Over and out

It should take you about 7 minutes to read this.

Oh boy! Don’t you love the internet?

I love it. I posted a response to a customer’s complaint and you guys took it to an all other level and it was awesome to watch it develop. Who knew people felt so strongly about breakfast, I sure didn’t.

Even though some of you were shocked that I published Jennifer’s email, I’m so glad that I did, and I’d do it all over again. I wanted to start a conversation. Jennifer raised some super interesting points and I thought it’d make more sense to address those points publicly so that other people could benefit from our exchange instead of just keeping it between us. Table turning is a universal component of the restaurant business and I knew some other customers might have felt the same way in the past, so I wanted them to understand as well why we do the things we do.

Here, I just want to offer a bit of closure. Jennifer and I are good, I believe. We haven’t technically hugged it out because I do not know where she lives, otherwise I’d probably have some flowers delivered tout de suite, I would, but we talked it out on Facebook and left things on pretty amicable terms.

FB1

Now, reading some of the comments, it sounds like maybe some of my floor staff grew a little zealous on the check dropping. I’m going to be looking into that for sure.

Holybelly’s table turning policy is the following :

1) You come in, have a seat.
2) We offer a first round of coffee etc. so you have something to sip on while checking out the menu.
3) We take your order.
4) Food arrives, you eat at your own pace, no rush. My mum is a slow eater so was my best pal in boarding school. You guys are right, it’s been proven, eating slowly is better for you and you’ll live longer, so please, take all the time you need.
5) You’re done eating, we come pick up the dirties. That’s something I’m quite anal about. I hate to see a bunch of dirty plates on a table, so we’ll grab those once you’re all done.
6) We ask you if you want anything else. Some people like to go for some sweet pancakes after their meal, some might want cake, we always ask if you’d like something else because most people do. That’s why I’m a little surprised to read some people where handed the check right after they finished their mains, but again, I’m going to look into it.
7.1) You do want more stuff. 95% of the time it’s no problem, tea, coffee, cake, a side of hash browns, whatever ticks your fancy, you got it. Sometimes, on weekends and when super busy, if you’re a party of 4 and 1 of you guys wants a latte, we’ll nicely ask if you mind getting it to go since there is a lot of people outside waiting for a table. Same goes for two teas and no cakes, we’ve been over this. But again, we’ll only ask if totally in the shit. If there isn’t much of a wait outside or if we just don’t need your table, that’s one latte coming up.
7.2) You don’t want anything else, we bring you the check. That’s something I’m also anal about. I hate to go to a restaurant and wait for the check for hours. You rock up, you have a delicious meal, a few drinks, the mood is good and everybody is happy. Then you’re done, feeling quite full and a little drunk, your bed is calling your name, you start scratching your eyes and just want to be on your way but no one will bring you the check. It bugs me. So yeah, at Holybelly, if you’re done, and only if you’re done, we’ll pop the check on your table.
8) You put on your coat, gather your stuff. We thank you for coming, even give you a little bise or a hug if we know you or feel that you’re up for it.
9) We reset the table.
10) Seat the next people in line and go back to step 1.

That is the only procedure for table turning at Holybelly. That’s the one explained in our staff manual, that’s how I train all my staff to do it. If you’ve received any other kind of service, then someone messed up and you should let us know.

To the people suggesting we tell our customers they only have the table for one hour up front, as a solution for frustration management, that’s just a terrible idea. What a messed up way to start your experience. “Hi, welcome to Holybelly, thanks for waiting for 30 minutes. It is now 11:04, you’ve got the table for one hour.” What?! That’s just wrong. We don’t start a stopwatch the moment you sit down, we really don’t. That’s something I repeat constantly on weekends to people asking me “How long for a table of 2?”. I tell them that it’s hard to say, that there is no set rules and that people should be able to enjoy breakfast at their own pace. I do say that, every weekends, word for word. I don’t want you to feel rushed, I don’t want you to shove down your food and go. I do want you to enjoy yourself but yes, once you’re done, I’ll need that table back. Telling people they have the table for a set amount of time goes against everything I believe in and is just plain weird. If breakfast for you is a quick muesli and a cup of filter coffee great, you’ll be in and out in 30 minutes. If you’re going all out, pancakes, eggs and sides, cakes, multiple rounds of drinks, you’ll probably be around for 1.5 hours and that’s okay too. I don’t want to create any kind of rigid time limits, that’s why I’ll never do bookings or say anything about time restrictions on the menu. My only rule is, when you’re finished, full and happy, you gotta go so that I can make the next 4 people in line just as happy as you are right now. I want to believe in common sense. We already have a lot of rules at the Belly, time limits per table will never be one of them. That being said, being aware of how busy the café is and respectful to the people waiting outside is something we all have to deal with.

Now about privacy. I share a lot online, probably more than I should, cover numbers etc. For some reason I’m very okay with all of it being out there because it’s 2014, the internet is everywhere in our lives and I just decided to embrace it rather than fighting it. I truly believe it is a fantastic tool as a business owner, as a person, you can truly do some amazing things with it and reach people you would never even have known existed if it wasn’t for our good ol’ WWW. So yes, I’m not shy, I like talking and probably enjoy the sound of my own voice a little too much but that’s the way it is and it’s not going anywhere. Now you know, if you ever email me about something without explicitly telling me not to publish it, I just might. Not because I’m mean and I want to make you look like a tool out there (and I’ll never use your last name), but because I care and I want us all to look into it further. I don’t have all the answers, maybe someone out there can help us figure it out.

What I will now refer to as the “Jennifer-Gate” helped me realise, is that our little café, in only one year, has gathered a super strong following. I was amazed to see so many of you guys out there, having our backs and standing strong for us, from everywhere, Paris, Melbourne, the States… it was pretty cool to see. I definitely wish the circumstances could have been different but the strong support we got was possibly the best gift we could have received for our 1 year anniversary. Friends of the Belly, you guys are all aces in my book and we’ll keep on working our asses off to serve you deliciousness for the years to come. For the people who think we are rude idiots, the smarter ones will give us a shot and see for themselves. For the other ones, keep on walking, it’s fine by me, chances are we would have clashed anyway.

The other thing this whole situation helped me realised is that you guys love having a chance to discuss on this kind of stuff. The stats are pretty wild! The Facebook post got 180 likes, was shared 47 times, 50+ comments on it, our website peaked to 3500 views in a day (usually 600), the post itself received 25+ comments when we usually receive none. Some of you guys were pretty tough on me in the comments section but hey, I started this whole thing, I have to accept the wind can blow in all directions. All these numbers mean something and maybe I’ll just keep going, post more stuff about the things we do and don’t do. No plugs for laptops, no soy milk, only seat full parties, no smart phones charging etc. There is a lot I could talk about. If someone could send me a nasty email about the music being too loud that’d be great, I’ve got a lot to say about that.

I’ve got three regrets regarding “Jennifer-Gate”. The first one was to actually make Jennifer sad. For that I apologise as it totally wasn’t my intention. Like I said earlier, Holybelly is about making people happy, not the opposite. Regret number two : holding the nasty comments on hold for 48 hours. I read them in the morning and then had to rush off to Holybelly. I was super torn, couldn’t possibly approve the comments without responding to them as some of the criticism was wrong and ill-funded but on the other hand, as I preach transparency, should not have put them on hold. I wasn’t trying to censure them, I did not delete them, they were going to be published on my first day off with my response along them. I can see how that can seem sketchy, my bad. Regret number three is that in the midst of this whole thing I didn’t feel like posting anything about our 1st anniversary. The timing just felt wrong and now I kind of wish I kept my mouth shut just so that we could have posted something awesome about year one. I especially feel bad for Sarah since she didn’t ask for any of this and I robbed her from a proper celebration, but I guess she knew what she was in for when she decided to date my loud mouth 11 years ago.

Alright, stepping away from the computer now. See you all on Thursday, 9am.

Over and out.

6 Responses
  1. Charles says:

    See You tomorrow !

  2. Jennifer says:

    Happy one year anniversary Holybelly.

  3. Andrew says:

    Bravo Nico

    Stand up for what you believe in.

    Its your place, you make the rules – like you we have a no fuss, no bullshit policy in the way we treat customers and soldier on to fight another day

    Keep on keeping on dude – smashing culinary world out of the park

    xo

  4. Julia says:

    Hey Holybelly!

    Personally I had a great experience when I visited yesterday, and even wrote a post about you guys on my blog! Thanks for opening such a great place in Paris, it has a lot of the freshness I think the city is lacking in. Definitely the most I’ve felt at home in a Paris eatery since I’ve been here. I’ll be back soon for some more brunch! :)

    Best,

    Julia

    http://exploresmore.com/paris-eats-holybelly-cafe/

  5. Alvaro M says:

    Hi Holybelly!
    First: I really like the place. I love the food, the friendly staff and Anglo-Saxon with a Parisian touch (that sounds funny enough).

    About this subject: I understand your table policy, but I think it can be slightly improved on the wait part. I explain: I know it’s hard to do it, but you are professionals, you can guess how long will people take to have their meal. I mean, engineers guess how long their tasks will take, I am pretty sure you can guess too.
    The other think you could consider is asking for a name and a phone number if someone is waiting for a table. At that point, you can call/sms/whatever the person waiting for the table as soon as you are going to bring the ticket for the table they would get. That lets the people waiting the possibility to have a stroll by the canal or whatever else, instead of being stuck in front a place. I know it requires an extra effort, but other busy places do that, and it works, and I love it.

    Other than that, the place is brilliant!

Leave a Reply