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Monday, October 23, 2006

The Boat House Sails Away

The Power of The Five P’s

So it was our 30th wedding anniversary last week, we decided that as we were in Vancouver we would go to a good restaurant to celebrate taking along another couple. We chose the Boat House in New Westminister. A good seafood and steakhouse chain owned by the Spectra Group of Restaurants.

We were sat promptly at our table, the hostess letting us know who our server would be, before long he came and we placed our drink order then within a minute a second server came by for our food order, things were looking good.

Within a reasonable amount of time our food arrived, the plates were hot, the presentation looked good, we were ready to enjoy our meal. That’s when it all fell apart, the food was stone cold, I had a steak and crab claw dish, the crab should have been in a garlic butter sauce, mine was so cold the butter had congealed on the bottom of the dish, the vegetables were ice cold and the potato barely luke warm, the steaks were however cooked to our preference and were hot. We requested our server to remove the food and have the cold items corrected, he ushered them into the kitchen and they were returned to us in a matter of minutes. This time the potatoes were hot the vegetables barley warm but now our steaks were very cold, however this no one would come around to check the re-cook, so we ate what we could and tried to enjoy our conversation. A different server would eventually come round to clear the plates not inquiring as to how the meal was.

It took a manager 45 minutes to show at the table having heard about the first cold meal, she apologized and looked shocked to find out that re-cook was far below standard and that no-one would bother checking how the second meal was. She removed the meals from our check and we departed, disappointed a special occasion was marked with a negative meal.

We’ll get over it, but what cost to the restaurant? For most they would never return and at minimum it influenced this blog.

A restaurant's reputation is everything, the customer is king and when that customer has a poor experience the restaurant pays a dear price. All restaurants must attend to the five P principal, simply they are, Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance .

It would be impossible for a restaurant such as the Boat House to ignore the preparation required to manage a busy establishment like the one we attended. As a chain they have policies and procedures, check lists and management to ensure the evenings service is stress free as possible.

The kitchen mise en palce would be enforced, station chefs (chef de partie) would be instructed by the chef de cuisine as to what would be required for the evenings service. The expectation by the chef de cuisine would be demanding and the stations chefs would meet the demands, a high volume restaurant cannot operate with anything less. The proper preparation would have to be seen to, but somewhere someone let the system down and the result was a poor performance.

The kitchen placed in front of customers cold food on hot plates, this indicates that one station chef did not communicate with the others. Most likely the entremetier (vegetable chef) plated the food before the saucier was ready for it, so it sat under heating lamps, in the mean time the crab claws were placed where they would get very cold and no-one double checked to see if they were hot upon service, which should have been done when the grill cook plated the steaks and the saucier applied the final touches to plate, finally the chef de cuisine should have caught all this when the plate was permitted to leave the kitchen.

The service staff we equally at fault, a server has a responsibility to the customer to serve them what they ordered in manner that is friendly and courteous. A simple visual check of the plate would have prevented a poor performance, the server would had seen the solidified butter on the crab claws indicating they were not hot, so even if they surmised that the rest of the meal was hot they would know that a part of it was not and should have refused it at the kitchen before it arrived at the table. What is more after the meal was re-cooked the server should have been back to the table within a minute to ensure it was now proper, this did not occur and so the overall meal was rated "poor".

The manager did try to make things right but arrived after the fact and really had little options. She did the right thing in not charging for the meals (but a free poor meal is not what most customers are looking for).

The question then is, would I go back, the answer may be surprising, as it is yes, I believe a restaurant of good reputation gets it by very hard work and by applying the five P principal and there is no doubt Boat House restaurants do both. One poor experience should not form the final opinion of the customer (that’s for the food critic), if the customer has also applied the five P principal then they would know this group of restaurants tries very hard to please, sometime everyone falls short. Get up and do it again because that after all is what we do. Give the restaurant of good standing a second opportunity, next time they will do it better. If they do not then never return again.

Coupled with the five P’s is another of my favourite saying "do what’s right, do it because it is right, then do it right" this means some mistakes may happen but if we look at the mistake as a gift to learn we will eventually prefect what we do.

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