Whenever I go into my local Costa in Next, close to Tesco in Hexham I climb the stairs and see the sign that tells me they are in the Top 25 UK companies to work for. They are owned by Whitbread and one of the better national chains with good coffee and a better range of cakes and biscuits than Starbucks. So if the sign says they are that good I should be in for a treat although usually my preference is to seek out an independent for reasons that will become clearer a little later.
Being early December there was a long queue and amazingly customers seem to put up with this in a way they perhaps wouldn’t at a smaller independent. Perhaps it’s their high expectations although they should have immediate reservations to see only two staff serving, one taking a delivery and none clearing tables. There were so many cups, saucers and plates lying around i wondered how they could possibly have enough crockery to continue serving! Anyway my wife, being there before me, stayed in the queue and I found a table to check my emails. One of the benefits in Costa is that you can get free O2 broadband.
My plan was thwarted by all the crockery with not a space to be seen and being full of goodwill I set about clearing my table and one or two nearby. The manager saw this and ignored me. I wasn’t doing it for thanks but then when another member of staff passed me and ignored me too I did think why was I doing this?
There’s no moral to my story other than to say Costa don’t employ enough staff and some of those they do, have little if any empathy for the customer. They seem to think that if you want a table and a place to put your coffee you will obligingly clear your own table.
Now I often go to Bradley Gardens, another coffee shop near Wylam. Like Costa they are a bit slow but there the similarity ends as the manager and the staff are so focused on the customer that people are patient and chat. The tables are regularly cleared and the range of coffee and food is to die for. It’s just a delight to be there.
I know it won’t change overnight because the big chains don’t care and position themselves where the customer flow is high on the basis that we will all put up with awful service. Funnily enough they have so much in common with Tesco 100 metres away. The only way we the customer can impact on this will be to turn our backs on the chains and vote with our feet.
Whenever you have the choice please support the small guys. Yes you may still occasionally get poor service but if you go to a National you know you will get the same service anyway and pay a 20% premium to clear your own table. We are one step away from the t-towel and I’m not joking.