Great food, but a strong point of critique

It should take you about 11 minutes to read this.

You know how much we love transparency. Since day one, with our blog “Behind Le Bar” documenting every step of the creation of Holybelly till now, sharing cover numbers and such, we just put it all out there. It might shock some but we think it’s the way to go. Good or bad, we feel there’s something to learn every step of the way.

Well it’s now 7:25pm after a busy Saturday. We just finished closing up. Everything is spotless and restocked, ready to go to battle all over again tomorrow. I received an email from Jennifer which object was the title of this post “Great food, but a strong point of critique”. Right there, you know it’s not gonna be good.

First of all, and regardless to what I’m going to develop further down, I want to thank Jennifer for emailing us directly instead of posting a gnarly comment on Yelp, Urban Spoon and the like. Not that I care much about our online rating, but I think it’s a much smarter way to help a business improve and tell them how you think they failed you. For that, I thank her.

Before going any further, here’s Jennifer email :

Dear Holybelly,

My friend and I came for the second time to your restaurant this morning. During our first visit, we had a good experience, but felt rushed through our food and rushed to leave. This time, recognising that Holybelly is extremely popular, we arrived at 10:00am in order to ensure a seat at your delicious table. We both ordered full breakfasts and truly enjoyed our meals. My sincere compliments to your chefs. The food is fresh and delicious.

While I do compliment the excellent food, a restaurant (at least for myself and I believe for you too from reading your website) is not only about great food—it’s about creating an environment where people can experience great food and experience friends/others. Your website reads, “Holybelly’s concept is simple….good service in a consistent fashion….we take pride in …the way we welcome you and look after you.” Unfortunately, today our treatment could not have been further from the hospitable attitude expressed on your website. At 11h my friend and I finished our meal. The (truly very pleasant) server took our plates and handed us the bill. We had not asked for the bill. We explained that we wanted to have a cup of tea before leaving. The server asked if we would like the tea to go and we explained that no, we would prefer to have the tea at the restaurant. At that point, the server went to get the team but came back and (very apologetically) asked us to leave and to order our tea to go because there were people outside waiting for a table.

I’m not sure if I can adequately emphasise in this email how rude this treatment was. May I also emphasise that I realise that this was not the server’s fault. The server was very polite and kind, but such politeness is completely meaningless if upper-management asks a customer to leave. While I recognise that each city has its own culture, in Paris, it is completely unacceptable to ask a customer to leave at all, let alone when the guest continues to place orders and has only been seated for one hour. Brunch in Paris generally lasts 2-hours. As an example, we left your restaurant and went around the block to an equally popular establishment where we continued to eat and drink and rack up a big bill for two hours—as did every other customer at the restaurant. We did not feel pressed. We did not feel like a commodity. We felt welcomed and enjoyed our food all the more. We will also continue to frequent that establishment and will sing its praise to our friends. I have worked in restaurants in the US and in Europe. I understand the monetary value of turning a table. I also understand the value of “regular” customers who recommend the restaurant to friends and friends of friends. I decided to write to you (rather than to simply post a poor review on yelp) because my sense was that your intentions were more naive to French culture than intentionally rude. I hope that you take this email as constructive feedback. Have a look at the best restaurants in Paris—the ones who have stayed popular for years upon years. There are always lines out the door, but people learn to wait or to arrive early. You will not win any regular customers (stable customers who actually live in Paris and continue to frequent Holybelly when the hype is over) by kicking people out.

Regards,

Jennifer

After an initial read, first feeling was sadness. Seriously, it always bugs me when I feel like we messed up someones experience at the Belly. We care so much about what we’re doing here and we put so much effort into it that when someone leaves unhappy I get this tight knot in my stomach, it sucks. Then I started thinking about this email and the points made by Jennifer, over and over again, as I was sweeping the bar and counting the till, I started thinking about why this happened and what we could do about it. To structure my answer, I’m gonna break down the email points by points and try to shine some light on the issue.

My friend and I came for the second time to your restaurant this morning. During our first visit, we had a good experience, but felt rushed through our food and rushed to leave. This time, recognising that Holybelly is extremely popular, we arrived at 10:00am in order to ensure a seat at your delicious table. We both ordered full breakfasts and truly enjoyed our meals. My sincere compliments to your chefs. The food is fresh and delicious.
So far so good, thanks for the nice words, I’ll make sure to pass it on to Sarah and Lise.

At 11h my friend and I finished our meal. The (truly very pleasant) server took our plates and handed us the bill. We had not asked for the bill. We explained that we wanted to have a cup of tea before leaving. The server asked if we would like the tea to go and we explained that no, we would prefer to have the tea at the restaurant. At that point, the server went to get the team but came back and (very apologetically) asked us to leave and to order our tea to go because there were people outside waiting for a table. I’m not sure if I can adequately emphasise in this email how rude this treatment was. May I also emphasise that I realise that this was not the server’s fault. The server was very polite and kind, but such politeness is completely meaningless if upper-management asks a customer to leave.
You’re absolutely right, it’s totally not the server’s fault. Actually, I was probably the one who told her that you guys needed to get your teas to go and there is a reason for that. We care about tea as much as we care about everything else we do, so we steep it just the right amount of time, at the right temperature so that it gets to your table the best tasting it can be. On average, a tea will steep for 3 to 5 minutes (3 for the green teas, 5 for the black and red teas) in hot water ranging from 70 to 95 degrees. It’s 11am on a Saturday a.k.a “the eye of the cyclone” at Holybelly. I’m buried under dockets, so is the kitchen, I’ve got 35 seats packed to the max, I probably have some people eating off the pinball machine too. As I’m making all of the drinks I’m also handling the door and giving approximate seating times to the 25+ people waiting outside in the cold, sometimes the rain. They’re pushing to get in, some of them have been waiting for 45 minutes already. At that precise moment your tea order comes in. Two teas. First I gotta do all the drinks before yours, that’s probably about 4/5 minutes. Then your tea will steep for 3 to 5 minutes, then it will get to your table, super hot, so you won’t drink it straight away. It’ll probably take 10 to 15 minutes to cool down to a drinkable temperature and then you’ll probably take another 20 minutes, at least, to drink it, one tiny sip after the other. So give or take, those two teas, between initial orders to you fixing up the bill and putting on your coat, represent about 40 to 45 minutes. During those 40 to 45 minutes I will be adding 10 other names to my list and announce 1h30 wait, which is ridiculous. So yeah, take away seems like a good solution, I meet you half way, you get your teas, I get my table, I can sit the next two, keep the line moving and everybody wins. And watch this, it’s not about the money. I swear it, I’m not rotating tables to make more cash. We do plenty already, much more than I ever thought we would. I’m not making your teas to go to rack up another 40 euros, I do it because I want to share the fun. My kitchen is open for 6 hours, I can seat 35 to 40 hungry peeps at a time and I want as many of them as possible to taste the goods. I’ll say it again, it’s not about the money. Don’t think it’s easy for me to send a waitress to your table asking you to get your drinks to go. It cost me, it bothers me, but I gotta do it because it bothers me just as much to tell James for the third time that his table will be ready soon, to hang in there, as he’s been waiting for 30 minutes already. The way I look at it I can’t win. The frustration I’ll save on one hand I’ll lose on the other. If you don’t get mad at me about the teas, James will about the waiting time. All we can do is try to find balance, we have to all work at it together so that we all get frustrated as little as possible.

While I recognise that each city has its own culture, in Paris, it is completely unacceptable to ask a customer to leave at all, let alone when the guest continues to place orders and has only been seated for one hour. Brunch in Paris generally lasts 2-hours.
I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one. The way I look at it, on the weekends at least, we’re here to do one thing and one thing only : feed you delicious food and coffee while giving you the best service possible and, based on your email it seems like we did just that. You said the food was good and the service pleasant. We’ve covered our part of the deal. What we cannot be and will never be for you, on weekends at least, is a place to hang out for two hours, sipping on tea as there is a line of hungry people waiting out there. Now, that just sounds plain selfish. You said you came in at 10 and finished eating at 11, yet you say brunch should be two hours long based on some rule you decided was right. What are you planning on doing with that extra hour? What am I supposed to tell the guy who’s been out there since 10 with his girlfriend? They’re here from Toronto, they’re excited about getting some breakfast and willing to wait, but I cannot possibly pancakes-block them for a whole hour while you’re sipping on an Earl Grey just so that you meet your two hours brunch quota. I can’t. I won’t. That’s not what we do, that’s not who we are and again, it’s not about money.

I understand the monetary value of turning a table. I also understand the value of “regular” customers who recommend the restaurant to friends and friends of friends. I decided to write to you (rather than to simply post a poor review on yelp) because my sense was that your intentions were more naive to French culture than intentionally rude. I hope that you take this email as constructive feedback. Have a look at the best restaurants in Paris—the ones who have stayed popular for years upon years. There are always lines out the door, but people learn to wait or to arrive early. You will not win any regular customers (stable customers who actually live in Paris and continue to frequent Holybelly when the hype is over) by kicking people out.
Holybelly is Sarah and I. We’re not some big corporation, we’re not a chain, we don’t even have external investors telling us what to do, it’s just us, 50/50. We’ve never advertised, we’ve never asked to be written about by any blogs, we’ve simply grown the business organically, doing what we thought was right, every step of the way and the result of that was that we got busy precisely because people liked it, told their friends, brought their parents and grand parents over for breakfasts, week after week, and that for almost a year. Some of our customers have been coming to the Belly every week, some nearly everyday since we first opened last year. We’re exactly what you think we aren’t. We’re a neighbourhood café where the staff knows most customer by their first name, where people bring their kids and to whom people send postcards while on holidays. We have nothing to do with hype. We put good food and good coffee on the table, 5 days a week and we treat you like you’re family. That’s true. I’d tell my mum to get her tea to go if I was flat out busy on a saturday and needed her table, and she’d probably understand, as do most of our customers. That’s what got us busy, good food, good coffee and good service, consistently. The place does not fill up from 10am because of my tattoos or Marie’s yellow fixie locked out the front, it fills up because it’s good and that’s not going anywhere.

In the end, Jennifer, I think we were just not meant for each other. I think we’re only guilty of not being the place you thought we were. We’re a place where sharing is caring and where people are happy to leave their table to the couple who’s going to seat after them because they know what they are about to experience as they just experienced it themselves, even if it means they’re gonna have to get their teas to go. We’re the anti-thesis of a tea salon. One doesn’t come here to linger for hours (or two, to be precise) one comes here to fill ones belly to the top with some delicious food, wash it down with a tasty brew, surrounded by loud music and rushing friendly staff and be on ones way. That’s us and I’m afraid that’s a “take it or leave it” kind of deal.

We might be wrong, maybe we should take bookings, become boring, turn the music down and make sure not to hurt anyones feeling by politely asking them to have their drinks to go so that other people can have breakfast. Maybe it will bite us in the ass, the line will get thiner, the cash-flow will run low and we’ll have to call it a day. Maybe. But during that time we would have had one hell of a time, working our asses off and running the show just the way we wanted. We are extremely thankful to our customers who are willing to wait longer for a table than I ever will, and squeeze between a couple of strangers to eat our food. We said it many times on this blog or on our Instragram. This isn’t cockiness, we care, we respect and appreciate you and the love you’re showing for our business, but we aren’t desperate. We will not bastardise our philosophy to please, as eventually, you can’t please everyone. If one day you guys are tired of us, we’ll pack up and go travel, have a couple of kids with lazy eyes, start over again, because in the end, we’re just here to live our life the way we intend to, do what we love and do it the way we like.

50 Responses
  1. Wonderfully and politely put. My family is in the restaurant business. Best wishes!

  2. I find this to be a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing from the heart and giving a deeper look into how the restaurant works.

  3. Niall Furlong says:

    Very well handled. It’s great to see someone taking the time to stand up for their business and it’s philosophy. The customer ISN’T always right. I’m looking forward to returning to the belly in November and will gladly eat and retreat!

  4. Lèa says:

    Wow I cannot believe I just read that
    I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences at Holybelly, but after reading that I will not be returning & would not reccomend others to either.
    You just berated someone on a public forum & strangely advertised it on your Instagram.
    If you had more experience, or hospitality (?) you wouldn’t let people wait 1.5 hrs, you’d suggest they come back or take names. If you were so gagging to seat James, you could have offered to comp their tea & offered then a cake to go, perhaps they would’ve said yes.
    I cannot tell you how much of an asshole this makes you look & I can gaurentee your beloved Melbourne cafes wouldn’t dream of it

    • Victor says:

      Completely agree! The guy’s reply is an arrogant view when things are going well.
      Making yummy food is just a part of the eating out experience. And yeah, it’s your job to handle queues. How awful it feels after you had a nice lunch and you want to spoil yourself some more with a cup of tea or coffee to be kicked out like that.
      But I think this is very typical for Paris. I lived there for 3 years before coming to London, so I can clearing make a difference between the two cities.
      London is clearly more customer oriented, with and excellent food scene, where I have never felt kicked out or humiliated as I often felt at the bonnes addresses in Paris.

    • Adam says:

      He did not “berate” the customer who wrote this.
      The line is up to 1.5 hours because his restaurant is so popular.
      Everything he wrote was very logical and polite.

    • Veronica says:

      Lea, although I respect your reaction to this post, I don’t think the intention was to berate Jennifer at all. It was a well explained reply from the restaurant’s POV to the customer’s email. How else can there be understanding? As customers, we also need to be understanding. If the place is providing good food, good service, has limited seating, and there is a line of people waiting for a table it’s completely inconsiderate to not understand that it’s not a situation where a meal should linger on. There are places that can accommodate that. What would be your take if you were the one in line and other customers were taking longer at a table, given these circumstances. We need to be considerate and not so self entitled all the time. If this response had truly been rude, I’d be all with you, but they really weren’t.

    • Did you read all the way thru the post?
      Like a lot of personal, owner operated, single unit businesses ‘belly’ is not ‘all things to all people’….. it is his business and he offers it up to the customer to experience the whole event….I too have a little cafe that is more busy than I ever imagined. I am faced with this situation all the time. My good and true customers know what we do and they LOVE us for it. If an article about us generates 50 new visits I am thrilled to get 10 returns…. I’m not for the folks who don’t like sitting outside, on benches and using paper napkins…that’s OK because you’re not for me either.

  5. Charles says:

    Your philosophy is great. Keep going, I love your spirit and agree 200% !

  6. Wendi says:

    You are my HERO! Kudos!
    Enjoy your Sunday crowd.
    Wendi, Milwaukee Café. Biarritz.

  7. Alex says:

    Fantastic post! I appreciated the open, honest, and respectful dialogue between the customer and you as well as you and the customer. I understand that in Paris it is heresy to give customers their a check before they request it, but it is also equally rude to linger for an hour at a table, post-meal, knowing there are others waiting outside to get in. Agree its a tough call for you. And, if I were Jennifer, and learned that you had responded to my concern with such honesty and true consideration, I think I would become a customer for life! Well done, Belly.

  8. Classy and to the point.

    Dear Jennifer,
    I read your email, and I have to say I was intrigued about what you had to say. Nico and Sarah are some of the best people I know. Not only as people but as Chef/Owners. When I say what I am about to say, I say it with a complete unbiased opinion of the owners and proprietors. As I was reading I was trying to empathize with you and see it from your point of view…that all went out the window when you said that you have worked in restaurants in the US and in Europe. IF you have ever worked in a resturant at all you would know what it is like to be bent over by 30-40 different people all at once while balancing a wait list, making drinks, and well….absolute chaos. Your statement made me think…did you really work in a restaurant? I have been in the business for 20 years, opened 25 restaurants in the US and in Europe as well… and when I eat anywhere I have empathy for the staff, as well as other guests. There are unspoken rules we follow as fellow culinarians…never go into a restaurant an hour before they close, make sure that the server and kitchen are taken care of, and mostly if the place is packed and busy…eat and get the fuck out… Other restaurant people take care of other restaurant people, your statement tells me you might have worked in a restaurant, but you never were apart of one…also you have to realize where you are eating…is this Per Se or the French Laundry or any 3 Star Michelin restaurant, with a 30 course tasting menu, or is this a place that they kick ass, cook unbelievably good food, and get it to your table as fast as humanly possible, just realize when and when you are eating…I am sure if it is a Wednesday morning you can sit there all day, just be mindful of when you are going….so please the next time you feel your rights are violated keep them to yourself and just don’t go back. These comments are those of me, Aj only, they do not represent the staff and owners of Holybelly in any way.

    Aj

    • Tony Palazzo says:

      …”eat and get the fuck out…” EXACTLY! If they are other people and you are finished LEAVE. I dont know about the rest of you but a restaurant is for eating NOT lounging. Go to a bar and sit at a table for hours for the price of a cup of tea.

  9. Ann and her son Hank we’re in last week, 4th October onwards, several times during their short stay in Paris, I sent them there. I found you in March, my brother and I, and we had a few conversations.
    You guys did me proud in my recommendation, thanks for that, and good on you for informing someone politely that ‘its not all about them’.
    Ignorant, demeaning service, are bywords for many Parisian establishments, but not yours. Keep on rocking the ‘Walters Whites……Twin Peaks is doing a remake, will you be serving ‘Damn Fine Coffee’ as well!!!!!!!

  10. Alison says:

    Have you considered offering tea or coffee to go to lingering customers? Along the lines of high end restaurants (Aux Lyonnais for ex) who propose an digestif in another part of the restaurant when it’s time to free up the table for the next reservation? I feel this could be a really polite and friendly way to handle this issue. Especially considering it’s not about the money, as you say.

  11. Mariana says:

    Well done Jennifer for emailing Holybelly rather than trashing it on Yelp or similar. Class!

    Yes, Holybelly, let’s change the culture of the multi-hour, drawn-out brunch during peak busy service times while not caring a pinch for the huddling masses waiting for a table outside.

    I definitely fall into the category of arriving early, enjoying my meal while not feeling rushed, and then leaving happy to give my table to the next lot of lucky folks.

    That isn’t “not being French”, it is being thoughtful and sharing the love.

    Finish your conversation with your take-away tea as you wander along the canal, or stop in for a “verre” somewhere else to shoot the breeze.

    Keep up the great work, Holybelly team!

  12. Charlotte says:

    On this one, I am going to have to agree with Jennifer. It is just not acceptable by French standards to cut a paying customer’s meal short. You can have many objections about Parisian service, but this has never happened to me, even in the most busy and hype places, even when people are waiting outside…
    Also, I find it strange that the Holybelly decided to post Jennifer’s email online, while she had made the decision to provide her thoughts to the Holybelly privately. Now, some replys from other customers are basically calling her a liar, when she did not invite that type of discussion online. I guess we live in a world where nothing can be private anymore.

  13. Philippe says:

    I was sent the URL of this blog post by Jennifer. I’m reasonably sure that this message will not be published or, if published, will be heavily edited and twisted to make Holybelly look good, but at least the owners will have read it. Here goes:

    First of all, it’s remarquable how so many people commented all night on this particular blog post when the other posts lack any responses. This doesn’t reflect well on the advertised transparency of the blog, as it really feels like the owner asked all his friends to pile on Jennifer. I also love how some of the comments attack and question Jennifer’s background. Very classy. To the one asking her to keep her criticisms to herself, that’s exactly what she did when she contacted the owner privately without taking it online to Yelp or other services. Which brings me to my second point:

    It’s rude (and probably illegal, though I am not a lawyer) that they published Jennifer’s email without her autorisation. She purposely didn’t go to Yelp to be nice to them, to provide some constructive feedback and to *not* make an online argument of it. And that’s how they thank her. By publishing and responding on the blog the owner knows that he has all the cards in hands to spin the story in a favorable light, and that she won’t be able to respond properly. It’s a coward attitude and shows some serious lack of respect.

    Finally, and to address the main point, it confuses me how one can defend treating customers like chain workers who should only stuff food in their mouth and leave. Jennifer was kicked out after 45mn as she was ordering a tea to finish her brunch. She didn’t order the tea to stay 2 more hours. She only mentioned staying 2 hours “no-question-asked” in a different place to show the contrast with Holybelly’s policy. Jennifer has lived in Paris for many years, yet Holybelly is the only place where she felt constantly pushed to the exit *from the moment she sat down*. It’s funny how Paris is famous for the bad service in our restaurants, yet the worst experience she’s had comes from one supposably inspired by anglophone culture.

    As for me, I’ve lived 30 years in Paris and have seen hundreds of hipster restaurants come and go. Take it from a Parisian born and raised, this kind of “fast” food who only caters to tourists never lasts very long. If Holybelly shoos away local people like they did with Jennifer and her friend, I’m afraid they won’t make it in the long run.

    Philippe

  14. Ashley says:

    Sorry, but you run the place like an American diner. It’s rude to give customers a check before they are ready to leave — especially if they wish to order more. While the food is wonderful at HolyBelly, it’s not a place where I would hang out with friends for brunch on a weekend morning.

  15. Sonia says:

    This is precisely what I thought Holly Belly was about and what I loved about it!
    Happy you’ve confirmed everything in this beautiful and courageous response.

  16. kareem says:

    You know, I thought this was going to be an apology. But after reading and understanding what brunch is like from the other side of the kitchen door — having never worked in a restaurant — your position made total sense.

    I love that you explained your philosophy and essentially broke up with Jennifer (and other customers who expect things that you can’t / won’t provide). Explaining what you stand for, and actually standing for it is a big reason you guys are successful.

    Plus, I hear you make some pretty good eats ;)

    Great post, hope to visit soon.

  17. Jennifer says:

    It’s been an interesting day watching this blog—a blog that my email was posted on without consent (which by the way is illegal by French law, see Article 226-15 du code pénal). It’s funny. I thought for a very long time about whether I should email Holybelly in the first place or whether I should just not come back to the restaurant.  The deciding factor supporting the choice to email was that when I was working in my last restaurant, our team always preferred if a guest emailed us a critique rather than simply stop coming. Sometimes we agreed with the guest and sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes between our team, we had very mixed opinions, but the feedback was always helpful and we always treated that feedback and guest with respect. AJ, I loved working in restaurants. I paid my way through high school and grad school in restaurants. I worked in mom-and-pop local favourites to more upscale urban joints in DC and Dublin. I still remember (almost) every “regular” by name and know what they ordered. It’s interesting that you would make such judgements about me.

    Like that first email, I debated whether or not it makes sense to write a rebuttal. I do not like internet arguments. They are so rarely civil.  This is another reason I chose to email directly. However, my email was thrust on this blog without consent (and without an actual email response) and so my efforts to provide honest direct feedback were completely disregarded.

    I emailed Nico to say that regarding his business decisions, he’s right. We don’t need to agree. He has every right to run his restaurant as he wants and I can certainly go elsewhere. Had the exchange ended there via email, I would have been so happy. I would have provided feedback which I hoped was constructive, and Holybelly would have explained their philosophy.

    But instead my email was posted online without consent (which once again is illegal), was spun to imply intention to loiter on my part (which just simply was not there—I only wanted to finish my brunch with a tea) and was responded to with blatant falsehoods to support the position of Holybelly (e.g. I arrived at 10 and there were 3 people in the restaurant. Consequently no one was waiting since 10:00 for a seat) all in the name of transparency—which is hypocrisy because only positive comments were published on this blog. Several french friends read this blog and were as shocked as I and tried to provide comments, but their responses were not “approved” by Holybelly because they included critiques rather than praises.

    It’s a shame.

    • Jess says:

      It might not make much of a difference, but i fully agree with you. The posting of your very constructive critcism without your consent is beyond rude (and illegal as it turns out).

      As an avid tea drinker: just from where did did the 45 mins come from?
      And owners wonder why people leave angry reviews on yelp…

      All my best to you!

    • Stephane says:

      Jennifer, I thought the owner’s choice to post a public response laced with judgment e.g, ” . . . you say brunch should be two hours long based on some rule you decided was right . . .” and ” . . .we aren’t desperate. We will not bastardise our philosophy to please . . .” (alongside your email address) was an egregious breach of any standard of etiquette. Moreover, in the absence of a posted policy, I think you were well within your rights to expect to be able to order and enjoy a post-breakfast beverage. I’m sorry you had such an unpleasant experience.

  18. Elena Ring says:

    This is awesome. So happy to be working for people who care so much about their staff, their customers, and their food. You put so much effort into everything Holybelly, it’s such an inspiration for me.

  19. Philippe says:

    Thank you for finally publishing my comment above, as well and Jennifer’s (and a couple other censored ones apparently).

    It’s sad that we had to post on your Facebook page to make it happen though.

  20. Arbourman says:

    I squirm in France when I see people huddling over a centimetre of beer on the sunny terrace for an hour, or slouched over a laptop in a crammed cafe abusing the wifi.

    Good on HolyBelly for introducing a new cafe culture based on mutual respect.

  21. Barb says:

    Who would want to spend time or money in a place like that? Good food is everywhere in Paris.

  22. Elmarie says:

    Jennifer you said that you went to another restaurant and ate and drank for TWO more hours? So my question is was that how long you still intended to stay at Holybelly? And were you still hungry if you racked up a big bill?

  23. Susan says:

    Why do you even have tea on the menu if you’re not allowed to order it in your restaurant? If it’s such a hassle for you to serve your guests something that you offer on the menu perhaps you should strike it from your menu.

    I completely agree with Jennifer and think Holybelly is totally out of line.

  24. Andy says:

    I’m with Jennifer on this one. Totally rude. Maybe you need to post a sign “1 hour limit on tables”. But maybe you just did. I’ll be in Paris in two weeks but I won’t see you. I wish you luck with your fast food policy.

  25. On average, a tea will steep for 3 to 5 minutes (3 for the green teas, 5 for the black and red teas) in hot water ranging from 70 to 95 degrees.

    NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! You are making tea here, not coffee – black or green tea MUST be made with boiling water. 100 C. Anything less does not make tea.

  26. Dan says:

    The owner of Holyberry is very foolish to have published his post. It was disrespectful to his customer. While I am sympathetic to some of his views, the fact that he would personalize the issue in this manner demonstrates a profound lack of class and professionalism. A concise response to the customer clarifying his business philosophy is all that was required. He could then have expressed this philosophy in a general manner on the blog. I can tell you, there will be one less customer waiting in the cold.

  27. gloria says:

    So much talk wasted…and oh so polite . Please open a fast food counter instead,

  28. Sonja says:

    I was at Holybelly on a monday morning, had a full breakfast (so so good!) and was offered the bill without having asked for it. And without beeing asked if i wanted some more of the deliciousness (i had eyes on the chocolatecake). Nobody waited in line, even some tables were free. I think it´s rude behaviour.

  29. Colin L says:

    i agree wholeheartedly one hundred percent with the owner.. he says repeatedly it isn’t about the money , which i totally believe.. but it IS about taking care of your loyal customers.. .. two people lollygagging in a restaurant that clearly has other people lined up waiting for a table is totally self centered and arrogant … entitled to the table for an extra hour for a cup of tea ?? i agree with going to a cafe where tea is their thing, and be a considerate person… applause for the response… restaurants take a lot of crap from critics and customers.. so sorry this guest felt so highly offended .. better she take her “2 hour brunch” elsewhere … good riddance

  30. rEg says:

    Everyone needs to simmer down. Hey, that’s a cooking term. Here’s how this should work. If you come to a restaurant with very limited seating and upon your arrival, or during the course of your meal you encounter or see a queue of waiting patrons you should take into consideration those wanting and expecting to be seated. It’s simply consideration for others, nothing else. Knowing there’s people also waiting to eat and only acknowledging your own desires is selfish and uncourteous. Yeah, the owner shouldn’t have published the letter but shit happens in this interweb world.

    • Colin L says:

      i dont agree..i think the owner did the right thing by publishing the letter….. in a world full of self centered egotistical people, sometimes people have to be put in their places, something they should have learned at home while growing up …..

    • Wendi says:

      I think all points of view have been expressed. There is no “right” answer or perfect solution. Maybe we can agree to disagree and let Nico turn off the comments button on this post. Time to move on folks!

      • Colin L says:

        some very good points… i totally agree with the higher price thing…. i am in service profession also, and when one of our employees is “booked solid” we raise the price .. about 20 % of the clients either leave or switch to other stylists (I’m in the salon/spa business) , but the price increase stabilizes the employee’s income, but allows 20 % more time to book new clients at the higher price .. being “booked solid” becomes a goal for all our people , and it is a goal they deserve , and they continue to move up the ladder…
        i am ok the owner is a prima donna.. i certainly understand both viewpoints… and he certainly has the right to defend his business practices..it isn’t like something horrid happened to the customer.. looking back, he probably wouldn’t have included her email address….. but it is what it is… and we learn by experience… i especially liked this thread because it got me to think about my own business…

        • Gregory A. Wingo says:

          Frankly, I have decided that this was a marketing ploy. I believe he recognized a great opportunity to create a further buzz about the restaurant. I think this for two reasons: 1) On the “See at” section the text references the NYC restaurant post that triggered the great debate about the time costs of selfies and plates by customers and 2) The motto of the cafe posted over the bar area.

  31. Tara says:

    Definitely agree with Jennifer and the other posts regarding bringing out the bill without being asked – it’s outrageously rude to rush customers like that, and nothing in the staff response above has convinced me otherwise. It doesn’t seem to me that Jennifer was being inconsiderate of other customers, she was only there for 45 minutes! I go to Holybelly occasionally because I miss the Australian cafés from back home, but after this I’m not really inclined to go back there. Australian cafés are places to eat good food and relax and be social with friends, not wolf down your food and then leave immediately like some kind of fast food joint. This would never happen in a café in Sydney or Melbourne, if they pressured customers to leave like that then they would quickly go out of business. Holybelly has good food, but it’s not worth waiting in a line for hours to then have to eat quickly under pressure. My suggestion to Holybelly is to get a bigger venue and scrap this awful policy of rushing people out the door – it’s just not a pleasant atmosphere to be in.

  32. Gregory A. Wingo says:

    I would say the café owner is a prima donna.

    The first rule in the restaurant business is that if you have folks lined up around the block is that you raise prices so that demand equalizes with supply (seat turns). You do this first because it is good business sense because it allows you to maximize profitability. This is why dinner is more expensive in fine restaurants than lunch because in the US there is limited demand for expensive lunches outside of major metropolitan areas. But second, higher prices also allow the customer to select away from the restaurant rather than insulting them away as this gentleman did at this restaurant. It is a far better way of controlling demand surges than denial of service and unlike denial of service when demand drops again you can lure those self-selecting customers back.

    It is quite clear from his behavior that he does not have investors as he admits. His investors would be horrified because trendy city restaurants can only recoup their investment for normally a period of one to two years max in major urban areas. Basically every hour he is working he is throwing away profit that he will be working years to get back.

    The customer had many well-stated points especially the fact that the restaurateur is operating in France not the States. However, even in the States a customer would expect to be able to have a cup of coffee after breakfast without being hustled by the server or worst the manager of the establishment. Plus he describes the joint as a café not a bistro which implies you are more than welcomed to have a beverage whenever you want it. But principally, no server should ever present the check without asking if the customer would like anything else because it is bad business and worst service. Even my local drive-in which has the worst operating hours in the world always asks before presenting the bill.

    Lastly, he took a private message and made it public. He returned a courtesy with a public insult. Very bad form.

  33. Marie says:

    Really wish I hadn’t read this, as your Instagram posts made Holybelly looks so friendly and welcoming.

    Many popular restaurants state a two-hour turnaround time before sitting down, or they say ‘we need the table back by…’ It might help if you make this clear to your customers and they would most likely understand.

    I don’t mind receiving the bill without asking but have never been refused a dish or drink. You say you’re the antithesis of a tea salon, yet you serve tea. It’s not unreasonable for Jennifer to expect to be able to order one following her meal.

    She had the courtesy of emailing you privately, so this could’ve been handled discreetly too.

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