*** Warning: Bourgeois Whingeing About a Bad Cafe Below ***
Tapa Coffeehouse is a cafe in Glasgow's South Side owned by a couple of New Zealanders. They also have Tapa Bakehouse in Dennistoun, in Glasgow's East End. The Bakehouse did my birthday cakes this year.
I had such high hopes when Tapa first opened, which have taken a battering, and I'm finally giving up again. There are now quite a few nice places to eat in reasonable walking distance of my house in Govanhill, so I don't need to keep going back to a place that has such lousy service that it leaves you feeling stressed and miserable.
Shout out to Rosie at Go Slow in Victoria Road- that gal does a mighty fine hot chocolate and also does the awesome veggie and vegan burgers once available at that corner takeaway in Woodlands Road that is no more. Friendly and unpretentious. The Pakistani Cafe: freshly made traditional food in a funky, relaxed and welcoming bohemian cafe atmosphere. Highly welcoming to all religions, ethnicities and sexualities, with great music to boot. iKafe in the Nithsdale Road shops in the posh bit of Pollokshields: superb food, the best childhood-memory comfort-desserts in the world (according to my partner, and I am inclined to agree), and, again, friendly, welcoming and efficient service (unlike their neighbour Mise en Place who are the very essence of snooty, they can make you feel like a grubby street urchin without breaking out of surface politeness). And, next door to Tapa, the fabulous Gusto and Relish - less vegetarian oriented than Tapa (both serve a mix of veggie and non-veggie), with a delicatessen as well, these folks also serve delicious cakes, and care deeply about the quality and ethics of the food they serve, and are welcoming, friendly and efficient.
See: "welcoming, friendly and efficient" is what makes the difference. I don't know what the hell is wrong at Tapa, but since they opened, their wait-staff have been cold, indifferent, slow, forgetful, and did I mention slow? And this is across the board, it's all the staff (most of whom seem like perfectly pleasant people otherwise), not just one or two bad yins. It's so weird because the New Zealand service ethic is the best in the world, without any class-hierarchy- the server is your equal, just a person employed to do a job, but they do it so well.
There have been two occasions before today when I've left Tapa in anger and sworn never to go back. Both times, weeks or months later, the siren song of the interesting menu and great cakes and hot chocolate have called me back, usually in the form of a friend saying "Let's go to Tapa". But today, the universe afforded me an experiment. I arrived at about the same time as another lady of a certain age (wiping out my suspicion that I'm just not cool enough for the staff there) and we sat at small tables right next to each other. We had the same waitress who took our orders at the same time and brought our food at the same time. Engrossed in my magazine, I noticed shortly after I finished my lunch that she had a coffee and cake to round off her lunch. I'm not sure if she was asked if she wanted it, or if she'd had to call over a waitress. Anyway, this is a huge bugbear of mine throughout the UK: do staff in restaurants and cafes not realise that they can make their place of business more money by coming up to you after you've finished your first course and saying "would you like coffee or something else to eat?". But in Tapa they never do. In fact on my previous visit I'd managed to flag down the waitress to order cake to eat while my partner finished her tea. It never arrived so we got up to leave. When I went to pay, it was sitting behind the waitress on a shelf, ready to be served. What gives? Don't they want a tip? Haven't they been encouraged by their manager to sell as much food and drink as possible?
So, today, I waited for a while, long after the woman at the next table had finished her coffee and cake, paid and left. Another party sat at her table and while they ordered, were served and ate, I was studiously ignored. Someone took my plate from my first course in that fast-moving way that makes it very difficult to stop them and ask to order something more. The final straw, as the lunch crowd emptied out, was the waitress who had taken my plate sitting down at another adjacent table to eat her lunch.
I quietly got up, put my jacket on and walked out. I figured if they could ignore me for over half an hour in a half-empty cafe, I could ignore them. But no, about 100m down the street the guy who works there called out behind me and came running after me. I gave him a £10 note and told him to put the remainder in the tip jar. It is very passive aggressive of me to do this, but I just feel ground down by them: they are on the surface polite but treat me with contempt! I'm not sure why it's such an emotive issue for me, I keep trying to rise above it. It's something to do with food not being just another product: it touches something atavistic I think, to do with nourishment and hospitality.
My friend Jo, who has her own awesome restaurant (I won't out her here by naming it), has told me many times that I must write to the owners of Tapa and tell them of my experiences so they can improve things. She reiterated it after she went to Tapa herself (without me) and experienced the same poor service. I've heard similar reports of poor service from several people now so it can't just be me.
What gives Tapa, what gives? If iKafe and Gusto & Relish can find and train really good staff why can't you?