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The menu, the wine list, and topics for discussion

January produces the occasional quiet day midweek which gives an opportunity to do two things. First, to work on any new ideas for the menu, and second, to reflect on any changes I should make in the way the business side of things runs.

Most of my trade is paid for by credit card. Cheques are rare and cash comes almost exclusively from punters who own or run small businesses. I have an electronic swipe machine, and the dosh appears on the bank balance after about three days. I don’t begrudge the commission paid – 1.67% – as it compares favourably with bank charges for handling cash, is secure from theft, and presumably removes some of the more immediate pain of paying from the punter’s point of view.

I am considering dumping American Express from the arrangement, however, and wonder what it is by way of service they offer which justifies the difference in commission they charge – nearly double, at 3.05% – with a week’s wait before the money heads toward the account.

My experience tells me that most people who have this card will also have Visa or Mastercard, and I suspect that the extra commission goes toward buying advertising which tells people how glad places like this are to take their card.

Pension funds

Otherwise, my accountant appears to think I should spend a bit more on things such as pension funds and a bit less on things like food and wine. For the moment, and while the place remains reasonably profitable, we will agree to differ.

Bizarre complaint

It is not all humdrum and boring, though. This morning brought the first complaint of the year: a bizarre telephone call, which Anja took, from a lady who enjoyed her meal last night and wanted to rebook for next month, but whinged long and hard about the conversation at the table next to her, evidently two men discussing some business deal. I wonder what this loony expects me to do – issue lists of approved subject matter? The juicy parts of some upcoming divorce, perhaps? Or 100 amazing facts about television celebrities I have met? Maybe we should have asked.

If I was to go along this road, I would much rather banish those who eat in complete silence, couples who have run out of conversation years back. Six tables of clinking cutlery and whispers can give a morgue-like feel to the place.

Perhaps I will have one more glass of wine and hope for better things tomorrow.

Next diary from Shaun Hill will be on 26 February

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