Two iced teas and a ginger tom, please …

(Update: the butcher in Sudbury who was pressured by one person to remove his dead animal display from the window of his butcher shop has received so much support and encouragement from the local residents and businesses that he has put the display back up. The local businesses say that his display actually brings visitors to the area to see it and that there is a spin-off of increased sales to the neighbouring shops. It’s good to know that one complainer has basically been told to mind their own business – or words to that effect.)

Kiddy Kat 1There were two situations that caught the attention of the courts recently, and possibly also the attention of some stocktakers.

The first was the case of the ‘greasy-fingered’ McDonald’s customer. Mr Lucas is suing Ronald McD for $1.5 million because they neglected to give him more than one napkin and the incident caused him so much mental anguish he is now unable to work. Was that Californian McDonalds trying to save some costs on their overheads by cutting down on their paper napkins? Was it a suggestion from their stocktaker or Franchise holder? We’ll probably never know as unsurprisingly, they have declined to comment on the incident.

The other case was probably where a stocktaker (we have to blame someone) urged the management of an Essex school to make tomato ketchup freely available. So available that it was lining the corridors – or that’s how it sounds. One teacher was awarded £230,000 because he wasn’t looking where he was going and he slipped and hurt himself as he walked out the staffroom. With that type of payout, perhaps the rest of the staff will now diligently be looking for any stray sachets of tomato paste so they can also ‘hit the jackpot’ so to speak. And they said teaching wasn’t dangerous!

In other news, it is probably a first for some professional stocktakers like Jon Rutter and his team if they were asked to add ‘cat food’ and ‘kitty litter’ to their restaurant customer’s inventory. What has been popular for years in the Far East has arrived in London – the first ‘cat café’ where customers can have their cake and tea while cuddling a cat at the same time. And it seems to be very popular too, seeing as their website crashed from booking enquiries within hours of it opening. The owner does say that she is unable to own a cat herself where she lives – so I suppose the next best thing is to stock up with moggies at work. The cats are ‘resident’ so anyone wanting to visit can’t BYO (and if Jon Rutter does happen to visit there he would be well advised not to take Unique Billy with him – it could cause a bit of a stir)!

Hopefully, no one allergic to cats will visit either – it would be a test case if Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium were to be sued by someone because they had started sneezing uncontrollably as a result of the décor.

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The customer is always right!

Whether you run a pub, a fine dining restaurant, a tea room or a small ‘chippy’ on the corner you have a lot in common with each other. There are suppliers, bills, licenses, staff – and there are customers. The other common denominator is the need to plan successfully in order to be successful and in that process is the need to try to cater for every eventuality that may occur.

It would seem obvious that the publican would plan differently to the chap with the tea room but planning, none the less is involved. The stocktaker dealing with the tea room will have different formulae and items in his system than when he visits the hotel or the club who are also his customers. Jon Rutter will give you lots of examples of the things he has to consider for his clients that form part of his comprehensive feedback.

But it is unlikely that even Jon would have seen the ‘little black book’ that some establishments are reported to have tucked away that contain the list of rude customers. The implication in Francesca Infante’s recent piece is that the more upmarket type establishments might have such a list that they consult when a table is requested and they can then “regretfully” tell the client that there are no bookings available. The owner of a chippy will generally tell a rude customer “take a hike” rather than waste time consulting a list.

Image: Guenter M Kirchweger www.redfloor.at

Image: Guenter M Kirchweger http://www.redfloor.at

However, one wonders what one has to do in order to “get on the list.” Do you have to generally behave badly and chuck food around? Drink red wine with your halibut? Or merely point out to the waiter that you’d like your steak done a little less rare. Whatever the reasons they seem to be pretty subjective as to what “rude” is. It seems that it’s up to the waiter’s and the maitre-d’s whim as to whether or not to write the name down.

At least being refused a table would seem preferable to having the police called in when you start to have words with the receptionist (a word of warning here – if you plan to have a birthday celebration, make sure in advance that you ARE permitted to sing a few bars to the birthday boy or girl). You don’t want to end up like Mr Doherty who, after coughing up over 300 quid for his child’s outing had the police roll up and query “what’s going on here, then?” because he hadn’t paid for the “party option.”

And if you’re over twelve, don’t ask for fish fingers (even if you like them) – the Cummings family might be branded as rude for asking for this, but the Regional Manager of the hotel in question has apologised “for any inconvenience” after they left.

Any host will tell you that this hospitality business can be a minefield of service, preferences, customers, planning and so on. They’ll point out that there are always two sides to a story but that they cannot accommodate every request. They would be right – it’s just a pity that sometimes PR doesn’t come into play, especially in the heat of the moment.

There is a sign on the wall of one kitchen I know – in full view of every waiter coming in and out as they serve – “The customer is ALWAYS right … even when they’re wrong!

Here come The Ashes – who’re you tipping?

The subject of ‘tipping’ is always controversial. There is the school that advocates tipping when appropriate and the amount is governed by the level of service provided. Another crowd say that it shouldn’t be entertained at all because the waiters/servers are paid salaries (and at this point there rises up a hoard of waiters who scream that their “salary” is pitiful and they need the tips to make up their income to that of a living wage).

What no one will argue against is that the culture of ‘tipping’ varies from country to country – some folk are far more generous than others. Put any group from different countries together and get them to expound on their view of tipping, and you’ll get as many variations as there are people sitting around the table sipping espressos!

Image: europeupclose.com

Image: europeupclose.com

There are those who have almost made tipping a science, to the extent that they base their tips on star-ratings they allocate for food, for service and for atmosphere – all very subjective. But then isn’t any evaluation of anything subjective? It’s all in the eye of the beholder in the same way some regard Picasso as an artistic genius, others say his art is rubbish.

What is NOT subjective, is the planning and ordering taking place almost as we speak, that stocktakers like Rutters are having to undertake in the build-up to the coming Ashes Series. And we won’t even mention the planning that has already been in place for the two weeks of Wimbledon. Jon’s teams don’t take a time-out like us mere mortals. They’re working behind the scenes to ensure that their clients are properly prepared in order to ensure their patron’s enjoyment.

But there are some very nervous waiters around the country, wondering which group of supporters are going to use their turf as the chosen venue to watch the Series. And they are even more upset now that Mickey Arthur has been given the boot by the Aussies. Because Mickey is South African, and he might have had an influence on the Aussie team leaving tips wherever they went. But the new incumbent, Darren Lehman is a true-blue Aussie and everyone knows, especially the waiters around the world, that Aussies are notoriously bad tippers. It’s not in their culture. They might leave a few odd coins lying about (they don’t want to weigh down their knapsack) or may even mention, “keep the change, mate.” but as tippers per se … no.

The waiters around the country are hoping for hoardes of England supporters, with lots of their American and South African friends in tow, to flood into their pubs and restaurants. Those groups have, over the years, been prone to reward waiters with from 10 to even as much as 20% of the bill in tips. While the Aussies have left bird seed type scraps for the staff.

Someone even suggested that if you happen to venture into a local watering-hole with a predominance of green-and-gold-clad patrons, mention what country you come from to your waiter from the get-go – it might cheer them up in anticipation of your adding a tip at the end of the day.

So you want a tip? England to win The Ashes – two games to one!