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Sometimes it is clear that life is a comedy of errors … ‘It is a tale told by an idiot.’

 [Macbeth said that, but I’m under strict instructions not to make literary references in a Business Blog]

My experience of hospitality this week has been a tale told by an idiot … but I’m convinced I’m not the only one.

Due to a vomiting teen, we missed out on a dinner party last weekend with a local Pharmacist and his vivacious wife, so we organised to meet them for a drink Monday night at Whet – next to Bamboozle. We arrived early and … well Whet is closed on a Monday, so we sent a text to the vivacious wife and suggested Baretta – next to Valentino’s as an alternative. The vivacious wife has a history of sending me to closed eateries, and I have a history of disorganisation, but the sun was shining, the earth was not shaking … my usually military-like-half was relaxed, so despite the confusion and the possibility that we had been stood-up, we happily and spontaneously went out for dinner as an unplanned duo.

[Love the Parisian chairs outside Valentino’s by-the-way, but I’m under strict instructions not to reference anything artsy-farty]    

We went to a pre-quake hospitality institution (none of the above mentioned) which is now a post-quake success story; interesting eclectic crowd, edgy building, thoughtful food, and the sun on my back … hungry-half looking handsome – I was in a relaxation-slash-indulgent mood. We had a couple of starters and a main to share, I had a soda to recover from the run-around of the previous confusing half hour, and the other-half had a beer … it was at this moment that we paused and had a close look at what was happening around us.

Well fed enough to consider the plight of others, we closely analysed and calculated the volume of lost sales in a period of just 10-15mins, and only in our close vicinity of about 50 visible punters – there were others but they were out of our immediate vision, and we hadn’t been offered a second drink so we weren’t yet brave enough to risk being a bit creepy about our observations. In merely 15 minutes I was left gob-smacked.

It was a Monday night, so the floor and bar staff were not run off their feet, but they had enough going on not to resort to boredom either – and they looked great; young, healthy, intelligent and eager. But the order-of-service was so profoundly flawed that the owner, and incentivised manager, conservatively lost $500 in 15 minutes from the un-camel-like punters sitting in the hot sun.

The system on offer was 100% bar service on an undemanding night with plenty of staff milling around trying to find empty glasses and plates to clear. On a hot-hot evening not a single table with empty drinks or plates were asked if they wanted more drinks, more food or dessert. Over 50% of the punters had empty glasses or no glasses; some sat for over 15 minutes in the hot sun chatting away not thinking to interrupt the flow of their conversation; they absolutely would have had another drink if asked. Staff flitted around, seemingly obsessed with removing empty glasses, but had no sales-system OR sense of HOSPITALITY that allowed them to sell drinks at the table. There were no hand-held technology, no trays with hand-held eftpos; nothing that elevated their positions beyond table clearers and no natural opportunity to converse with the punters – so boring for young staff.

The crazy thing is that despite the world having moved on, some owners in the hospitality industry still do business like they did when I worked at The Globe in Auckland in 1991. While the same owners claim some genuine success they are also the same owners who moan about increased wage percentages. Are your wage percentages still around 30%? They shouldn’t be … they don’t have to be even close.

This is the missing money in your business.

During this time of observation we sat drink-less and dessert-less, and that is just what punters are like – we don’t have a huge amount of initiative. It wasn’t until I got in the car to drive home that I admitted to my husband that I was enjoying the sun so much I would have had a couple more drinks, and the dessert that had caught my eye on the menu, but I didn’t want to be decisive enough to take the lead. At home, we were both reduced to Hot Chocolate and homemade Pane Cotta slice in front of Richard Attenborough’s The Courtship of Animals’ – quite disconcerting to recognise so many of my husband’s habits. We would have been much better off as a couple being wined and dined in the sun.

Life is a comedy of errors … ‘It is a tale told by an idiot’ …indeed – sometimes that is the healthiest position to start everyday – it forces us to re-consider the way we do things.

 As it turns out we hadn’t been stood-up, the Pharmacist’s vivacious wife had a phone with a flat battery and they ended up having a similar experience elsewhere. As for the money I didn’t spend on Monday night? Well I ‘organised’ to meet a friend at Coffee Culture on Tuesday, which was great, except that I went to Coffee Culture (Bush Inn) and she went to Coffee Culture (Riccarton).

[This is a tale of shared, but implied idiocy only – I’m under strict instructions not to actually call myself, or anyone else, an idiot in a Business Blog]

 16/02/2016 Mrs Hospitality