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Free lunch?

This week seems so flat in comparison. One of the lasting memories for me was seeing an interview with Samantha Murray who won the silver at the final event – the women’s modern Pentathlon “ I’m just a normal girl” she modestly said “Just like anyone else, if I can do it anyone can. Normal yes, but just like the rest of us? Hardly! What turned her into a silver medallist? Not just a desire to win and to achieve, but her desire backed with a willingness to give something in return for reaching her dream. And that something was the price she was willing to pay – time, effort and sheer hard work. While lesser mortals were sleeping in, watching telly or out with their mates, Samantha was up at the crack of dawn, practising and pushing her body to its very limits – by dedicating her time in pursuit of her dream, she knew her endeavours and sheer hard work to train to that level that could take her into the medals. An inspirational message for us all diametrically opposed to so many men and women across the country that are still engaged in the popular pastime of trying to get without giving.

What then of Mr Foreman of Foreman’s restaurant - has anyone heard from him this week? In case you missed it he was the restaurant owner who arguably had one of the best-located restaurants for the Olympics and had bragged on TV that Olympic Hospitality would earn him £1 million. (He’d had a long established smokery right in the middle of what is now the Olympic Park and by way of compensation managed to gain a fancy new building on the canal side opposite the new stadium.) Dinner was advertised for the opening night at £999 per head! In Jim White’s Telegraph review of Forman’s restaurant last Saturday (11/8) he awarded the restaurant 1/10 for his £75 a head (payment on booking) breakfast. White explains his morning of “misery” started “walking through an industrial estate, past dusty yards and Minder-style lock-ups.” Once at Foreman’s White and his companion were greeted by a “breathless waitress” who informed them that they could “help themselves to a cold starter from the buffet” and she could take the order for the hot breakfast which she described as “ like, either your full English with beans and that or hot smoked salmon with poached egg and that” The breakfast itself was described as “not up to much” with the muffin “flabby and damp” and bacon that could “cheerily serve a s a replacement for shoe leather” White, his companion and one other family were the only diners for breakfast that day. Not surprisingly I haven’t heard any reports that Foreman made his millions, clearly expecting to make them on the back of pure profiteering and expecting money for nothing was clearly a flawed plan. Assuming that opening the doors and location would be sufficient to attract the hoards demonstrates little understanding of the three basic principles of hospitality – “quality, service and creating an ‘experience’” I personally have been know to cheerily part with hundreds of £’s for a lunch, but the venues (Roux, Heston, Ramsay) understood that if I was being asked to part with considerably more wonga for my daily bread, they were gonna put themselves out in every way to make sure I left, happy to have spent the cash.

The simple principle of value for money comes into play here – and that doesn’t mean ‘cheap’ but assumes a level of quality and attention to detail (valet parking, umbrella held over you in the rain, starched tablecloths ironed flat on the table, the theatre of the meal experience fully embraced, top quality produce and appropriate, professional, attentive yet unobtrusive service) a multitude of golden moments that go to make a memory. Matching or exceeding the customers expectation (particularly when the price tag is high) is paramount. At the Olympic people were buying an experience, buying a fabulous memory that they wanted to keep with them for their lifetime. Jim White’s write up would have read far more favourably had he had his ‘mariachi band strumming him to a rickshaw which would have carried him along a flower-strewn path to the restaurant’ Maybe, had Foreman spent some time thinking properly from his customer’s perspective and creating an experience that matched the price tag, rather than from his own money-grabbing perspective we might be reflecting on his success as well as our fabulous athletes.

Posted by on: August 18th, 2012