A smile for the customer? Priceless.


So I see one of our favourite places is about to re-open after the festive hullabaloo.

I wish I could say this is cause for jubilation.

But it’s not.

I fact, I’m beginning to realise that perhaps it’s not one of our favourite places after all.

Because, despite the outrageous excellence of the joint’s food – and they charge for that excellence, but not TOO much – truth is eating there is a downer.

Such joyous tucker is served by the staff  – and orders and payment taken – with such morose countenances, without exception, that it’s impossible to escape the idea they’d far rather be somewhere else.

I could laugh this off or dismiss it as punter paranoia, except for the fact I’ve read online comments by another customer indicating they get exactly the same impression.

Upon reading those comments, my immediate thought was: “Ah – so it isn’t just me!”

Another place, much closer to home, has also fallen somewhat out of favour with us.

Unlike the first business, those associated with the second know who we are. We’ve written about them. Very nicely, I might add …

But we don’t want to be treated like royalty. We don’t expect favours because we do Consider The Sauce. And we certainly don’t want obsequiousness.

We just want to be treated like the regular, local, paying customers we are.

Yet every time we are in there we see the majority of customers treated with wide smiles and welcoming chat, rather than the pursed, unsmiling lips and brusque, businesslike approach afforded us.


8 thoughts on “A smile for the customer? Priceless.

  1. Coffee shop not a million miles from my home attracts similar comments from many regular and (undeservedly) regular customers. They’ll greet you if they’re in a good mood and treat you like you’ve just walked some dog shit into the shop if they’re not.


  2. I think there’s different things at play with the two places I describe.

    In the first case, I believe they really do love producing their gorgeous food – and it shows! But it seems they’re far less comfortable with the other half of what’s required of them – dealing with the public.

    In the second case, I’m guessing we are shown coolness that is close to rudeness on the basis they don’t want to be seen sucking up to bloggers. Just guessing, though …

    But your implicit assumption is correct – both places are in the “trendy” or “cafe” categories.

    As opposed to the “ethnic” or “multicultural” categories – in which such attitudes as you describe are, in our wide experience, so rare as to be non-existent. 🙂

    And interestingly, soon after I posted this piece last night, one visitor read it and immediately went searching CTS for another trendy cafe – one about which I certainly wasn’t referring and about which we haven’t written, but about which I have heard and seen similar comments elsewhere.


  3. I can very much relate to what you’re saying, Kenny. I used to go to a cafe in the inner east that had great food, particularly brunch, but surly service from the one waitress. She clearly wanted to be somewhere else, as you mention above regarding staff, and seemed to think she was too good for the job. This is a problem in hospitality, that many people are just doing it as a stop-gap—which doesn’t justify poor service. What a contrast when we went to Thailand in November. I was reminded how accomplished the Thais are at hospitality. From way up north to Bangkok, from the simplest country-shack diner to the most expensive city restaurant, the service was exemplary. It was never over-the-top, always with a smile, and often came with some wit or humour that made it even more enjoyable.
    Having said all that, I feel for people who work in hospitality (having done so myself, many years ago for a short time): the pay is often poor, the customers can be very rude, the chef touchy and difficult to deal with. I applaud anyone who manages to work in this industry long-term and keep up the good service.


    • Good points all, Caron. And I’m happy to confess I suspect I’d be not much good at it. The one time I did deal with the public and money – as a bus driver in Wellington – I was close to becoming an axe murderer after six weeks training and three weeks on the job. Then I quit. But that was the public, handling money AND hurling 12 tonnes of metal around rush-hour city streets every day. 🙂 Having said that, I suspect the surly too-hip-for-this-gig cafe brigade would find the time went quicker if they smiled more and did the job with some gusto. Maybe they’re afraid they might like it or turn out to be quite good at it!

      The two places I specifically refer to appear to me to have issues quite unrelated top those you address. And morose in the first case, uptight in the second … rather than snooty. And in our part of the world, the staff at such cafes are very, very likely to be owner/managers, not employees.


  4. Um, why do you name places when you are happy with their food and service, but not if you aren’t? Or am I missing something here????


    • Fair question, Pauline! In both these cases, we’ve found the food and coffee to be exemplary. The service, too, has been outwardly OK, if quite perfunctory. My feelings of disengagement are very much about unquantifiable factors that are very subjective – far more so than simply assessing the food. As such, I am not really into naming them. We are simply taking our custom elsewhere. Sorry if that seems like a cop-out!


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