or compacted to assist the recycling process. Cardboard and polystyrene boxes are also returned to suppliers for reuse.
Send food waste to local chooks, compost or green waste.
Use appropriate stock management techniques to reduce waste in general. We are also fortunate to have good suppliers who deliver regularly, which means we do not order too much and have much waste.
Use water efficient taps, faucets and toilets.
Reduce waste water by not rinsing plates and utensils in running water – plates are wiped first to prevent need to use too much rinsing water which is done in a full sink, rather than with running water.
Use gas to run stoves and ovens and have carbon offsetting of green electricity through our choice of Electricity Company.
Use energy efficient light globes and keep lights off as much as possible.
Use environmentally friendly, biodegradable and non-toxic cleaning products where possible.
Use waste water from table water jugs to water plants rather than tossing down the drain.
Using environmentally friendly and biodegradable take away products. Kangaroo Valley was one of the first communities to ban the use of plastic bags and we support this initiative.
Staff are trained to turn power off when electrical items are not in use, eg, lights and equipment.
We have replaced old equipment with new or newer (second hand) equipment that is more efficient and more environmentally considerate.
Use of fans (and we plan to install ceiling fans) to reduce the use of the air conditioner and to increase the effectiveness of the air conditioner when it is used.
The flooring in the restaurant is bamboo and was chosen because of its sustainable manufacture, durability and ease of cleaning.
The blinds (Luxaflex Duettes) that we had installed were chosen to reduce the need for heating/cooling the restaurant as they are one of the top most insulating on the market (keep cool in summer and warm in winter).
We also support the concept of using produce and products that are made/produced locally/regionally where feasible. Our suppliers have a variety of stock that we use that is from the Southern Highlands and South Coast region.
We also stock wines from smaller boutique local wineries.
The above are actions that we consider on a daily basis at Bistro One46 to provide our restaurant customers with responsible tourism. Kangaroo Valley is a unique a beautiful place and it is the everyday things that many of the local businesses, Tourist Association and people do that will help keep our environment healthy and sustainable.
Bistro One46, a restaurant in Kangaroo Valley, is a member of the Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association and is finalising their environmental audit for the Green Kangaroo Program. They are also members of the Restaurant Caterers Association Savour Green Table Program.
It is nice when people are pleasantly surprised in our restaurant; however, it does make me feel a little sad for the restaurant industry outside of the big cities. We regularly have guests comment that they were not expecting such good food or service in a “small town” restaurant. Bistro One46 has now been open for almost a year and a half in Kangaroo Valley, between the NSW Southern Highlands and the South Coast. We strive to provide fresh, tasty food, sourced locally where possible, served by friendly and well trained staff. We have called ourselves a bistro – meaning little restaurant. Attentive service coupled with good food at reasonable prices should not be surprising – customers should be able to expect a level of service wherever they are. Country areas have a lot to offer diners in old fashioned hospitality and service and Bistro One46 takes pride in this.