hos·pi·tal·i·tynoun . friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests.

It’s the latest workplace hobby. Come Monday morning, colleagues synchronise cell phones, sprint to the watercooler and play “who was served the worst”.

Personally, my interest was piqued a few months back, where over dessert at a Stortford Lodge restaurant, our table overheard the chef explaining to a kitchen-hand the intricacies of shaving one’s arse.

I’ve been hooked ever since, (on the hobby, not shaving).

It seems when talking Bay hospitality, one can’t say “restaurant” and “service” in the same sentence without a collective sigh of derision.

“There are too many collapsed pavlovas on the Hawke’s Bay dining table,” claims Yvonne Lorkin, our foremost wine writer and all-round foodie chick. “With the exception of a couple of winery restaurants, Provedore and Pipi, we’re becoming a laughing stock.”

We also spoke to the silverback of the Bay’s culinary scene (and Burnt Hills’ chef), Kent Baddeley, who said the core reason for bad service is the many Bay restaurants that are owned and operated by people without hospitality experience. “I also believe the bigger the building, the bigger the ego – ‘we’re a winery and you are a…I’ll get to you when I feel like it,” Mr Baddeley said. “Restaurants need to adopt a “culture” of service before standards improve.

“The irony is there’s an abundance of food-associated groups in the region, groups like Food Hawke’s Bay, Wine Country and The Food Group who’ve dropped the ball on real issues. Stop sucking up to the rich guys and spread some real training around the small operations.”

Look out for future posts, where in an effort to tip the serious disequilibrium between the province’s lauded food – and its lagging service, we’ll be featuring many free and frank restaurant and café reviews. Unlike today’s post, no establishment names will be spared.

Mark

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5 Comments

  1. Sadly, It's not just cafe's and restaurants.

    A friend and I (we're mid-30's males) went into an "arty" shop, that's supposed to be a main attraction in Napier one afternoon a few weeks ago and we both got completely ignored. Obviously we didn't look rich or touristy enough.

    With over ten years in the retail industry, I always prided myself on putting the customer first, so I get rather agro when I experience such inhospitality.

    I'd be more than happy to help you shake a few service trees and see what falls out.

  2. talking yesterday with Jay Robertson who's the manager of The Lodge at Cape Kidnappers (and julian robertson's son) and he mentioned he is incredibly frustrated with the poor quality of service staff here in hb that he's not even going to bother hiring local's any more – he's going to bring people in from europe instead. Laziness, lack of education, lack of skill and initiative are just some of the reasons why he's had a guts full. And that's a $1600 a night luxury lodge that pays well and is desperate for good people.

    So many Hawkes Bay establishments hire people (who as well as being physically incabable of cracking a smile) who've never eaten at a top restaurant, stayed at a top hotel, or experienced top level service – so how are they ever going to know what's expected of them? It's a huge issue.

  3. well, bugger me!

    yvonne dont be quick to write off the future and the uniqueness of the hawkes bay service styles, why even you, use phrases like, "crack a smile" and had a "guts full", its quaint,

    but, heres a wine and food critic lauding the likes of a bar in ahuriri and a pizza shop in havelock, hanging out with american millionaires on the cape complaining about the locals and having to go to europe to find staff!

    you know the old industry maxim, you are only as good as your management. if one knows what one wants, why then not teach and improve our young, willing and hard working local staff!

    I wonder about the depth of experiences and the ability to nurture and change rather than to bury and forget, right here.

    If we know that something is not right, we ought to stand behind our staff and teach, we must retain local flavour in our top establishments. i for one, very familiar with three star restuarants and top hotels around the world, would cringe to think this service style is what we want.

  4. The feedback I get from various managers is that they struggle find 'young, willing, hard-working staff', they also struggle to find older, willing hard-working staff to teach.

    We certainly don't want the sort of over-the-top michelin star service, we do need to keep a local flavour, but not at the expense of basic standards. Provedore and Pipi were examples of places that I've experienced consistently good service – others may disagree – what's wrong with championing those that deliver?

    Whether its millionaires at cape kidnappers, or visitors from other climes here for the mission concert or art deco or locals just wanting a good meal – they all need to be treated well and have a great Hawkes Bay experience, not be met with "well if you weren't happy waiting why didn't you just leave!" which is exactly what my sister was told by a manager at an Ahuriri restaurant when she politely asked why their mains had taken over an hour and a half, and that their babysitter was due to go home.

  5. I know yvonne, and that wasn't my point either.

    oh by the way, jen and simon at providore , chris and alex at pipi, have done a beautiful job of setting up iconic restaurants along with jeremy and rebbecca at pacifica in napier, we should applaud these folk, as we applaud you yvonne.

    I tire tho of managers, owners et al blaming the staff. we have a difficult role in hawkes bay. me and my team, are grossly misunderstood, but we have tried to instill programmes of learning in over 7 locations since 01. its is hard, but we must keep at it.

    I consider myself a local now days having been involved in hb hospitality since 1978, and im damn proud of all of the progress, but we have a large way to go.

    the client is involved in this process too! we must experience the restaurants across the board to keep the industry sustainable. somehow we must also go to enjoy ourselves. the scenarios I heard of over the mission weekend were diabolical, simply, if you are full its ok to say, we are full, sorry. not say, yeah take a seat we will get to you. the current restaurant I am at has no clients at all, its weird, great food, great views etc, a friendly staff and a great quiet place for lunch, but stigma drives the pattern of our dining. its like folk give themselves a reason not to dine and wait for the pack to say its ok to go there?? I have never experienced this is any of the 70 restaurants we have consulted with since the 70's anywhere in the globe.

    our problems are far greater than just finding staff here in hawkes bay. we must get over perception dining experiences and then moan about them. the cure, hell knows, but i for one, shall not tire in my belief of excellence come hell or high water, no matter at what end of the spectrum we work at. some of us are really trying to make a difference!

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