June 22, 2009

An open letter to C.W. Coops, Aurora location

Dear ownership and management of C.W. Coops restaurant, in Aurora, Ontario,

I visited your establishment this past Friday evening, at 8:23P.M. I know exactly what time it was because I took my cellphone out and put it on the table in front of me as I sat down, in case my son or my wife called during what I expected was going to be my evening repast. I only mention it because it will become important later on. Stick with me.

While I wouldn't exactly call myself a regular, I have visited your restaurant several times, both with my family and alone. We quite enjoy your chicken wings, and always spend several minutes agonizing over which of your 100 flavours of wings to choose. We have yet to be disappointed with our selection.

On this occasion, however, that decision was not going to factor into the equation - for a couple of reasons. First, I was in a bit of a hurry, and had already decided what I was going to order before I sat down. The second reason I'll get to in a moment. Honest.

I noticed that you weren't too busy that evening. Less than 25% capacity I would estimate. Now, maybe it was in between rushes for you; the dinner crowd having already left, and the Friday night partiers yet to arrive. Still, it was Friday evening, and the Blue Jays were playing, and you are, to some extent, a sports bar. I was surprised to see how empty the place was.

And yet... And yet, when I picked up my cellphone again, and looked at it, five minutes had passed, and I had yet to be served. Served? Heck, I had yet to even be acknowledged. I don't think either of the two waitresses/bartenders had even noticed me come in, or seen me sitting there, slowly starving to death.

I call them waitresses/bartenders because I am not sure which of them, if either, were which. I did not see either of them actually come out from behind the bar at any time I was in the restaurant. Oops, that was a bit of a hint, wasn't it? You can probably see where I'm going, now, can't you?

Yeah, when my cellphone told me it was 8:33P.M. - I had been there for ten full minutes and had not been spoken to, or even looked at by any staff member in the place in all that time - I got up and walked out the door. I was watching the girls behind the bar as I went. Just as neither of them took notice of my arrival, they didn't see me leave either. So, they're not in a position to advise you of the lost revenue they are responsible for. They didn't even give themselves the chance to find out if I'm a good tipper, or not.

I got in my car and drove two minutes up the road to the other wing place in town - I'm sure you know the one. Their wings aren't really what they used to be, and they just have the one flavour. But, you know what? Less than a minute after I sat down, there was a waitress at my table. In a span of time short enough that it has to be measured in seconds, my food order was being taken. Less than two minutes after I walked in the door, there was a cold beer in my hand, and I was eating wings and fries less than eight minutes later. Sure, they weren't Jamaican dry jerk, or smokey maple, or any other unique flavour. But they were hot, they were fresh, and they were on the table in front of me in less time than it took me to get fed up and walk out of your establishment.

In these difficult economic times, customers can seem like a dwindling resource. Certainly, the other place wasn't any busier than you were. But they were definitely doing all the things they knew how to do to make sure they got full value from the customers they had.

Now, I'm not saying I'm never coming back to your place. As I've mentioned, we like your wings. And let's be honest, if I'd already written you off, I wouldn't be taking the time to write this. I only criticize because I care. I'm just saying, a little pep talk might do wonders for your staff, and your customer retention. 'Cause I gotta tell ya, if I have a similar experience there again, and my family's with me, that will be the end of it. The wife and the teenager are less likely to get up and walk out unserved, but they are much more likely to reject the idea of second chances.

I hope you receive this in the spirit in which it is offered, and look at it as an opportunity to instruct your staff.


Paul Little
Aurora, Ontario


Simon said...

I hope this was sent, and not just posted to the blog.

émilie b said...

Rats! I was going to type the exact(ish) message Simon just did. Now I'm stuck with "ditto".

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Great letter, hope you get a good response and a certificate :o)

Diswon said...

Wow! What can I say, but I have attended the venue many times and never had any issue with the staff. Just as an observation, I manage companies and consult on management issues. I have had the experience, far too often, of irrate clients with claims of time that they were made to wait. I have viewed inhouse videos and have found that almost always the times that these people report are vastly eggagerated.In only a few circumstances were the complaints accurate. I am also a customer from day to day, and find that sometimes I have to be wary of my opionions too. I am also not always right. And given the situation you provided, it could have been just as easy to have approched the bar and made it clear you were there. But it seems that you entered a bit of a stand off. I love Aurora, its my town, but I do see on a daily basis the attitudes of some of its inhabitants as a bit over the top. The "I am the only one that matters" attitude is abundant in our town. We are a community and that means sometimes you have to be the bigger person. It dosent always have to be an issue. Yes it was a bad experience, but just a single one. To make the accusations that you have and pubically condem the whole establishment is a bit over the top.
Sorry for any spelling errors Im in office now and just had to comment.

Call me Paul said...

Thanks for your comment, Diswon. Sorry it took me two freaking months to notice it sitting in the moderation queue, and approve it. I'm guessing after that long a wait, you've probably gone and aren't coming back.

Two comments in response to your points:

1) The time was exactly as I reported. I sat at the table with my cellphone out and watched the minutes tick by. So it wasn't a case of an exaggerated estimate.

2) I have worked retail all my life, and customer service is one of my little personal bugaboos. I was never irate, just very dissatisfied. The staff did not earn my business that day, so I spent my money elsewhere. I also made a point of tipping generously at the other place - just on principle. Their food wasn't better, but their service was head and shoulders above, and that's what made this customer most appreciative.

I have eaten at C.W.Coop's a couple of times since then, as well as picking up take-out there, and not had as bad an experience. The service was adequate those times - no better. That being said, in the spirit of constructive criticism, which was where I couched this blog entry to start with, that business could easily be a gold mine with just a little bit of emphasis on customer service.

Anonymous said...

Place is a dump but the staff screws around with the regulars that's why we go.

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