“We are proud of our freshly prepared food, warm welcome and relaxing atmosphere.”
These are the words that greet us on the home page of the Harvester website. The truth is that sadly none of them apply to any of the Harvester locations we have visited this past July in Dorset. What a disappointment it is to look forward to a tasty and well-cooked meal, only to be greeted with dried up, or overcooked offerings, served by wait staff who have a careless attitude and would rather be anywhere but at work.We have both returned from the USA in the past couple of years and have been greatly dismayed to see how little customer service is offered in the UK, how staff have little interest in going the extra mile, or offering their services with a smile and a polite word, and have to admit that the Brits could learn a thing or two from their cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.
Our first visit to a Harvester restaurant was to the Cat & Fiddle in Christchurch. Upon walking from the parking lot to the restaurant we noticed that the majority of the tables in the garden outside still lay sitting with dirty leftovers, empty beer bottles/glasses and no availability for a new arrival to sit without having to waitress their own table. We, therefore, opted for a table inside, though on closer inspection perhaps the lawn outside would have been preferable. A very tired looking dining area greeted us and certainly a good intense clean of every piece of upholstery, table and chair were greatly needed.
The food was mediocre, except for the BBQ chicken which was pretty tasty and thus since we had a little left over we requested a doggy bag – it appears this is something a little unacceptable to the Brits, or perhaps just the young woman who served us. She returned the ‘doggy bag’, chicken wrapped in cling film, with the bones hanging out the end, dumped it down on the table and walked off. No friendliness, no smile, nothing. In fact, it appeared that the staff were getting ready to end their shift so were trying to rush customers along, and certainly asking for anything extra was a great frustration to them. After requesting the bill the waitress returned to pick up the payment asking how much change we required – insinuating that she would be taking a tip from whatever cash we had given her. We made it clear that we required all the change, of course. In our minds, tipping only comes with good service and nothing could be further from the truth at The Cat & Fiddle.
However, being gluttons for punishment we decided to return to the ‘scene of the crime’ a couple of weeks later, only to be treated with more disdain than the first time. Again the tables were left in a state of mess and confusion from the previous inhabitants, and thus we chose to sit in the garden, far away from the ‘disaster area’. We’ll keep this short but basically, after 40 plus minutes of waiting for our appetiser our main course arrived at which point we told the waitress to cancel that part of the order and refund our money, we had a sneaking suspicion that our order had been given to another customer. After all, that waiting, can you believe it, the main course was inedible – a beef burger so charred and dry one couldn’t bite into it. The rest of the food on the plate was cold. An extremely disappointing and annoying exercise, one that we will not put ourselves through again.
Our waitress was very understanding and agreeable when we complained about the food, and she agreed to refund our money. However, upon returning to the kitchen with our complaint she told us she was given abuse from the kitchen staff, through no fault of her own. She was also very apologetic for the behaviour of the staff on our previous visit and went on to explain that the owners cared little for their staff, paid them little, and gave little training, something that is greatly needed in our opinion. If only the owners of these restaurant chains were more inclined to train and nurture their staff they would find happy employees willing to go the extra mile and also a commitment to the job. Instead, these employees take their lead from a lackadaisical boss, and then the boss wonders why there is no commitment!
Our final words on this are: don’t bother to set yourself up for disappointment, go elsewhere for a friendly face and tasty sustenance!
Cat & Fiddle Harvester
Lyndhurst Rd, Hinton,
Hampshire BH23 7DS
Tel: 01425 276050