[Update: 08/08/2013] It seems that South Lakeland Parks can’t cope with constructive criticism as they have already hidden a link to this blog from their Facebook page, no comment or feedback, simply ignored. Seems like the staff in their marketing department need some customer service training too, ignoring customers is no way to conduct business! [/Update]
This weekend, we decided to visit some friends who live on the Todber caravan park near Gisburn, a place we’ve been many times before. The pub, and the park is owned by South Lakeland Parks
The Steamer Inn does a roaring trade and is reasonably priced for both food and drinks (a pint of Fosters cost us £3.10)
However, the food trade seems to have picked up in the last 12 months due to a new chef, but the park has not yet catered for that, and quality has suffered as a result.
A 45 minute wait for food (which by past experience here was a very long wait) when the pub wasn’t busy, when the food arrived it was cold, when it was sent back, it was microwaved. Bearing in mind that this was a pastry product, hot, but raw pastry is never a good thing.
That was Gary’s dinner, mine was a cheese salad, which was one of the very limited vegetarian options available (If you’re vegan, hope you like baked potato with baked beans as thats’s all there is!). Having had a cheese sandwich with some chips there the night before, I was expecting a little more than the bread to be swapped for a block of cheese, and oddly, some grated cheese. There was totally no difference betwen the salad I got, and the side salad that arrives with a sandwich.
I immediately blamed the chef, which, I admit, was wrong of me to do so, as it was NOT her fault. The conditions the kitchen staff have to work in are Dickensian by comparison to most kitchens I’ve worked and managed in (B.T.W in case you didn’t know, I spent 2 years studying hotel and catering management, not to mention numerous years working in hotels, bars and restaurants, so I know a thing or two about running them)
During the weekend, 1 member of kitchen staff, working with one oven, washing dishes by hand, in the smallest commercial kitchen I’ve seen in a long time.
Normally there are two members of staff on at the weekend, but this weekend there wasn’t as it is site policy not to employ agency staff to cover sickness / holidays etc…..
Now, there are plans afoot to extend the kitchen, which is great, but surely something could be done in the meantime. for instance knocking down the internal wall between the kitchen and the small storage area by the fire exit to the beer garden, would be an ideal place to site a dishwasher? These plans have been afoot for over 12 months after all.
A Kitchen Porter to handle some prep work and to deal with the dishes (either by hand or not). There are enough people in East Lancashire who would love to get a foot into catering, especially if they are studying locally like I used to, that would work for minimum wage, even in a location as remote and picturesque as Todber, or even a teenage kid who’s resident on or near the site.
Also, some customer service skills for the bar staff, I get the feeling that some members of staff prefer propping up the bar of having a cig rather than doing much work, as when we complained about our meals “Soz about that” was the response, end of. No discussion about why it was bad, or what needed to be improved on.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely country pub, and we’ll keep going back there for as long as we can, but I think the park management, who are raking in thousands of pounds from not only customers to the pub itself, but site fees from the caravan park, need to invest in the pub to give a better overall customer experience, and this investment won’t be expensive and will quickly turn this place back into what it should be,
Have I been harsh? Maybe, but as I’m directing the failings at the company that owns and runs the pub, not individual staff, I think they are both fair and justified.
Oh, and of course, a blog post wouldn’t be complete without a piccy!