Monday, April 11, 2011

Hey Tutti-Frutti (Place Dupuis) Your Service Sucks!

Hey Tutti-Frutti (Place Dupuis) Your Service Sucks!

Not the entrance at Place Dupuis
I noticed about a week ago that the Nickels at Place Dupuis had been replaced by a Tutti-Frutti. I like the one down at Atwater quite a bit - so on Sunday on my way into work to catch up on some of the stuff building up on my desk (cause I'm a procrastinating workaholic) I decided to stop there for brunch.

I got there about 12:30. It was busy, but not catastrophically so. The restaurant was about 60% full.

The hostess led me to a booth in a corner in the emptiest section of the restaurant. On our way to the booth, the hostess told one of the waiters (a young thin squirrelly guy) to serve me.

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(Where the Nickels used to be like on the Google Maps above, the Tutti-Frutti is now.)

Lesson#1: Know Your Product

The One That Says Earl Grey On It!
After seating me, she asked if I wanted something to drink which was nice, but she had a hard time understanding what Earl Grey tea was.

"Thé Earl Grey, s'il vous plait."

"Thé normal?"

"Non, Thé Earl Grey. (Blank look on hostess' face) Earl Grey... RRRRRRRRLLLL Grey"

After about ten(!) minutes, she came back with a box of specialty teas, which naturally had Earl Grey in the bottom right-hand slot, the one closest to the customer when you hand them the box, so the person who filled the box obviously knew that Earl Grey was the most popular tea in the specialty tea category.

The hostess then left me to tampon dip my Earl Grey tea bag in the bubble of hot water that they give you.

See, Coffee is Treated Special!

Quick Digression About Tea

This tea bitching is not exclusive to Tutti-Frutti. Very few café's or restaurants in Montreal do a good job of serving tea. They either deliver it in a cup, so you do the tampon dip (a practice that I loathe) or they bring one of those silly glass bulbs, which hold exactly a glass and a half of tea (a highly silly amount) and which are incredibly hard to pour without spilling tea all over the table or they bring you a small metal tea kettle which seem perversely designed so that when you try to pour from them, the tea instead of going into your cup, pours along the side of the spout and down your sleeve.

Silly Metal Tea Kettle!
The only real benefit to the metal tea kettle is that you can lift the lid when it is empty in the forlorn hope that your waiter will notice that you are out of hot water and will offer a refill. With the glass bulbs it is always obvious when you are out of hot water, but more than half of the time waiters are oblivious to the fact that you are out of hot water. In fact, they frequently offer you a coffee refill and you have to remind them that they served you tea.

Brown Betties: Decorative & Useful!
The civilized way to serve tea is obviously to use a Brown Betty. They are available in multiple sizes and colours, they fit the aesthetic of all these breakfast places and you could probably convince people to pay a surcharge to have a Brown Betty for the table. You can pour them without spilling tea all over the table. And a waiter can refill them with a pot of hot water, instead of taking away the silly bulb and bringing it back full. (The need for two trips no doubt one of the reasons behind the reluctance to offer refills.)

But as I mentioned, that is a problem endemic to almost all restaurants in Montreal. Not a special problem of Tutti-Frutti in general or the Place Dupuis branch in particular.

The promotional table has milk!

Lesson#2: Make Sure That the Table is Properly Set

About a minute after the hostess left me tampon-dipping my tea in the silly glass bulb, I realized that she hadn't brought me any milk or cream.

Not so huge lapse, in theory the waiter should be by any second to take my order.



Turns out, no not so much.

Lesson#3: You're a Team. Try to Act Like One.

At first, I was trying to make eye contact with my waiter. Then I was trying to make eye contact with any waiter. This, by the way is the difference between good service and mediocre service. In a restaurant devoted to good service, if you make eye contact with a waiter - other than the one serving you - that waiter will either come over and ask if they can help or send your waiter to do the same thing. Sometimes all the customer needs is milk or butter or a napkin and you can make the customer happy very quickly. Sure it means going out of your way to do someone else's job, and you won't benefit from an extra tip, but on a team if you do that for your team-mate's tables and your team-mate does it for yours, you both get extra tips and you both win. (You also get more repeat customers, keeping you both employed.)

Finally, (about five minutes after the tea was delivered and fifteen minutes after I originally sat down) a waitress drifted by to the table next to mine to ask if they wanted their bills and did they want one combined bill or separate bills.We made eye contact, she smiled... and then she left without asking me if I wanted anything.

Technically, she did nothing wrong. Her section was well served, but she had an opportunity to offer better than average service and at that she failed.

Lesson#4: Act Like You Care

After trying to make eye contact for another five minutes, I gave up and started preparing to leave the restaurant in a huff.

Tench-Coat Comedy is more of a Jacques Tati Thing
The key to a good impressive storming off session is to do it quickly and gracefully, but I am a klutz so naturally this did not happen. Instead, it was more like an outtake from a Mr. Bean skit. I wear a double-sectioned black trench-coat and when I took it off I must have inadvertently pulled out the inner sleeves, so I was having massive difficulties putting on my coat.

My waiter was so completely oblivious of this that even though it took me about three minutes of slapstick comedy to (mostly) succeed at putting on my trench-coat and grabbing my things, it is only as I was actually leaving the table that he finally shuffled over...

So, after I have been in the restaurant for a good twenty-five minutes and I am leaving, the sullen little squirrel finally comes over, dragging his feet and meekly wondering if I was ready to order. When I pointed that I had been waiting for him to notice that I existed for close to a half-hour, his lame half-hearted excuse was that he was busy. (Although to his credit he did say that he was sorry, even if his body screamed, "No. I'm Not!")

First of all, Mr. Squirrel Waiter, you were lying. I have been trying to make eye contact with you for ten minutes. Unless the restaurant is in imminent danger of collapse and only your teeny shoulder is keeping the wall from falling down or they have mops on the bottom of your feet so that you can clean the floors while you shuffle around, you were not too busy to come over and collect my order.

Second of all, saying that you are busy, implies that I am not important. God know this is probably true, but if you were trying to calm down an angry customer you could at least pretend that they were important. Don't say, "Sorry, I was busy." like the customer is somehow interrupting your packed schedule, "Sorry, I should have been here earlier, can I get you a free drink for your inconvenience?"


Brief Digression About Score's

Wet but well served
I was at Score's about three weeks ago. There was a hockey game on, the waitress in my section was busy racing around dealing with drunken Habs fans. After about 15 minutes, she suddenly remembered that I was there and rushed over. Even though in her rush to come over she tripped over a Habs fan and drenched me with a full bucket-size glass of ice water, she still gave me better service than the Squirrel Waiter.

First, she was really apologetic (even more so once I was drenched). Her body language said sorry, she didn't try to make excuses, she didn't blame the water cascade on anyone but her own clumsiness, she gave me a free drink and a free dessert and she upgraded my meal from a chicken leg to a chicken breast.

In other words, she treated me like I was important. That is good service.


Lesson#5 There are Opportunities to Make Things Right

The Squirrel Waiter could have made things right by being apologetic instead of acting like he didn't want to be there and that I was an obstacle preventing him from completing his busy schedule of filling his day with nothing.

The hostess could have made things right by trying to keep me in her restaurant, by apologizing for her staff or while I was fumbling with my trench-coat in the entrance of her restaurant coming over and trying to make things right.

She didn't do that.

Good service is a choice. It takes effort. It takes focus. It takes enthusiasm.

The staff at Tutti-Frutti (Place Dupuis) or at least the staff who there on this Sunday had none of those qualities.

Tutti-Frutti (Place Dupuis). Your service sucks!

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