Not a restaurant review

14 Jun

So I went out for lunch with a colleague today. We have lunch together every couple of weeks or so and this week we were tempted by an offer at a new restaurant, a sister restaurant to a favourite cafe near our work. And their deal was ‘Pay What You Think It’s Worth’. I liked this idea.

The menu was considerably more expensive than we would usually spend on lunch. But then we normally go to local caffs, or other cheapish eateries. It’s not over the top, but when I want a light lunch, I don’t usually spend about £6 on a starter and then £15 on a main course. But in my head it was ‘Pay What You Want’ (as opposed to what it’s worth).

The food was good, slightly richer than I would normally choose, but good, and an interesting Scottish/Nordic menu, with ham hock, veal, skirt steak, duck eggs, kidney, catfish and other lovely seasonal and local produce. Perhaps it’s that I’ve been eating healthily the past few weeks, but I felt slightly as though I had a layer of fat coating my mouth afterwards – the potatoes were swimming in butter, the sauce was buttery, there was a very rich and cheesy-creamy seasonal vegetable gratin. And my colleague’s chips were cooked in dripping. It was tasty tasty creamy-butteriness, but nevertheless much fattier than I am currently used to.

The restaurant was virtually empty and the waiting staff were perhaps slightly over-attentive, interrupting conversations and generally asking us if everything was ok more often than felt necessary. And, it’s perhaps worth noting that if someone interrupts a conversation to ask if everything’s ok, the likely response is ‘yes thanks’ just to get rid of the interruption and get on with the conversation, not because it actually is ok.

Anyway, our total bill would have come to £44 or thereabouts and we decided to pay £20 each. And give a £4 tip.

So, then came the moment of actually paying the bill. The waiter brought the bill, with all items marked £0, and also brought a copy of the original menu, with the usual prices.

On his return we gave him the cash and the tip, explaining which was which.

And we felt slightly uncomfortable; he seemed slightly disappointed. And we made a hasty retreat. It felt awkward. I feel mean giving less than they would normally charge, even though it was only slightly less but now I’m not sure that I would return in the near future.

So, that sounds like it’s a failed promotion!

We discussed this afterwards, and talked about how it’s not very British to haggle, and that this promotion had almost set itself up to create that awkward moment at the end of the meal. Of course some people might wish to pay more than the menu price, but that, I guess, isn’t what the promotion sets out to do – it is trying to lure us in by making us think we can get a bargain. But the reality is that we will only get a bargain if we are ok about disappointing the staff. So perhaps it’s only a good promotion for hard hearted folk.

What would be a more effective promotion? Well, for a start, it would make sense if they had made any effort at all to get us to return – either by taking our contact details to send us an email to invite us back, or by giving us a voucher which entitled us to some one-off deal in the future, eg a free dessert if we have a starter and main in the evening, or 10% off the bill.


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