Friday, 11 September 2015

Breakfast at Auchrannie’s (Or: How bad systems can make good people perform poorly) (by M Moneypenny)

Recently the family and I were lucky enough to be able to spend a few days at Auchrannie Spa and Resort on the isle of Arran. I would recommend both Arran and the resort to anyone. It has won a slew of awards and, according to trip advisor, is the #2 hotel in Brodick. However, goings-on during breakfast compelled me to write a blogpost…
A small selection of the awards

The problem with vegans

We are vegan which I had informed the hotel of weeks before, during the booking process. I received a lovely email in response which stated: “I have emailed the restaurant manager with regards to your request for vegan sausages.” On arrival at the breakfast buffet we were greeted by a very pleasant maître d’ who made sure we hadn’t just wandered in off the street, found us a table, and told me to talk to the waitering staff about the dietary requirement.

So we availed ourselves of the continental breakfast and then had chat with Sean who was looking after the hot food part of the buffet. Sean told me that they did have vegetarian sausages but that he thought they weren’t vegan. He said that he seemed to remember asking the chefs a while ago and that they had told him this, but that he would enquire.

Sean then went through to the kitchen and had a chat with one of the chefs. After a little while he came back and told us that the sausages were in fact vegan. Great, we said, we’ll have three breakfasts please. Sean said: “Two?” And we said: “No, three, one for each of the adults and one to share between the kids.” It would take a wee while to make he informed us, as they would cook everything fresh.

We sat back down and waited. And waited. And waited a little bit more. Then a friendly waiter called Will caught my eye and asked if we were okay. I told him we were waiting for our vegan breakfasts. Will said he would see what was happening. Unfortunately for him the swinging door into the corridor next to the kitchen has a clear glass window in it. This allowed me to see what happened next. Will walked through the door, looked into the kitchen, waited a little bit without speaking to anybody then turned around and came back to tell us that they were almost ready.

Great. So we waited. And waited. And waited a little bit more. I took the kids over to the play area while my other half went to find Sean. Sean was very apologetic. He went into the kitchen to find out what was happening. He came back and informed us that the breakfasts hadn’t even been started yet. He had only talked to and asked (he said) one of the chefs to make the breakfasts and because he hadn’t written the order down they hadn’t done anything. Sean apologised profusely and said he would be back with our breakfasts. About 5 minutes later there he was with 2 plates which we gave to my better half (it was her birthday after all) and the kids. Sean wandered off. He didn’t come back. A few minutes later we managed to call him over and ask him about my breakfast and he said he thought we’d only wanted two and we said, no, three. Sean then came back a few minutes later with a single sausage on a plate…

The following day things went much smoother, there was no maître d’ but Sean welcomed us, sat us down and brought us three breakfasts.

Good people in a bad system

Other than being a somewhat boring story from my holiday (at least I’m not making you sit through holiday photos) what is the point of this blogpost? One major learning point for me is that even very caring people, who want to do the right thing, can be let down by the system. What improvements could be made?

  • There were more than enough waiting staff to allocate them specific tables. This would mean that “our” waiter/waitress would know we had been waiting longer than we should have been. The current system was chaotic with tables cleared ad hoc, sometimes one waiter would get the cleaning spray out, leave it on the table to do something else then another waiter would clean the table.
  • If you take on a “problem” (and I’m using that term to describe us) then you own it until you have passed it on to someone else. We were Sean’s problem and he should’ve kept an eye on us.
  • Empower your staff. I have no idea why Will didn’t actually speak to anybody in the kitchen, but he did recognise that something was amiss and he could have flagged up with the chefs that a table was awaiting a vegan breakfast.

The final give home message is that the staff at Auchrannie are some of the most pleasant and courteous I have ever met. However, they were let down by the lack of coordination at breakfast. The same can be true of healthcare, excellent staff working in a faulty system can still result in disappointed patients. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent)