Over a week after visiting Cafe Rouge in Canterbury we’re still reeling from the awful service we received on the late May bank holiday Saturday. We’ve eaten there on a number of occasions, usually off-peak times such as a pre-theatre meal if the Green Room at the Marlowe is booked up. The service has always been pleasant and reasonably efficient: the food has arrived in a reasonable time.
For once we decided to try lunch on a Saturday. That was a huge mistake: although our order was taken in a reasonable time and our drinks arrived soon after we waited well over 15 minutes for our bread and hummus ‘while you wait’ pre-starter to arrive. If we’d ordered starters we might have been OK, but during the following hour’s wait for our main courses to arrive we witnessed a parade of customers complaining to the waiters about slow service when they paid their bills (plus some asking for incorrect or poorly executed dishes to be taken off the bill), and the kids on the table next to ours going mad with hunger as they waited for their food to arrive – dad had words with the waiters and reported back that one of the lifts from the kitchen was out of action which was slowing things down.
At no point did any staff, including the manager, mention to us that there was any problem with throughput from the kitchen. They must have been aware of problems as walk-ins were being turned away well before 2pm, at which time the restaurant was beginning to empty and when one would expect new customers to be welcomed whether or not they had tables reserved.
We didn’t risk desserts since it took over 90 minutes from sitting down to my finishing my salad main course (I’m not at all convinced by avocado in a Salad Nicoise, and the potatoes have to be cooked a little more than al dente), so when I went to the bar to pay the bill I hoped we’d get some acknowledgement that our meal had taken an age to service. Not a sausage of an apology.
My wife let our thoughts be known on the online feedback, for which we got a £20 voucher, but if Cafe Rouge’s business model is to fail to resource properly for peak times and give people money back if they complain then the business isn’t going to be on the high street much longer, given the current difficulties in the casual dining sector.