I have often wondered what Chris Rundle's contributions achieved on your farming pages. Letting him loose on your lead opinion column on the subject of pub and restaurant service has compounded my view. What was the point of the article?
We can all recount tales of personal horror from establishments across the globe, not just the South West. We can also recount stories of absolute satisfaction, from sublimely cooked and presented food served well. There are thousands of establishments in our South West counties alone, and some will be bad. Is that news?
Taste of the West and other organisations exist to herald good quality in local food, and to encourage more businesses to aspire in that way. It does not exist to seek out, name and shame poorly performing outlets. What a bizarre and negative thought.
All awards have their flaws. A performance on the day may not be matched another. But generally an establishment with a gold award may be expected to have thought seriously about what it is doing and achieving a high quality outcome, a bronze award winner one that has a number of good elements in place. In the social hubbub of an evening out, a superb time is likely to be had by nearly all at these places.
My career started in hi-tech engineering. This was where I thought it was at. After several years, events transpired that I would be working in hospitality. My eyes were opened as to the complexity and difficulty of managing these people-based businesses. The industry is generally passionate about what it does, it is also fun and rewarding (emotionally, not financially) to work in. But because of the people-base, it is impossible to achieve perfection in delivery at all times.
Take the example of a day visitor attraction or tea room. At the beginning of the day there is no certainty as to whether visitors will number 500 or 5,000, but nonetheless staffing rotas and food ordering have to be done in advance. The business can get caught out. But behind the scenes there will be a team of people working so hard to give a great time out to the customers that day. These are not excuses, just a statement of what is likely to be going on 'under the water' whilst Mr Rundle gets his ungrateful notepad out and starts writing.
But just to reassure Mr Rundle, the public has its way of punishing poorly performing outlets – they go out of business, quickly.
Over the past ten years the WMN has championed local food and hospitality. Over that time we have come on in leaps and bounds in what we deliver. It is disappointing that the newspaper name has bannered this article. Some good journalists – I could list a string that write for the WMN, but will name but two, near-to-perfection Martin Hesp, and on-the-money Ron Bendall – will touch on this subject in a sensitive or amusing way, not negative criticism from the sidelines. It is time Mr Rundle was put out to grass.